Just recently I was put in a situation at work where someone has to be sacrificed so the City Manager will "save face", that turned out to be me, even though all admit I did nothing wrong. Because I have no employment contract I am forced to take the hit in position and salary. Saving face is not necessary a voluntary thing, but for the politician or in this case other official, it's important to them to have someone to blame.
If it isn't something so extremely embarrassing that it should just be ignored to make the other person feel better, I'll usually make a joke about myself, to take the attention off the embarrassment at hand. I'm pretty tough to embarrass so I don't mind sharing stories so the person doesn't feel alone.
In my experience, the best way to save face is to own your mistakes. If you immediately say, "Oops, looks like I messed up! Sorry; I'll have that fixed by the end of the day [week, year, whatever]", people respect you and usually even help you fix it.
My way of helping others save face is usually to describe the problem as a shared problem, not as a person's mistake. In other words, instead of saying "Jim props the door open and that's a security risk," I would say, "Hey, does anyone have an idea for making that rear door easier to lock and unlock? Right now it's tempting to block it open. Do y'all know of any inexpensive hands-free badge options?" In those cases, somebody almost always has a solution ("I just clip my badge onto the cuff of my sleeve and the reader catches it as I go past"), and you never have to name names of the people doing it wrong.
The worst is when people hide a problem to save face. I know of an organization that's going bankrupt right now because their executive director wouldn't face the fact that they were losing money and ask for help. Instead he borrowed $200K from a vendor (!?!) and took out a mortgage on his own house. He had 21 people on the payroll, only 10 of whom were actually showing up to work, but he wouldn't fire anyone because that was like admitting that he shouldn't have hired them. It's a non-profit organization that works with other non-profits who are not competitors, so at any time, he could have sent out an e-mail saying, "Is there anybody who can look at my books and help me cut costs?" and he would have had ten experienced bookkeepers volunteering within hours. Or he could have told his board of directors, "We're not doing well financially," and they would have called in an advisory audit. He wasn't stealing money, just wasting it, so the worst that would have happened to him would be that he would be given a financial advisor who would do the dirty work of cutting salaries and shifting expenditures. Instead, he tried to pretend nothing was wrong until it was too late, and he got fired and will probably lose his house and be sued and possibly face criminal charges.
Honestly, I think this is something we should teach in schools. Call out your own mistakes as soon as you see them, and/or learn to treat mistakes as impersonal problems to be solved. Cover-ups never work in the long run.
The phrase to "save face" has been around a long time. It's been part of English vernacular since the 19th century. The concept is a core social value in Asian cultures, among others. The meaning has remained stable across time. Saving Face signifies a desire -- or defines a strategy -- to avoid humiliation or embarrassment, to maintain dignity or preserve reputation. Eleanor Roosevelt's familiar quote: "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent" is an extension on the theme of saving face. [http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/chronic-healing/201011/saving-face] ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I have been guilty of taking the blame of others embarrassing moments because I felt they could not, it has not always been a welcomed reception from that person. I believe this to be an enabler kinda thing (which I am, an enabler).
TOPIC QUESTION: Question: What is your opinion "saving face" and have you ever been the recipient of someone doing that to you or have you done it to someone else?
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