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IC Relationship Competency 4: Interpersonal Attentiveness

People everywhere are sensitive to certain things, such as their appearance, their abilities, their wealth, their status and so on. If others challenge them in some way over these sensitive areas, they are likely to feel threatened, and may feel angry, upset or embarrassed. These sensitivities are commonly known as ‘face’ and in order to build and maintain good working relationships it is extremely important to avoid causing the other to lose face. In some cultures, particular emphasis is placed on ‘giving’ face to the other.
 Case Study Example: Giving face
During a visit of members of their Chinese partners’ team, the Head of Department (HoD) of the UK institution engages in positive face-giving practices during a project meeting. This practice shows good-will, appreciation for the partners’ status and authority and creates a basis for maintaining relationships.
The partners were discussing the need to pilot the material that they were jointly developing. The senior Chinese project member mentioned the difficulties and costs that the Chinese team would face if material was to be piloted at the Chinese partner institution. The following exchange then took place:
[...] We have many international students, some of whom will be Chinese who will love to do additional work.
No, they will, when they get another course free, which it will be, in a subject area that is relevant to them, so this will be a big plus especially when they know that (name of the senior Chinese project member) is involved, famous Professor from Beijing, so this will be great […] this will be a big tick […] we can really build that up into a big plus. We’ll be carefully selecting volunteers because we know we’ll have so many.

cift_arrow.gif Tip: Reflect on the things that you are personally sensitive to in meetings – what makes you feel embarrassed or flattered. When you next meet your international partners, consider the extent to which they may feel embarrassed or flattered by the same things.