The Concept of Face / Mien-tzu

The concept of face is extremely important to the Taiwanese. The face is difficult to translate into words but essentially reflects a person's reputation, dignity, and prestige. The face can be lost, saved or given to another person. Companies, as well as individuals, have faced and this often provides the rationale behind the business and personal interactions.

Giving Face

The face can be given to people by complimenting them, showing them respect, or doing anything that increases their self-esteem. Specific examples include:

  • Complimenting individuals (be careful not to single out individuals when the work was a corporate effort)

  • Praising group (company, school, family, country)


Losing Face

You can cause someone to lose face by causing someone embarrassment, and/or tarnishing their image and reputation. Examples include:

  • Direct or indirect criticism of an individual or group

  • Giving someone a gift that is beneath their status

  • Turning down an invitation or a gesture of friendship

  • Not keeping your word

  • Demonstrations of anger or excessive emotionalism


Saving Face

In the event that you cause someone to lose face, or someone is embarrassed by circumstances that arise, the best recourse is to appropriate blame for problems that arise. For example:

  • Appropriating blame for problems that arise:

  • Perhaps I didn’t explain myself clearly."

  • Oh, that kind of thing happens in our country too."

  • I have done the same thing myself."