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New School Year, New Relationships

By: Joy Elizabeth, Class of 2018

Each new stage of life brings the adventure of developing new relationships. As I have begun this journey in the MS Health Communication program, I have been challenged to engage in new relationships. These relationships include interaction with the people in administration, finance, MSHC department leadership and staff, professors, alumni, mentors, and peers. This diverse group of people in my life has provided me with a challenge of how I show up in these relationships.

Defining the self is a fundamental piece in having relationship with others. Well known sociologist, Erving Goffman, demonstrates the self as having many selves in which carry with it the idea of face. Erving mentions that a person provokes an emotional response when engaged with others, and through the idea of face, one can appropriately distinguish her/his identity. Goffman continues stating that the individual unconscious goal is to present the most positive image of ourselves to the current audience. Information that has been conveyed about her/him must correlate with the face that is presented (Goffman, 1955).

Cultural and social context influences the specific aspects of face and is described as face needs  (Spiers, 1998). In my new cultural context of being in an educational setting with new social relationships, I am learning to utilize face needs to help define my relationships. I desire to feel and be a part of a group. The approach I have chosen in relationship to fellow students is to introduce myself, and invest time to outside of class in getting to know them. I want to keep a positive face: communicate the things I like about myself, in order to feel accepted into this new group.

I am learning to present face with those in which I can receive mentorship, educational and professional guidance. This positive face is different than what I present to fellow students, as it is not the face to be part of the group, but to be seen as competent. Face work is demonstrated through face needs in the understanding that in order to enhance face, one must satisfy face needs. Positive face needs are to be acknowledged and approved (Spiers, 1998).

The ability to develop my new relationships in this stage of life is essential to my feeling of connection. As I apply the techniques Goffman has created in terms of face, I will better establish connections and self fulfillment while learning in the MS Health Communication program.


Goffman, E. (1955). ON FACE-WORK. Psychiatry, 18(3), 213. Retrieved from

Spiers, J. A. (1998, January). The Use of Face Work and Politeness Theory. Qualitative Health Reserach, 8(1), 25-47.