Intercultural and/or Cross-Cultural Communication Theories, Models Thesis

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Intercultural and/or cross-cultural communication theories, models, and/Or methodologies and a description of at least one research project or study for each theory chosen

Theories, models, and methodologies of face-negotiation and feminist communication theory

Saving face.' 'Face time.' Americans and other individuals from low-context Westernized countries are likely think about the metaphor of 'face' in terms of personally securing dignity and respect. They may think this notion of 'face' is part of a universal cultural vocabulary. However, 'Face - Negotiation Theory' as conceptualized by Stella Ting-Toomey, questions this notion by examining, "face" or "the way that we want others to see and treat us," as a culturally-bound concept (Whitham 1999). According to Ting-Toomey, Americans and other individuals from low-context cultures "equate the concept of face with saving their own face, i.e., pride, reputation, credibility, and self-respect (relating to the ego). For them face is more individualistic, low-context, and is associated with intra-psychic phenomena, but individuals from low-context cultures on the other hand, understand the concept of face to be related to honor, claimed self-image, and the family/organization. For them there is more awareness of relational dynamics in the concept of face saving" (Ting-Toomey 1992).Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Thesis on Intercultural and/or Cross-Cultural Communication Theories, Models, and/or Assignment

According to a 2003 journal article in Communication Research reexamining her theories of 'face,' Ting-Toomey stated that the one universal aspect of face-negotiation theory is that it holds that "people in all cultures try to maintain and negotiate face in all communication situations and the concept of face becomes especially problematic in uncertainty situations (such as embarrassment and conflict situations) when the situated identities of the communicators are called into question" as can occur in situations of hierarchical conflict within a culture or during situations of cultural conflict (Oetzel & Ting-Toomey 2003, p.600). According to Ting-Toomey "Cultural variability, individual-level variables, and situational variables" all influence the selection of certain face concerns over others, "such as self-oriented face-saving vs. other-oriented face-saving" (Oetzel & Ting-Toomey 2003, p.600). "Self-face is the concern for one's own image, other-face is the concern for another's image, and mutual-face is concern for both parties' images and/or the "image" of the relationship" (Oetzel & Ting-Toomey 2003, p.603). Members of individualistic cultures tend to use more dominating conflict strategies, more substantive, outcome-oriented strategies and fewer avoiding conflict strategies to save their own sense of 'face' rather than strive to restore a sense of harmony to the collective than members of collectivistic cultures.

Ting-Toomey thus applies Hofsteade's method of classifying cultures as high-context or low-context to a relational self and community oriented concept she calls 'face.' The central question posed by face-negotiation theory is whether there is a cultural prioritization of autonomy of the individual or inclusion of the individual in the collective. Autonomy "refers to basic rights of space, privacy, and noninterference," versus inclusion or "doing something for the benefit of the group as a whole" by working together, and concentrating more on others than oneself" (Whitman 1999). High context cultures are cultures in which a person's relationship and context determines their communication style to a great degree. These cultures prioritize the value of inclusion over autonomy.

One of the most immediate and striking definitional differences between high and low context cultures in Ting-Toomey's taxonomy is that high-context cultures harbor a concept foreign to many low-context cultures, a concept of what Ting-Toomey calls 'face-giving' (Ting-Toomey 1992). Face-giving, for which Ting-Toomey notes her American students could not even derive a synonym, means allowing the "other person to recover his/her face -- room to maneuver, to negotiate -- so both can gain face in the end" (Ting-Toomey 1992). For individuals from low-context, Westernized cultures, the concept of a loss of face, according to Ting-Toomey seems to be a zero-sum game, translating into either a personal win or loss of face. Using a rhetorical strategy for the other person to 'recover' is a foreign concept, and losing face is always a blow to one's own pride. "For Americans, loss of face means personal failure, loss of self-esteem, or loss of self-pride on an individual attribution basis. Whereas for [high-context] Japanese and Korean subjects, loss of face means disrupting group harmony, bringing shame to their family, classmates, or company" (Ting-Toomey 1992). Even face recovery is culturally bound, as for low-context Americans and Canadians, using humor against the other individual is a frequent defensive method with a win-lose strategy. Japanese, Korean, and other Asians "focus more on maintaining the image of a win-win process" when engaging in face recovery (Ting-Toomey 1992).

