Human beings are social beings, and,
Human beings are social beings, and,
therefore, relationships are basic in their lives. However, conflicts are a way
of life and cannot be easily avoided as individuals relate with one another.
The face negotiation theory explains how the cultural differences in people
influence in the management of conflicts arising in the course of individuals
relating with one another. First proposed by Stella Ting-Toomey a professor of
Human Communication at California State University described the handling of
conflicts as part of maintaining a ‘face’ in the society (West, et. al., 2010).
The theory asserts that is the differences and diversity in society that shape
the responses to conflicts in various societies. It holds up the analogy of
maintaining a face as per individual’s cultures, of which the face is an
identity and the persona upheld in the public image or society. In the case of
a conflict, the face of an individual is threatened and therefore, there is an
intentional attempt to save or restore one’s face. The theory asserts that the
communicative behavior is referred to as the “face work.” since people frame
the situated meaning of a “face” and enact “face work” differently from one culture
to the next. Therefore, the theory had a culturally general framework to
examine facework negotiation. Erving Goffman traced “face” in contemporary
Western research and noted that the face is a concern for an individual’s
projected image that is both immediate and spontaneous and is bound to the
dynamics of social interaction (West, et. al., 2010). In the same way,
“facework” denotes taken to maintain consistency between the self and the
public line. The research below conducts an article analysis based on the
article and then there is an evaluation of the theory to draw a conclusion.
The article aims at exploring the use
of the face-negotiation and co-cultural theories in establishing how the
veiled, as well as the unveiled Muslim College students, communicate ten years
following the September 11 attacks. The study in the article is made to explore
and understand various ways through which the female Muslims negotiate their
daily lives as they relate to others in the American society. It is because, there
are different negative perceptions regarding the Muslim's consideration as
terrorists who caused the loss of lives and property in the 9/11 attacks.
Therefore, the article aims at studying the communication style that the Muslim
women take up being the minorities in American society that perceive them with
a negative connotation and suspicion since the attacks. The analysis of the
communication interaction sin the article takes two approaches that are the
face-negotiation theory and the co-cultural communication (Alshoaibi et. al., 2013). Therefore, the researchers
attempt to unveil how the Muslim women tries to communicate and assert
themselves in a society dominated by stereotypes and structural inequality
against them because of their affiliation with Islam blamed for the attacks.
The research users the co-cultural
theory and the face-negotiation theory to explore how the veiled and the
unveiled Muslim female students in communicating in post-September 11 American
society. The theories are intercultural communication theories that explain the
cognitions, behaviors, and emotions occurring, in particular, cultural contexts
and under given conditions (Alshoaibi et. al., 2013).
The co-cultural theory addresses the interaction among and between individuals of
marginalized groups such as women and ion the research are Muslim female
students. It handles the importance of having social interaction sin an effort
to empower the marginalized groups ion the case the Muslim Women who are
underrepresented in the United States and, therefore, communication affects
their power and position in society. The daily interaction of the marginalized
groups is composed of preferred outcomes and communication approaches. The
preferred outcomes could either be accommodation, separation or assimilation
while the communication strategies could either be non-confrontational,
aggressive or assertive. Marginalized individuals in the course of their
interaction could use one or more interactions. It is these concepts that
enabled the research hers to have specific areas to consider and draw a
theoretical framework that was essential at interpreting of information
gathered and drawing conclusions (Alshoaibi et. al.,
The second theory in the research is
the face-negotiation theory to further explore how the Muslim students
communicate in a terror phobic American society. According to this theory,
every individual is concerned about his or her “face” which is the public image
(Alshoaibi et. al., 2013). The face is associated
with conflict management approaches taken up by an individual and involves the
combination of traits involving cultural and personality backgrounds. The
face-negotiation theory is essential for analyzing how the Muslim women
negotiate their face in a society dominated by non-Muslims that are terror
phobic and have performed stereotypes. The theory was also essential to
understanding how the Muslim female students in the US mediate their culture to
avoid conflict especially the one that arises from terror. It is, therefore,
crucial that there be an understanding of a collectivist and individualistic
society of which the Muslim women come from a collectivist society that marks a
vital starting point for researching facework behavior (Alshoaibi
et. al., 2013).
