'Face' in the Chinese Culture

Concept of Face

面子, the concept of ‘face’ starts with understanding what’s important in a ‘good name’, a good reputation, why is it important to save one’s face, not to lose face (Diū liǎn), not to be humiliated, not to lose one’s credit. Do you know what exactly is ‘loss of face’? How do you handle when you’re dealing with a Chinese individual, a Chinese organization?  

The concept of Face permeates the Chinese psyche as it drives most of all Chinese behavior. It influences all levels of the society and of business. Relationships matter to Chinese people. Family then followed by social. Bear in mind that there is no quick way to build a relationship. Time. Take your time to build it from meetings, to tours, to banquets, to drinks, to more drinks. Then negotiations, deal making. You need to invest time and money and energy to know your counterparts before you deal. Besides having a good translator who knows your industry, your product and familiar with what services you provide, this person also has recommendations and has studied abroad.

Unlike the western ‘pride’, face is more of a public opinion-oriented concept. It largely is dependent on the acknowledgement of another or others, and the respect. In summary, ‘What others believe about me’.

A thinking exercise to help you understand further: Consider what people believe about you. It is different from what you know about yourself.

Gaining face is when a Chinese individual is held in esteem by ‘the group’ around him. To show dissatisfaction publicly or acting with  lack of respect toward a person will cause that someone to lose face. The resultant effects on the people involved can be devastating. The roots of ‘face’ are deeply engrained in the Chinese culture and it goes back thousands of years, citing Confucius:
 Being thus known to others by their observable conduct, the elite were dependent upon the opinion and moral judgment of the collectivity around them. To be disesteemed by the group meant a disastrous loss of face and self-esteem, for which one remedy was suicide".

Giving face is what you can do. How togive face?
What not to do? What's the taboo? Causing a loss of face.

Doing business with Chinese, a saying: it's sometimes better to bend like grass in wind rather than resist like a branch and snap".

Following are some news and articles for leaders in business:

When Your Chinese Employees Lose Face, You Lose Them



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