Negotiation Strategies November 20, 2009

How important is it to "save face?"

To save face means simply to maintain one’s dignity. Conversely, to lose face would mean to be humiliated, or lose one’s reputation...

To save face means simply to maintain one’s dignity. Conversely, to lose face would mean to be humiliated, or lose one’s reputation.

It turns out that face-saving is a big issue in every business negotiation. However, face-saving is a “hidden” issue.

During a negotiation, each negotiator is involved on both a professional/business level and a personal level. Some people are more prone to letting the personal intrude on the professional, and thus use a negotiation and its outcome to validate their self-worth and build their self-esteem. Clearly, for these types of people, face-saving during a negotiation because a larger issue.


Angry or hostile behavior can result when a negotiator’s self-worth feels threatened. Some negotiators shut down or refuse to proceed because their ego is at stake. When hostility arises, all parties should work to defuse the situation.

Here are some phrases that can help reduce tension:



"Obviously, this can be interpreted in several ways..."
"Perhaps there are other reasons that I am not aware of..."
"Here is some information that you probably did not have access to..."
"I understand your conclusion, but have you considered this..."

Your goal when confronted with a hostile negotiator is to minimize the hostility. Do what everyone else does: blame the lawyers! Seriously, if you can blame a third party such as someone who left the company, the accountant or someone else, it will take the ego issue off the table.

Obviously, when a negotiation breaks down because someone feels he or she is losing face it is bad news for everybody involved. At Karrass, we believe that personal attacks should be avoided. Our negotiation skills teach that you should always leave a face-saving way out for the other party.

Have you ever lost face in a negotiation? Did it affect the outcome against you?
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