Face: An Asian Concept








There are two common instances when one must show respect: when you know that the person across the table is of a higher rank or is older than you.  Asians respect age and wisdom, a fundamental principle, based on the five societal relationships of Confucianism.

For example, In a situation where an elder is at the same doorway, he/she should respectfully be allowed to pass through first.  Visible gestures such as pausing, extending your hand, bowing and "Please, after you" is common courtesy for Asians.  Although the gesture of politeness may be declined, one must refuse with grace and allow respect for seniority.

Face is a complicated issue based on Asian values.  What does it mean to have 'Face'; and what does it mean to 'Lose Face' in the context of Chinese culture?

For the Chinese, face is the ultimate in Chinese logic.  Preserving face for oneself and others is essential to maintaining harmony in a relationship.  Face is such a delicate component of one's status that once you have caused someone to lose face, particularly in public, prospects of business might be seriously jeopardized.  There is little margin for error, so learn the concept quickly if you are to deal with the Chinese.

FACE IS EVEN MORE IMPORTANT THAN MONEY, the normal measuring stick of value for Chinese.  To have face is to be respected by others.  One is given face when they are treated as special.  This is fundamentally different to the attitude in western culture in which everyone is treated as equals.

What are examples of having face?  Not having to queue in line and being treated in a special manner, that's face.  HavIing  the Chef prepare something not on the menu?  The perception of privilege is fundamental to face.

Never criticize, publicly or privately.  This causes great loss of face and will cost you face.  To lose face is to be humiliated - to lose one's credit or good name.  This is the ultimate for Chinese.  Going bankrupt, or even having a relative involved with something disreputable is losing face.

To 'lose face' is quite different from having 'no face', which is different from not being 'given face'.  The difference between 'not having face' - which means ordinary treatment with no recognition, - and 'not given face' which means to be rudely treated or insulted - is quite subtle for westerners.

The Chinese investor is more likely to do business with you if you give him face but he will definitely not do business with you if you do not give him face. Things sound mysteriously complicated but in truth, know that part of the negotiating dance is to allow for the Asian to be in pursuit.  This is a key to doing business with Chinese.         - by Andrea Eng     


Winning at all costs isn't winning at all
An excerpt:

"I remember a businessman telling me that he hated negotiating with corporate Japan because they always had to win.   With Americans, it isn't the Japanese concept of 'saving face", though.  Winning is a football metaphor.   Padded, meth-ed, steroided giants run over the other team.   What a triumph.

Winning is overrated.   A narrow and angry mind can do great damage.   We are starting to see this in Canada, where Question Period is unwatchable.   Winning isn't a pure state.   It's temporary.   Total scorched-earth winning is a loss by any definition except the American one".  -  by Heather Mallick, GLOBE & MAIL    9 July 2005

EDITOR'S NOTE:   Well, isn't this interesting?   The concept of 'Face' in Asian culture makes its way to today's stories of The Rich and Famous in Asia.

Hurley in-laws `humiliated' at nuptials

2007:  The Indian father-in-law of British actress Elizabeth Hurley said he has cut ties with his son, Arun Nayar, amid anger over their lavish wedding.

Vinod Nayar told the Sunday Mirror he and his wife Joanne felt "publicly humiliated" and treated "like social outcasts" at the event, which took place in Britain and India last month.

"Liz and Arun have treated us very shabbily. My heart is heavy with pain," the newspaper quoted him as saying.

Nayar senior, a textile magnate, claims that the couple seemed to disrespect Indian relatives and did not act with consideration towards him and his wife.

"We were pushed into the background like poor relations. This has broken my heart," Nayar, 66, continued.

"I have decided to cut all ties with my sons ... I feel that Liz and Arun behaved shamefully and placed more importance on showing off than their own family," Nayar senior added.

He said that he had not spoken to his son since the wedding and had sent him a letter accusing him of having "disregarded me like one of your office boys."

The letter reportedly went on to say: "You have shown disrespect to me and my family, plus my dear friends who have been with me since your birth.'  - AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE    9 March 2007

Another Faux Pas by big Western Celebrity :
Sorry Gere, but I'm sick of your apologizing

I do not regret one professional enemy I have made. Any actor who doesn't dare to make an enemy should get out of the business." So said the fireproof Bette Davis. If she were alive today, someone would be pressing her to recant this defiant statement.

