ERIC Number: EJ798331
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2006
Reacting to Face Loss in Chinese Business Culture: An Interview Report
Cardon, Peter W.
Business Communication Quarterly, v69 n4 p439-443 2006
In Chinese culture, the concept of face refers to personal dignity, prestige, and status and serves to maintain harmony in social relationships and hierarchies. The fear of the loss of face permeates Chinese society. In business, face loss may disrupt deals and harm goodwill. However, limited empirical research has addressed the emotional reactions Chinese businesspersons experience when face is lost. A better understanding of such emotional reactions to face loss can empower businesspersons from abroad to enhance their relationships with the Chinese. This article draws on interviews conducted between January and August 2003 with 34 Chinese businesspersons. Chinese informants who had significant international business experience were selected from the five major commercial centers in China: 12 from Beijing, 4 from Shanghai, 8 from Guangzhou, 2 from Hong Kong, and 8 from Taiwan. Most of the Chinese informants were men (24), yet there was still a significant number of women (10). To protect personal identities, pseudonyms are used in this article to present statements from informants. Informants described the role of face in business situations. Interviews included both open-ended and structured questions and were approximately 45 minutes long on average. Altogether, informants gave 84 examples of face loss and associated reactions. The first section describes informants' reactions when interacting with Chinese counterparts, and the second section describes their reactions when interacting with businesspersons from abroad. The interviews revealed that while Chinese businesspersons experience a wide range of emotional reactions to face loss, the most common emotional reactions to face loss were short term and relatively inconsequential to normal business activities. This contradicts the mainstream practitioner literature, which suggests that the Chinese react to face loss irrationally and with malice toward offending parties. However, because emotions related to face loss are extremely intense in some cases, foreign businesspersons should take care to avoid or minimize these emotionally painful and distracting experiences for their Chinese counterparts.
Descriptors: Asian Culture, International Trade, Foreign Countries, Business Communication, Interviews, Emotional Response, Cultural Traits, Interpersonal Relationship
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: China