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Face-saving

 

Techniques General persuasion > Ingratiation > Face-saving

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

Face-saving involves doing or saying things (or not saying things) in order to avoid them being embarrassed or otherwise losing social status.

Ways to save face include:

  • Not bringing up their failings with them.
  • Making excuses for them that explain their failures or give good reason for seemingly-unreasonable things they have done.
  • Not revealing to others information you have about the person that would cause other people to think less of them.
  • Taking actions to correct their failures without revealing to others that you have done this.
  • Taking the blame yourself for things they have done wrong.

Face-saving can be passive or active. Passive face-saving has the 'do no harm' philosophy and means that you avoid doing or saying things which would embarrass the other person. Active face saving is where you go out of your way to help and rescue them, for example by taking the blame for things that are not your fault.

Example

Don't blame John. It was my fault for not giving him the right tools.

That was silly of you. Don't worry, I won't tell anyone.

Discussion

Social status, as indicated by the esteem of others, appears as a deep need in most people and many hence deeply fear 'losing face.' Helping them sustain this position when they might otherwise be embarrassed shows care that builds both trust and obligation.

Face-saving is important for many, but is particularly important in cultures where personal status is the primary means of trusting relationships, in contrast to where there is wide social trust and supportive legislation. In such cultures face-saving is both ritualized and mandatory, as to embarrass another person is to insult them and challenge them to conflict.

When loss of face is important, having somebody else save face, especially if they are harmed or lose face in the process, is to be much appreciated and deserves significant help in return.

See also

Trust, status

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