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9 Examples of Saving Face

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Saving face is preserving one's social status after a failure, mistake or disagreement. A person may attempt to save their own face and people in a group may help them. Alternatively, members of a group may attempt to embarrass or humiliate someone who has made a mistake, causing them to lose face. The following are examples of saving face.


Disagreeing with people indirectly when you feel they are wrong with techniques such as "That's a good idea but..."

Indirect No

Saying "no" to a job candidate or salesperson may cause them to lose face. Approaches such as "Your skills are impressive but we ended up choosing a candidate with more banking industry experience", are a way of saying no that is face saving.

Indirect Criticism

Indirect feedback that sounds positive but contains criticism as hints. In cultures where saving face is common, people learn to read between the lines to see such criticism.


A colleague apologizes for something and you reduce the tension with humor and forgiveness.


A senior employee appears to have health problems that are interfering with his position. He is kept on as a "special consultant" until retirement age but removed from office duties.

Embarrassing Moments

A person has food on their face during a meeting. Everyone pretends not to see it. The person beside them whispers "you have a little something ..."

Group Harmony

Saving face is characteristic of cultures that value group harmony whereby conflict is avoided in order to enjoy a sense of collective identity and cooperation.

Consensus Decision Making

Cultures that value saving face tend towards consensus decision making whereby a decision is never made until management has built support and is quite sure it will not face opposition, that would represent a loss of face.

Human Error

Saving face tends to produce human error as direct criticism is helpful in avoiding such mistakes. Interestingly, Japan, which is known to value saving face, is also known for its heavy emphasis on human error prevention as part of its characteristic corporate culture. This may produce low human error in an atmosphere of saving face.
Overview: Saving Face
Allowing a person to avoid embarrassment in the context of failure, mistakes, criticism or disagreement.
Embarrassing someone who intensely doesn't want to be embarrassed can have interpersonal, political and commercial repercussions.
Saving face is particularly common in China, Japan and Korea. However, it is by no means exclusive to Asia and is a reasonably common social behavior in many countries.
Related Concepts
Next: Loss of Face
More about saving face:
Loss Of Face
Saving Face
Steel Man
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