Face-Negotiation Theory and the Communication Professional

Communication professionals can build trust and cultivate relationships with clients by understanding facework. This concept “refers to specific communication strategies we use to “save” our own or another person’s face and is a universal concept; how we “do” facework varies from culture to culture and influences conflict styles” (Martin & Nakayama, 2010, p. 436). Although a communication process will not work with 100% certainty for cultivating trust and building relationships, \and importantly facework is important for communication professionals to understand. West and Turner (2004) identify three components of Face-Negotiation Theory

  • Self-identity is important in interpersonal interactions, with individuals negotiating their identities differently across cultures.
  • The management of conflict is mediated by face and culture.
  • Certain acts threaten one’s projected self-image (face) (p.449).

Facework encompasses three components additional components which are face-saving, avoiding embarrassment and vulnerability, and face restoration, explanation and repair of face (West and Turner, 2004).  Face-Negotiation Theory is important in an organizational communications context because organizations strategize a projection of image.  No person or organization wants to look foolish, so communication professionals wanting access to information or cultivation of sources should be mindful of image and public perception.


Martin, J. N., & Nakayama, T. K. (2010). Intercultural communication in contexts (5th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill.

West, R., & Turner, L.  (2004).  Introducing Communication Theory: Analysis and Application.  Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill.


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