The research methodology adopted by the
researcher is the qualitative data gathering method and the qualitative data
analysis tool. The researchers involved interviewing of fifteen women from
Middle-East descent and then the conversations recorded and later transcribed.
The examination of the transcription was done through grounded theory using the
co-cultural and the face-0negoriatio theories. The interview transcripts read
twice and recorded in chronological order. The biggest shortcoming of the
method is the fact that the respondents may give based information to suit
their analogies. The transcribers may also interpret what they hear basing it
on their biases that may further distort the data. Moreover, the respondents
are aware that they are being recorded and studied and, therefore, may change
their behavior and answer questions in a manner to push their agendas or may
experience nervousness that may hinder their response to the questions asked (Alshoaibi et. al., 2013).
There were fifteen women sampled as the
research participants. The women were all Middle-Eastern Muslims. The primary
method used to gather data from the participants was a semi-structured
interview. The female Muslim interviewees were determined and sampled through a
non-probability snowball sampling and were majorly from the college level of
education in the United States. Some of the participants had returned to the
United States in the recent past while others were visiting the country for the
first time. The snowballing technique of sampling of participants involved a
series of referrals from initially identified interview participants. Of the
participants, the youngest was 19 years old while the oldest was 50 years old.
There were 12 women from Saudi Arabia out of the 15 participants; two were from
the United Arab Emirates while one was a citizen of Kuwait. The majority of the
women were scholarship granted whose fundamental reason for coming to the US
was to secure a good education (Alshoaibi et. al., 2013).
The questions asked and answered by the
participants were subdivided into seven broad categories. They included the
introduction, which were questions on the individual, perception questions
based on the face-negotiation theory, veiled dynamics that involved non-verbal
communication, language dynamics that was the verbal communication and
questions on the rising barriers asked, there were also questions on co-culture
based on co-cultural theory as well as health, stress and demographics
questions. There was a set of 38 questions developed, and it is these questions
that guided the interview with the participants (Alshoaibi
et. al., 2013).
It was intriguing to note that the
majority of the participants indicated having difficulty into the United States
more so with the cultural differences. The major challenges highlighted by the
participants were discrimination, homesickness and distraction, communication
barriers and the integration of the Middle-Eastern values with the American
society values. They also expressed disappointment with the media. The media
generated images according to the majority of the participants were bringing
about the unreal image of their origins while making unrealistic expectations
of the US. However, some preferred the comfort and education in the US. What
the research failed to indicate are the way that they deal with the pressures
and the unreal expectations that come with being a Muslim in a country
dominated by other cultures. The research failed to indicate how the
participants dealt with the parent structural inequalities in the United States
and did not even get to enquire a to whether they felt that there was rampant
structural inequality in the country. Questions on the integration of the
Muslim cultures that is more of a collectivist culture to the highly
individualistic culture have been raised with time as well. It is the desire to
understand how individuals with such an enormous variance in culture coupled
with the discrimination and other difficulties they face can adapt to the
American society and cope to attain their objectives.
The face-negotiation theory is highly
efficient at explaining the attempts of individuals of differing cultures to
adjust to other societies. The theory offers an opportunity to explore the
cognitions that inspire the behavior and the way individuals act as well as
interact with others of various cultures and beliefs in the midst of
marginalization. However, the theory is highly subjected to individualized
interpretation in that one cannot universally rely on it since it does not have
a structured way of analyzing or foretelling the way an individual is bound to
react or act as they attempt to facework (West, et. al., 2010). The theory also
indicates that the person may be struggling to fit in as they try to develop a
face and image that is adapting to the culture already dominated by another.
The face-negotiation theory may, therefore, lead to compromising of a person’s
theory and hence result in conformity instead of multicultural interaction
In conclusion, the face-negotiation
theory is a crucial tool for every marginalized society to adapt and fit in
society. It is also important to note that intercultural facework competence is
all about the ability to be mindful and creative in the management of emotional
frustrations that arise primarily because of belonging to a cultural or ethnic
group and the differences that come with the affiliation to different cultures.
The theory advocates for the combination of the cultural and personal traits in
an attempt to avoid or solve a conflict that arise in the process of
interaction between or among cultures. The article assessing the use of the
theory in post-September 11 attacks in the United States was a good
illustration of the utilization of the theory to understand how marginalized
groups exist and solve conflicts to maintain a positive image in a society
dominated by another culture.
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