Monday, December 21, 2020

forms of face-work according to Goffman

The basic forms of face work according to Erving Goffman (see On Face-Work for background):

The avoidance process

The simplest way a person can avoid threats to the face he has designed for himself is to avoid situations where such a potential threat exists. He can do this by avoiding providing information that does not fit the "line" he is taking. That is, he will try to change the subject. He may also suppress his emotions, until he knows which line he is expected to take. These are "defensive" maneuvers to preserve the face. Other types of maneuvers are "conservative" maneuvers. Respect and politeness for example. These are designed to preserve the face of the other in the social interaction to avoid threatening the face of the person himself.

When a person fails in the avoidance process, he or she may act as if nothing has happened, or as if the injury is meaningless to him or her. Thus he deceives himself and the environment that no significant harm has occurred. In mental hospitals this is most evident when patients themselves treat repeated injuries to their own face and those of their environment in equanimity, while their critics react with despair. The inability to wear a mask properly in fact does not allow a person to exist in a normative society.


The repair process

When the mask that the person builds for himself is damaged, he enters a process whose essence is to repair the effect. This is expressed in statements  such as "sorry", or "definitely, I agree with what you said". The repair process consists of four steps: a challenge - accepting responsibility for the injury, a suggestion - offering to try to reduce the intensity of the injury (“it was a joke, don’t take me seriously), acceptance - when the victim receives the gesture, and thank you - the final step. These stages are part of the rituals of interpersonal relationships in social interactions.


Earn points - Aggressive use of face work

Another form of ritual in the process of maintaining the face is expressed according to Goffman in what can be called "accumulating points". When a person knows for example that when he behaves modestly people may praise him, he may "fish compliments" in this way. This is how a person maneuvers the environment in order to best preserve his face. Thus a person may also for example manipulate others into feeling guilty about what they did or did not do to him, through wearing a particular mask. It is actually a type of game where each side tries to preserve its face in the best way according to the circumstances by accumulating as many symbolic "points" as possible.


Collaboration in face-work

Cooperation can take place for example when some of those present at the social gathering feel the danger threatening one of their faces. They may prevent the injury by using implicit communication which means: "The line you are taking is not appropriate… You are about to lose your mask - you need to be careful". This may be done in implicit or indirect gestures, even in a non-verbal way.


The ceremonial functions of the self

So far we are talking about two planes of the self according to Goffman: the line - which is the pattern of behavior that a person chooses at any given moment, and the face - which are the way in which the pattern of behavior he adopts is reflected in every social interaction according to the environment. When separated, no significant damage is done to the face because these two components overlap, ie, it must be located within a certain line - a ritual known to all around and defined by the environment and the face is not damaged if they do not risk belonging to one line or another. But, whenever a person connects a line to a face - his self will have a role - a ceremonial role.


Face and social relations

Much of the activity that takes place in social gatherings can be interpreted by Goffmanas an attempt on the part of all present to go through the event in peace. Greeting hello, for example, provides an effective way to suppress hostility on the part of those present, so that they can momentarily drop the barriers between them and speak. Farewell greetings summarize the events in the meeting and their nature reflects the way in which the next meeting is expected to take place. In fact, blessings of peace and parting are an effective ceremonial way to avoid direct injury to the face. This is because they "soften" the ground before the interaction in the social encounter.


The nature of ceremonial arrangements

In conclusion, it can be said that in fact beneath the cultural differences, people everywhere are in fact the same. In all societies, people must adapt to the universal norms dictated by social encounters while wearing masks. The way to do this is by performing repetitive ceremonial actions while keeping the face in changing social situations. It is interesting to think that this universal human nature, is in fact inhuman in nature. In fact, when a person wears a mask, he is doing a mechanical action. It does not reveal its essence as a person, but presents a mask that reflects moral rules and social norms. In fact, according to Goffman, the moral rules that make a person human are a product of the requirement to observe the rituals of social encounters.

see more by Goffman

Erving Goffman's Dramaturgy theory explained

The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life


Symbolic Interaction

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