18 Must-Have Negotiation Skills For Procurement Professionals

Face Negotiation Theory7 Things Every Professional Should Know

What is the face negotiation theory? Does it have anything to do with how your face looks when negotiating? Or is it a theory where the shape or form of your face has anything to do with the success rate of negotiations? 

Whether you take it as a joke or not, the face negotiation theory does exist and for this article, we are going to study it.

After reading this article, you should understand what face negotiation theory is and be able to use it along with your other negotiation skills.

What is the Face Negotiation Theory?

According to Wikipedia, the Face Negotiation Theory is a theory that was conceived by Stella Ting-Toomey in 1985 to understand how people from other cultures are able to manage rapport and disagreements. The reason for the word “face” is because the face is always the first part of the body that other people look at, especially with strangers. Self-image when communicating with others is a very important aspect for every human being when speaking towards others, no matter what their background or culture is. 

So in terms of science-speak, face negotiation theory means studying the cultural-general framework of facework negotiation. In plain simple terms, it’s how people negotiate according to where they come from. In order to understand Face Theory better, one should learn more about negotiation styles first. 

One good example is the individualist culture in the west. In countries such as the United States, Germany, and Great Britain, there is great value on freedom, personal rights, and the “do-it-yourself” attitude among negotiators. In countries such as Japan, China, Saudi Arabia, and other smaller nations, there is more value in the power of “we” instead of “I”. This is why you’ll see a group of negotiators coming together when dealing with companies that work in Asia and Latin America.

Face Movementsin the Face Negotiation Theory

Yes, we know. The topic is a little overwhelming. 

The face negotiation theory is explained more in detail in our Negotiation Gamechanger course, so if you’re having a hard time catching up, then you can understand this concept more by enrolling in our course.

Now, face movement refers to options that a negotiator has to face when choosing whether to defend, maintain, and/or upgrade self-face against other-face during a conflict in negotiations. There are four opportunities that a mediator can use in regards to their concern for self-face or their personal image against the other-face or their counterpart’s image of themselves:

  • If there is a low level of concern for both self-face and other-face, the result is mutual-face obliteration
  • If there is a high level of concern for both self-face and other-face, the result is mutual-face protection
  • If there is a high level of concern for the other-face, but a low level of concern for the self-face, the result is other-face defense.
  • If there is a high level of concern for the self-face, but a low level of concern for the other-face, then the result is self-face defense.

While these opportunities are set in stone, there will be times when you’ll need to modify, especially if you’re going to work with people with different cultural standards. In a collectivistic culture where the mutual-face concern is very important, avoidance of conflict usually prevails in order for the situation to be defused. Of course, the opposite can be said about an office that works in an individualistic culture.


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The Different Conflict Communication Styles

During face negotiations, conflict communication becomes very important. Conflict style consists of learned behaviors that are developed through socialization with one’s culture. The purpose for the development of conflict communication style is to help the negotiator in saving their face and that of the face of the other. 

So in this section, you are going to determine what is your own style of conflict communication. It’s important to do so since in negotiations, there will come a time where you’ll need to use conflict communication to resolve issues. Also, if you determine what is your own conflict communication style, you can grow this until you’re confident enough to use it in most negotiations.

There are different conflict communication styles that you can use:

1. Dominating

A conflict communication style puts great emphasis on one person’s position or goal above the other.

2. Avoiding

This style puts an emphasis on eluding the conflict topic, the conflict party, or the conflict situation altogether.

3. Obliging

This conflict style places high concern for the other person’s conflict interest than your own conflict interest.

4. Integrating

This conflict style is the same as with making concessions. Meaning a solution closure that involves high concern for one’s self and high concern for the other party too. 

5. Emotional Expression

This is a conflict style that emphasizes articulating a person’s feelings in order to control and deal with conflict.

6. Third-Party Help

A conflict communication style is about resolving conflicts by getting extra help to manage communication.

7. Passive Aggressive

A conflict style is all about reacting to conflict in a roundabout way, placing the blame indirectly on others.

Communication Barriers

1. Cognitive constraint

Cognitive restraints are the most common barrier to communication. These are world views that are based on culture.

This creates a backdrop for comparing new information. For example, some people In the United States may be susceptible to feeling superior to many cultures due to the power of the United States since World War II.

2. Behavior constraint

These are the ways in which people behave in different cultures. Each culture has its unique rules about proper behavior that affects verbal and non-verbal communication.

Behavior constraints can be as simple as eye contact or even how you should be close to somebody. Culture regulates behavior differently. 

3. Emotional constraint

Emotional constraints describe the ways culture regulates the display of emotion. It tells how emotional one can get in a situation. 

For example, Italians are generally open about their emotions. They hug and kiss people and you can see their emotions transparently. British and Asians on the other hand are reserved and keep their emotions inside them.

Four Faces of Face Negotiation

1. Face-saving

Face-saving focuses on the need to signal respect for the other party’s need for space. This face often occurs when there is a need to preserve the relationship between parties, even by hiding information that may be offensive to the other, such as disputes between family members. 

2. Face-restoration

This face focuses on the need to be able to protect oneself from the infringement of other people. Usually, this face results in being reluctant to participate in negotiation just to protect their own privacy.  

3. Face-giving

In face-giving, the person has the need to protect or defend the other party’s need for inclusion and association. Just like face-saving, it is often seen when there is a need to preserve the relationship between two parties. 

People who are operating this face are more willing to bring a neutral party to help with the negotiation that is mutually beneficial for all. 

4. Face-assertion

In face-assertion, a person has the need to protect and defend himself/herself for inclusion and association. This is usually done by making themselves look good and possibly making the other party look bad. 

Face Negotiation Theory Example

People in Western countries have a different way of reacting to conflicts in comparison to those people in Eastern countries. Somehow, people from Western countries are more individualistic while those in Eastern countries have a more collectivist culture. 

Different cultures can have different interpretations of various things such as eye contact as a sign of respect or rudeness. In some Western cultures, eye contact is a sign as a good gesture of attention. However, eye contact can be interpreted as rude in Eastern countries. 

Thus, the face negotiation theory helps you understand how people from different cultures communicate which will allow you to discuss with them without being misunderstood. Additionally, knowing their cultural background will enable you to control the negotiation without disrespecting their perspectives. 

Frequentlyasked questions

+ What is face negotiation theory?

Face negotiation theory is the theory of conducting negotiations through the study of one’s cultural background in negotiations and discussions.

+ What is a face negotiation theory example?

A famous example of a face negotiation theory is the Chinese negotiation style of saving face.

+ How to deal with the face negotiation theory?

Dealing with face negotiation can be done by studying the traditions and culture of how certain countries do their negotiations.

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