A sheepish Richard Gere is currently avoiding the "circus" surrounding his having, at aNew Delhi HIV/AIDS-awareness benefit, bent the obviously uncomfortable actress Shilpa Shetty backwards into a kiss so non-erotic, it would have been stricken from the Kama Sutra in favour of a fetching illustration of an ardent mule.

Harassed beyond comprehension, Gere, who only awkwardly mimicked Adrian Brody's oral Oscar assault on Halle Berry, has declared that he is very sorry to the Hindu fanatics who sought his arrest.

Initially, I supported the warrant for his arrest issued by a court in Jaipur, if only to inform Gere that his gesture was as erotic as, well, an amorous gerbil's. Or to advise him that protesting too much (as with his and his ex-wife Cindy Crawford's "We are not gay!" advertisement) only recalls Hamlet's mother's displeased summary of the play within a play.

Was it Disraeli, Henry Ford or Attila the Hun who proffered the following advice: "Never apologize, never explain"?

I don't care if it was the Family Matters nerd Steve Urkel: The advice needs now, more than ever, to be adopted by mildly transgressive celebrities addicted to the first exclamation of the litany of confession. 

In the last year, we have not only seen stars behaving badly, but have also had to endure their regret, regret cribbed from the ninth step of addiction recovery (make amends to people if possible) and entirely lacking in credibility.

Preceding Gere's faint apology is Michael Richards's square dance with Al Sharpton; Don Imus's collapsing sigh and Mel Gibson's passion.

Whatever happened to the kind of remorse that the alleged bottle rapist, Fatty Arbuckle, exhibited to the police, during a DUI, when he shattered said object and sneered, "There goes the evidence"?

Or to Frances Farmer's apology, when in court for disorderly conduct, which amounted to more of the same and the confession she spiked her morning orange juice with vodka and what of it.

To Eddie Murphy's response to his multiple offences in his stand-up movies Delirious and Raw, which was, effectively, a more fierce emphasis on his original claims?

What happened to coldly unregenerate stars of every stripe, including professional baseball's legendary misanthrope Ty Cobb, who simply sharpened his cleats in preparation for worse infractions, because, regardless of his gross misconduct, he believed in himself, however terrible he was?

While a certified rage ball like Alec Baldwin once would have put contracts out on whoever squealed about his private conversation with his daughter, we now have the dubious privilege of watching this unconscionable monster confide, fatuously, in the ladies of The View about how moved he has been by abused children writing to his website.

It may not be moral to refuse apology and explanation, particularly in one's private life. But in public, and as part of a trend, the compulsion to confess only exacerbates the matter because the public is not a priest, and because celebrity bad behaviour's only legitimacy is derived from a certain carelessness that precludes regret and is predicated on absolute audacity.

Warriors, fighters and powerful men and women do not apologize because, in doing so, they are admitting a tactical weakness and fragility that they cannot afford. Mean dads, racist comics and sloppy kissers are not artists of war, but one might better respect them for not adding insult to injury by explaining the inexplicable.

When bitch-and-ho rap was at its height, Snoop Dogg made the parlous error of explaining, earnestly, his view of women (in Spin magazine) as being the result of his disgust with anxious groupies who were nothing like his good and decent mother. This sincere and sincerely stupid logic was uncalled for: He should have just let his desire speak for itself and bend to the music that made us all lose its message in the urgency of its medium.

Apologies have a considerable precedent in, say, the calculated artifice of Galileo's recantation, in the elaborate courtesies deployed by Chaucer as amends for his Canterbury vulgarities.

But Gere and his fellow squeamish apologists are such low-calibre versions of genuine iconoclasts that they should merely apologize to their families and to themselves for being weak and foolish.

In his case, in truth, he should have insisted on being arrested, if only to draw attention to the speciousness of the charge.

Common criminals mechanically apologize, every day, for injuries and harm they claim not to have meant. If the latest round of famous self-loathers truly wished to atone, they would do so in deepest silence and exile.

One wishes that Gere, in defending himself, had the basic intelligence to gesture to the abundance of highly erotic art on India's most sacred temples.

Instead, his folding like a fan and capitulating only opened the floodgates for more of the kind of creepy excuses that act as codas to already repulsive acts.

A true star, such as, say, Alan Thicke, does not bother telling us why his wife looks more like his granddaughter, if his granddaughter worked at Hooters.

Thicke just sits there, like an object lesson in what money and fame can afford. And explains, in doing so, how much it would cost us to enquire further. THE GLOBE & MAIL  by Lynn Crosbie on 1 May 2007


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