Saving face can be a very strong motivator for people. Giving them the ability to avoid taking a hit to their pride, ego and reputation can motivate them to agree to a resolution that meets the needs of all parties.

Back in my security days, it was quite common for for me to be called upon to remove people from the hospital property. This could be for any number of reasons, but it typically had to do with unacceptable or prohibited activities. One of my most effective negotiation strategies when the person had dug in their heels and simply refused to leave, was to give them the choice of walking out on their own, or being escorted out of the building by security, in handcuffs. There were usually lots of people between us and the exit, plus these folks were commonly there with family, friends, etc. I would extend this offer once all of our other efforts to gain compliance had failed, and we had the legal authority on our side. In the end, very few people chose the handcuffed escorted route. They agreed to leave, even though they didn’t want to, because it saved them the embarrassment of being walked out like a criminal.

In a completely different context, in my mediation career, it’s quite common for defendants in a civil matter to agree to pay a settlement, on the condition that the plaintiff sign documents absolving the defendant of any wrongdoing, and promising not to discuss the details of the settlement agreement with anyone. These conditions are “face saving” measures that must be there for the Dispute to be resolved.

Being able to save face can be a huge motivator for people, because none of us want other people thinking poorly of us. But at the same time, we don’t like to be on the wrong side of an argument. So, even when we realize that we are, we’re still reluctant to concede that fact. If you find yourself in that situation, from either side of the dispute, offering a face saving opportunity opens the door for the person to bow out gracefully. It can be a powerful conflict resolution tool.


Stay In Touch

Enter your email address to keep up to date on new information and learning opportunities!

1 (705) 934-2877