"Saving face": Lessons for Living, by Dr Neil Thompson

Life is never without its challenge, but there is always the opportunity to learn and grow from those demands made on us. Dr Neil Thompson offers advice to tackle these problems and help social workers and care professionals to realise their potential.

22/08/21

"Saving face": Lessons for Living, by Dr Neil Thompson

To lose face means to become embarrassed or to feel that your standing has been diminished.

Unfortunately, if we are not sensitive enough in our interactions with other people, we can easily unintentionally make them lose face – for example, by implying a criticism of them.

In some cases this can land you an aggressive reaction. This is because, if people are faced with a choice between losing face and reacting strongly, many will choose the latter.

Indeed, feeling diminished or humiliated is a common cause of aggressive or even violent reactions.

We therefore need to make sure that we are skilful enough to avoid contributing to situations where people lose face.

Saving face means, on the one hand, not embarrassing ourselves, but also making sure we don’t unwittingly embarrass anyone else.

This is partly basic good manners, but it is also about being able to tune in to the situation we find ourselves in and being alert to any potential sources of losing face.

For example, in circumstances where someone is, or has been, upset or angry, they are more likely to regard an ill-chosen comment as a slight.

This does not mean that we should be ‘walking on eggshells’, but it does mean that we may create problems if we just press on without considering the dangers of causing someone to lose face.

Dr Neil Thompson is an independent writer, educator and adviser.

His website is www.NeilThompson.info.

Connect with him online via @drneilthompson.

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