Not Losing Face

Quite a while back I used to do a number of personal and team development workshops for Ph.D. students. During these I used to use MBTI, in the sometimes-vain hope of raising awareness. As a part of this I used to ask the participants the ill-defined question;

“In situations of conflict what is your worst fear?”

Around 30-40% of the grouping without fail used to say, “being wrong”, the secondary fear was “losing the argument” followed by the tertiary fear of “death”. All of these self-identified as “T” types. The other part of the audience used to say; “damaging the relationship” and “hurting feelings”. These were the “F” types. The question never mentioned arguments. One “half” was worried about losing face, the other “half” was worried about losing a relationship. Such a simple question split the participants if not down the middle, then at least in two.

I have come to the conclusion that fear of losing face is a major hindrance to learning, to relationship and to world peace. In order to save face people will bomb the shit out of each other. Out goes the chin, a posture is struck, and the button is pressed.

What then is Face? It is another way of saying social self-image. Which is of course yet another one of those conditioned things. The clue is in the name self- image. It isn’t real. Yet people will die for it. They will risk losing a relationship or a loved one over something imaginary. Pride gets in the way. Fear of loss of power that this imaginary face thing apparently confers, prevents them. It is a bit fucked up. But there you go. Many cannot ever admit they are wrong even when the “proof” is strong and high, they will try to brazen it out. Many will lie. If you ever watch one of these “Border Control” TV programmes you will see this in action.  “Why did you tick the no food box?” “I did not think it applied to the ten kilograms of noodles, the two kilograms of nuts etc…in my suitcase.”

This bizarre desire to want to win the “argument” is not uncommon. The fear of losing, isn’t rare. But sometimes in winning there is a much bigger loss than the argument. Is an entire relationship less important than one or more arguments? Discuss….

I am going to come back to Face in more depth tomorrow. But to kick off the thinking a little here are some questions as an excercise:

Am I afraid of losing face?

Have I ever done anything stupid in an attempt to preserve face?

How inventive am I in my efforts not to lose face?

What were the consequences?