Moulton Lava

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Location: New England, United States

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Respect and Contempt

For a few years now, I've been studying an obscure piece of research known as FaceWork Theory. It addresses the issue that Asians call Face.

FaceWork Theory examines 5 or 6 axes:

1. The Respect-Contempt Axis

2. The Approval-Condemnation Axis

3. The Cooperation-Antagonism Axis

4. The Freedom-Taboo Axis

5. The Trust-Mistrust Axis

6. The Comfort-Anxiety Axis

In the Argument/Debate Culture, the participants tend to migrate to the right on each of the above axes, generating mutual and reciprocal disrespect, disapproval, antagonism, and mistrust.

In the Dialogue Model, the participants seek to create common ground, and seek to migrate themselves to jointly shared respect, and mutual approval and cooperation.

It saddens me to note that we are more adept at Negative FaceWork Dynamics than Positive FaceWork Dynamics. We are adept at criticising, shaming, and blaming the other side, and poor at building bridges and finding common ground.

We are gifted at conflict and poor at peacemaking.


Blogger pa2 said...

Since the Face Negotiation Theory is really trying to explain different approaches to conflict resolution within a high/low context, I'm not sure that the result is high context (Eastern cultures for example) is better than low context (US/European culture for example).
Actually, I'd like to offer that there really isn't a "right" or a "wrong", but simply diverging ways of negotiating facework.

5:19 PM  
Blogger Moulton said...

It might be helpful to recall what the great Zen poet, Seng-Ts'an, once wrote:

If you want to get the plain truth,
Be not concerned with right and wrong.
The conflict between right and wrong
Is the sickness of the mind.

10:33 PM  
Blogger Moulton said...

It's been a decade since I first posted this blog article.

A few days ago, a correspondent of mine asked a good question that got me thinking in a new direction.

While Respect and Contempt are nominally opposite ends of an axis in FaceWork Theory, that axis doesn't fit very well into the emotion axes in the Model of Emotions and Learning.

In terms of emotions, an alternate way to reckon the opposite of Contempt would be Envy. Envy is also known as Jealousy, but it also maps onto Zeal, the desire to attain that which one envies or admires in others.

7:01 AM  

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