Monday, February 18, 2008

Saving Face

When first introduced to the principle of “saving face”, I believe nearly everyone realized that they had somehow understood it all along but never knew it had a name. It is a very familiar situation for people to find themselves in. Until we discussed it in class, however, it had never occurred to me that saving face for someone else is often equally as motivated by an often unacknowledged need to save face for yourself. Just the other day a friend of mine was moaning over her ankle which she had jammed earlier that day. (I haven’t asked anyone’s permission to tell stories about them so I’m avoiding the use of names) Another friend of mine heard that she was upset about it and came to help by elevating it saying this is often something that helps. My first friend agreed, but when the second friend left a little while later and my injured friend’s boyfriend offered to keep holing her leg up for her she immediately said, “Oh, no don’t! That made it ten times worse I was just saying it felt better so she wouldn’t feel bad.” At this point I considered that because she is such a sweet girl, she not only wanted to save face for our friend by making her think she had helped, but she was also saving face for herself because she is always so sweet to everyone that she wouldn’t want to appear unconcerned with other’s feelings by not saving face for them. Even in our American culture which places such great emphasis on the individual, it is frowned upon for you not to spare another person some embarrassment. But where the difference is between our culture’s approach to saving face and another culture that is less individualistic (at least in my personal theory), is that we seem to think it’s alright to tell others about a person’s mistake when they are no longer there. For instance, my friend spared another girl the embarrassment of knowing she was making matters worse while she was still in the room, but after she left she told us what had really happened. This makes me wonder if collectivist cultures would be more likely to continue saving face for that person even in their absence. That is something I would like to find out.

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