In colloquial terms small talk helps us save face, a positive social value a person effectively claims for themself at the water cooler.
"Face" (Chinese in origin) was described by Arthur Henderson Smith (1894) "The term "face" keeps cropping up in our conversation, and it seems such a simple expression that I doubt whether many people give it much thought. Recently, however, we have heard this word on the lips of foreigners too, who seem to be studying it."
Links to Examples of Face Saving:
- Raymond Cohen--Negotiating Across Cultures: Communication Obstacles in International Diplomacy (Symbolic Acts)
- This article illustrates how substantially insignificant concessions can be critical to researching agreements.
- Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton -- Seven Strategies for Treating Perception - or Framing Problems
- Fisher, Ury, and Patton have developed a technique for negotiating agreements called principled negotiations. One aspect of this approach is to deal effectively with people problems and one way to do that, they say, is to allow one's opponent to save face. This and other approaches are discussed in this article.
- Jeffery Rubin -- The Timing of Ripeness and the Ripeness of Timing
- One way to create "ripeness" or "readiness" to negotiate is to reframe the conflict in a way that allows all the parties to save face, Rubin argues.
- Raymond Cohen--Negotiating Across Cultures: Communication Obstacles in International Diplomacy (The 1971 U.S. - Japan Monetary Crisis)
- This essay illustrates the importance of allowing losing parties to "save face."
- William Ury -- Beyond the Hotline
- One way to control crisis situations, Ury says, is to give the opponent a face saving way out of the crisis.