|http://www.sina.com.cn 2003/11/16 18:44 中图读者俱乐部|
A person needs face like a tree needs bark.
Everything of the Chinese is disguised under the mask of face.
For the Chinese negotiator, his face is his future.
His face lightens because of the given sunshine.
Frank: Did Liu show you his report?
Chang: Yes. It needs a lot of work.
Frank: Did you tell him?
Chang: I told him it was a good start.
Frank: You shouldn’t have misled him.
Chang: What do you mean?
An American businesswoman is negotiating with a Chinese counterpart over import agreement. She does not realize that one of her objectives cannot be accepted by the Chinese. When this objective comes up for discussion, the Chinese negotiator says that the American’s request must receive further study. The American offers to further clarify the matter and asks about his objections. He mentions certain problems. After listening to her clarification, he responds,“Kaolii，kaolii”，which means“We’ll think this over again”or“We must give it thought.”Why? Because stating his position directly would be to deny her request. This would damage her face by contradicting his implicit claim to be a person who lives in harmony with others. And it would damage her face by contradicting her implicit claim to be a negotiator who makes requests that are well informed and reasonable. The American feels frustrated. If she later learns that the Chinese simply could not agree to her request, she will think,“If only he had said No and had explained to me why it was impossible, I would have tried to figure out another way of making this deal attractive to my company.”But her Chinese counterpart was concerned about his face and her face; he believed that avoiding loss of face was more important than making a deal in that round of negotiations.
A woman in China has a bad cold. An American acquaintance notices that she is uncomfortable and enthusiastically recommends his favorite remedy, long soaks in a tub of hot water. She thanks him, saying nothing about the fact that she has no tub and no access to anyone else’s tub. Time passes and the Chinese woman’s health improves. The American encounters her, notes that her cold is gone, and asks if she took his advice. She replies,“Oh, yes, it was wonderful.”Another American happens to be present on this occasion; he knows that the woman could not have taken the advice. The Chinese woman replies,“I didn’t want him to feel bad because I don’t have a tub.”Upon further questioning, she also admits that she had been reluctant to admit that she does not own a tub. So her little white lie saved her own face as well as that of the American tub enthusiast.
An American teacher in China has filled out an official form of some kind and has submitted it to the authorities at his university. A Chinese clerk loses the form. Time goes by. The American, being efficiency-minded, soon becomes impatient. He asks the authorities who are dealing with the matter when action will be taken. He is told that the matter has been referred to a higher bureau for a decision, or perhaps that the matter is under review, or whatever. He is not told that the form has been lost. Why? Because losing a form is a type of incompetence, the exposure of which would cause the authorities to lose face by contradicting their implicit claim to be people who can properly handle forms. The American eventually suspects that the explanation being offered is not accurate. If he discovers that the form has actually been lost, he will feel angry because“After all, if I had only been told it was lost, I could have filled out another form and eliminated this interminable delay.”But the authorities were more concerned about preserving face than about the efficient processing of forms or directness in communications.
Chinese educational tradition places no value on self-expression by students or trainees, the following more practical reasons are sometimes given by individual audience members for their disinclination to speak. Poor learners usually say they are afraid of losing face if they speak, since they might say something stupid. Outstanding learners usually say they fear being looked upon as show-offs by their classmates (also creating loss of face) if they speak too often or say things that are obviously brilliant. Average learners seem to have the least reluctance to speak; they say however, that there is no point in their speaking unless they have something really valuable to contribute. Few Chinese share the assumption of most American trainers and teachers that audience participation has intrinsic value. In the students’and trainees’view, run-of-the-mill discussions waste precious time that ought to be used by the teacher or trainer to deliver intellectual treasures to the audience.
Several years ago, a resident who appeared to be a simple peasant walked /into/ a five-star hotel located in downtown Beijing, and enquired about accommodation. The receptionist informed the man that this particular hotel was not an appropriate place for him to stay. The receptionist’s condescending manner enraged the peasant, who felt an acute“loss of face”. He continually asked her about the cost of the room. The receptionist replied,“Why do you ask this question, as clearly you can not afford even a fraction of the nightly tariff”. This time the man lost his temper completely, because there were many people in the hotel lobby watching the spectacle. The man retorted,“I will stay in no place other than in the best room in this hotel”.“The best room costs US1200 a night”，the receptionist answered. The man sarcastically replied,“Only US1200. I would pay US2200 if necessary”. Finally this man of very humble appearance paid the appropriate tariff to stay in the hotels’VIP suite, though he needed a great deal of assistance in completing his registration form.
A Chinese hand told his experience of giving name card to Chinese.If you are introduced in Chinese, pass your card with its Chinese-language side facing up; if you are introduced to a person in English-presumably because the Chinese person you are meeting speaks English-then pass your card with its English-language side facing up. This ensures that you will not offend someone who prides himself on speaking and reading English. Take your acquaintance’s card with both hands and continue to hold it with two hands as you read it. Read all of it while showing that you are impressed with the job title of the person you have met. Your expression of impressed surprise is a compliment and a courteous gesture.
In comparison with the Americans, Chinese are more sensitive about their face.
Face is psychological and not physiological. It is not a face that can be washed or shaved, but a face that can be“granted”and“lost”and“fought for”and“presented as a gift.”—abstract and intangible, it is yet the most delicate standard by which Chinese social intercourse is regulated—Face cannot be translated or defined. It is like honor and is not honor. It cannot be purchased with money. It is hollow and yet is what men fight for and what many women die for. It is invisible and yet by definition exists by being shown to the public. Dispite of all of these, certain patterns could be found on the expression of facework in conversation. Following are two general patterns regarding the difference of converation style between Asian and Westerners.
We would like to claim, nevertheless, that Asian conversations show a general pattern, a kind of macrostructure, which is quite different from the pattern one sees in a Western conversation. We have argued that Asian conversations show a pattern which can be described as a parabolic arch, beginning with incidental topics and minor points. The main topic is introduced somewhat later. Finally it’s quite customary after the introduction of the main topic to be followed again by final period of“small talk”
The Western pattern, by contrast, begins with an early introduction of the initiator’s main point. This is followed by a line of supporting developments or just small talk, but then there is often a conclusion with a reiteration of the main or concluding point (see fig. 2). We believe these differing patterns lie at the heart of a great deal of confusion in East-West discourse since each side expects different positions of main and subsidiary topics.
For example, Americans tend to assume that everyone else in the world is equally committed to directness in interpersonal communications. This assumption is erroneous, especiallyswheresthe Chinese are concerned. The Chinese may very well on occasion be direct but only if no one, including themselves, will lose face.
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