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According to Brown and Levinson, all human beings want to have "face." This is a universal concept. Face, for them, the particular public image that each person wants to be able to claim. Face can be broken down into two aspects, a negative and a positive.
Positive face has to do with what other people think of you. We all want specific other people (those that we care about, which can vary from situation to situation) to approve of us and to appreciate us. This is positive face.
Negative face has to do with being independent. We all want, to some extent, to be able to do whatever we want. We do not want other people to be able to infringe on our desires or to impose upon us.
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