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Winning human heart! Saving Face for Others

Chapter 26: Saving Face for Others

Many years ago, General Electric was caught in the delicate matter of removing Charles Steinmetz as industry leader. Steinmetz was one of the company’s most talented people in the electrical field, but he was weak in leadership.

The company was in a dilemma, they didn’t want to keep him at the helm but didn’t want to offend him. Steinmetz was essential to the company and a very sensitive person. In the end, a new title was devised for him: Consulting Engineer of the company. It’s the new title for the old job. Then the company let someone else take the lead. Steinmetz was very pleased.

The company’s leaders have tactfully treated this very sensitive “star”. They made a fuss-free transfer of power by saving Steinmetz’s face.

Saving face for others is very important. Yet we rarely pay attention. We just casually yell, criticize, criticize, threaten others in front of the crowd without even mentioning the self-esteem that everyone has. Sometimes we even intentionally offend others, trying to find out someone’s mistake.

Just thinking for a few minutes, with a few words of kindness and understanding, we can avoid hurting others and also avoid hurting our own personality. Unfortunately, most of us prefer to bully than to show respect to others.

In one of our training sessions, two practitioners debated the negative consequences of looking for flaws versus the positive results from saving face for others. Fred Clark of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, told of an incident at his company:

“During the meeting, the vice president asked a direct question to a production manager. His speech was full of aggression and intended to point out the foreman’s mistake. Not wanting to lose face in front of his colleagues, the foreman evaded the answer. This caused the vice president to lose his temper, raise his voice to the foreman and tell him he was lying.

Every good working relationship that had preceded this collision was shattered in those few brief moments. From that day on, that brilliant foreman became useless to our company. A few months later, he left the company and joined a rival company. There, he became an excellent employee.”

Another practitioner, Anna Mazzone, also recounted a similar incident, but with a completely different approach, which led to the opposite result. Ms. Mazzone, now a marketing specialist for a canned food company, was initially given her first professional job of developing a plan to test and market a new product.

But she made a huge mistake and the whole experiment had to be redone while it was time for the briefing, that she didn’t have time to tell her boss. “When I was called in to read the report, I was terrified. I did all I could. But I decided not to cry and decided not to let others say that women are not suitable for management because they are too sensitive. I report briefly and affirm that by mistake I will review the entire project before the next meeting.

I sat down, waiting for my boss to throw a tantrum. Unexpectedly, he thanked me for the hard work I took on. He assured me in front of my colleagues that he trusted me and knew I did my best. He also said that my failure was due to lack of experience, not lack of ability. That day, I left the meeting with great determination and promised myself that I would never let my boss down again.”

Anna’s boss did not criticize her when she did wrong, but went beyond judgment to behave generously and selflessly. And Anna fully feels that, so she will try her best to do well in the next time to deserve the trust and face that her boss has preserved and given her.

“I have no right to devalue a person in his own eyes. What matters is not what I think of him, but what he thinks of himself. Hurting a person’s dignity is a crime. – Antoine de Saint Exupéry.

Principle 26: Know how to save face for others

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