Face negotiation theory explains how we manage conflict based on our culture or how we were brought up. The image or “face” we put on for the public correlates with our needs and wants. Individualistic societies like the United States tend to solve conflict through competition or more combative measures while collective societies found throughout Asia like China and Japan tend to solve conflict more passively and will avoid or oblige to opposition.
Both individualists and collectivists maintain a face to the public, but often for different reasons. An individualist will maintain a face in order to preserve one’s own desires while a collectivist will maintain a face to satisfy their group’s desires.
The theory was developed by Professor Stella Ting Toomey in 1985. The “face” is an identity of the two types of societies this theory targets. The identity is based on how each group wants to be seen to others. One tends to take a stance and dominate an issue to stand out as an individual whereas the other will avoid the issue in order not to shame or hurt the identity of their entire group.