Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Student Excuse-Making from a Face Needs Perspective

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Student Excuse-Making from a Face Needs Perspective

Article excerpt

The instructor-student relationship is an interpersonal relationship. Providing evidence for this proposition, Frymier and Houser (2000) noted that this relationship has initiation stages as well as disengagement stages. They also stated that instructors and students both have communication goals and that their communication is focused on achieving those goals and avoiding conflict. Frymier and Houser did add, however, that this relationship is not one of equality; there is an inherent status differential between students and their instructors. Depending on their goals, students will differ in how they communicate with their instructors and their willingness in addressing their own face needs and their instructors' face needs (Sabee & Wilson, 2005; Weber, Martin, & Cayanus, 2005; Weber, Martin, & Patterson, 2001). Additionally, how instructors communicate with their students on topics such as students taking ownership of their education and having students applying the material to their everyday lives impacts students' independence needs and relational needs (Kerssen-Griep, 2001). Investigating these ideas, this study focused on the relationship between students' face needs and their excuse-making.

Face Needs

"The concept of face is about identity respect and other-identity consideration issues within and beyond the actual encounter episode" (Ting-Toomey, 2005, p. 73). According to Brown and Levinson (1987), each person has two types of face: negative and positive. Both types of face can be maintained, enhanced or lost. Negative face involves an individual's desire to remain autonomous and free from imposition. In the classroom, students can threaten the negative face of instructors by asking to meet with them during times that do not correspond with the instructor's office hours. Positive face involves an individual's desire to be liked, understood, and admired. Students can threaten the positive face of their instructors by indicating to their instructors that they are not liked or respected.

Individuals are emotionally invested in their faces, and they attempt to reduce incidents in which they could lose face (Brown & Levinson, 1987). However, whether a person loses, maintains, or enhances face is dependent on others (Cupach & Metts, 1994). Not just anyone can satisfy these face wants. Only individuals relevant to particular goals can satisfy these wants. For instance, in the classroom, a student's desire to appear intelligent (a positive face want) cannot always be satisfied by other students. It is more likely that only the instructor can satisfy the student's positive face wants because the instructor is the one who is deemed the expert and who evaluates the learning. Individuals realize that their face wants can only be met through the actions of others and, for this reason, individuals mutually attempt to maintain each other's face. Occasionally, there are acts that inherently threaten others' positive and negative face; these are called face threatening acts (FTAs).

As individuals usually want to maintain each others face, a conscious decision must be made to commit the FTA. The decision to commit to the FTA is made after weighing three different wants (Brown & Levinson, 1987). First, there is the want to communicate the FTA. For instance, a student may want to remind an instructor to write a letter of recommendation, even though the instructor has already agreed to write the letter. Second, there is the want to be efficient and urgent. The student may feel it is necessary to remind the instructor due to a pending deadline. Third, there is the want to minimize the threat of the FTA to the respondent. The student may understand that the instructor is very busy, and the time taken to write the recommendation can harm the negative face of the instructor. The student also may understand that the reminder suggests the instructor is being inattentive, or inefficient, which can harm the positive face of the instructor. …

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