An Important Intangible: "Face" and Conflict Management

Gregg Walker
Dept. of Speech Communication
Oregon State University

Bert Brown, in "Face-Saving and Face-Restoration in Negotiation" (in Negotiations: Social-Psychological Perspectives, 1977), notes that "among the most troublesome kinds of problems that arise in negotiation are the intangible issues related to the loss of face" (p. 275).

“Face” in Conflict Situations
Face concerns relate to a person’s:

Four Dimensions of Face Face Maintenance . . .
 is the desire to project an image of capability, confidence, strength, self-assuredness; conversely to avoid appearing weak, foolish, or incapable.

Face Saving . . .
refers to anticipatory and preventative tactics in order to avoid loss of face.   Face-saving involves parties' efforts to protect or repair their relational images, in response to face threats real or imagined, potential or actual.

Face Restoration . . .
includes tactics employed to repair loss of face or seek redress from the party who caused the loss of face.

Face Giving/Supporting . . .
consists of intentional actions by one party that support another party's image and identity claims.  Such actions may be taken by the party whose earlier actions have threatened face, or by a third party.

Face Concerns (FC) and Conflict Management: Personal Identity

Face Concerns (FC) and Conflict Management: Flexibility Face Concerns (FC) and Conflict Management: Escalation Face Concerns (FC) and Conflict Management: Intractability Face Concerns (FC) and Conflict Management: Culture and Complexity Face Concerns (FC) and Conflict Management: Collaborative Potential
An FC can turns "group-centeredness" and mutual interest into "individual-centeredness" and self-interest.  It can damage trust and  the potential for a collaborative relationship.

Ways to Avoid Loss of Face

Means of Saving Face Dealing with "Face" Constructively Dealing with Face Counterproductively Face Support . . .
Respond to each statement on the next slide by indicating the degree to which the statement is true for you.
1= never    2= almost never    3= sometimes    4= almost always    5= always

When I am in conflict with someone I:
___ try to make him/her look good
___ try to make h/h feel safe
___ try to make h/h believe I am
___ try to make h/h feel important
___ try to make h/h feel s/he is

Face Support . . .
To determine your score, add the numbers next to each item.
Total scores range from 5 to 25.
The higher your score, the more effort you probably make in supporting the other’s face and promoting a cooperative interaction climate.

Source: Donohue, W., & Lot, R. (1992). Managing Interpersonal Conflict. Sage.