in this discussion, let’s assume that the participants involved in interactions are not living in a context which has created rigidly fixed social relationships. within their everyday social interactions, people generally behave as if their expectations concercing their public self-image, or their face wants, will be respected. if a speaker says something that represents a threat to another individual’s expectations regarding self-image, it is described as a face threatening act. alternatively, given the possibility that some action might be interpreted as a threat to another’s face, the speaker can say something to lessen the possible threat. this is called a face saving act.
image a late night scene, where a young neighbour is playing his music very loud and an older couple are trying to sleep. one of them, in (2), proposes a face threatening act and the other sugests a face saving act.
(2) him : I’m going to tell to stop that awful noise right now!
her : perhaps you could just ask him if he is going to stop soon because it’s getting a bit late and people need to get sleep.
because it is generally expected that each person will attempt to respect the face wants of others, there are many different ways of perfoming face saving acts.
from : pragmatics George yule