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., 2013).
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 among individuals.
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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