To examine if her theory developed in the 1990s still holds, Ting-Toomey created a research study in which she administered a questionnaire to 768 participants from four nations. Two of the nations were relatively low-context in their cultural styles, the United States and Germany, and two of the nations were classified as high-context cultures, China and Japan. The results confirmed her hypothesis that degrees of cultural individualism and collectivism impacted conflict styles. She found that a high value of autonomy and "self-face" was correlated with domineering conflict styles, versus a high value of "other-face" which was associated with more conciliatory styles. Low-context, self-face oriented cultures were more likely to embrace rather than avoid conflict, versus high-context, other-face oriented cultures that shunned overt conflict and prioritized harmony (Oetzel & Ting-Toomey 2003, p.599).

Ting-Toomey's theory is persuasive, although her study, which was dependant upon self-reported responses and assumed a causal as well as a correlating link between low-context and high-context cultures and a lack of a desire for conflict in interpersonal dealings, had certain self-admitted flaws (Oetzel & Ting-Toomey 2003, p.619). Another, more substantive compliant might be the total lack of consideration for the role of gender in both the study and Ting-Toomey's theory in general. Even in singular, inclusive cultural contexts, men and women may manifest markedly different conflictual styles, and may value the 'self' very differently in their interactions with one another. The degree to which gender in general impacts communication, and the gender norms particular to a culture is itself a topic in need of further research.

According to sociolinguist Deborah Tannen, women often deploy self-effacing strategies to prevent the other person from losing face. This goes beyond merely women saying 'don't worry about it' when another person makes an error, but may even extend to apologizing when the other individual is actually at fault, or deflating their own competence, even when they know what they are doing. However, as males are less intent upon maintaining a sense of intimacy and harmony in relationships, men often mistake this female communication strategy as real information, and real self-effacement.

This is why miscommunication between the genders is so frequent, according to Tannen -- to use Ting-Toomey's phraseology, they come from different ways of understanding 'face'. For example, a woman coming home from work might say that she had a hard day, but rather than affirming that she had a hard day, a man might try to solve whatever 'problem' she has encountered, taking her literally at her word, in an extreme low-context, literal manner of communication. "When my mother tells my father she doesn't feel well, he invariably offers to take her to the doctor. Invariably, she is disappointed with his reaction. Like many men, he is focused on what he can do, whereas she wants sympathy" (Tannen 2001, p. 269). or, when a woman, trying to forestall conflict but still get her point across says 'don't you think we should ask for directions,' she does not mean this as a question, but really as a directive to her husband, even though he may assume that she does mean it in this fashion. Women often phrase things in the collective to affirm intimacy and harmony as in 'lets.' For example, "Diana often begins statements with 'Let's.' She might say 'Let's park over there' or 'let's clean up now, before lunch,'" in a way that aggravates her husband (Tannen 2001, pp. 129-130). In contrast, men may often see a status-play rather than a harmonious effort: "Until then it had not occurred to me there might be an element of one- upmanship. I now see that my husband was simply approaching the world as many men do: as a place where people try to achieve and maintain status. I, on the other hand, was approaching the world as many women do: as a network of connections seeking support and consensus" (Tannen 2001, p.2).

Tannen's model, that women and men come from two different cultural worlds was recently put to an empirical test. One 2004 study examined Tannen's hypothesis that women perceive as well as exhibit greater cooperation than males in human interaction. In the study, respondents completed a survey about interpersonal communication and answered a number of demographic questions. Then the test subjects read four scenarios. The Tannen model was, interestingly enough, not supported by the data: "to summarize the results for the Tannen model, the first hypothesis, that women would rate conversations as more cooperative than would men, was not consistently supported across situations and, if the effect existed, it was quite… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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