We’ve all been in a situation where someone has said or done something that has made us feel diminished. It could be exposing an error, breaching confidences about something we said or did, or recalling an embarrassing situation. When our face is threatened, we tend to move away from cooperation or collaboration and move towards defensiveness and competitiveness. In a negotiation situation, this will result in an inferior agreement or in a stalemate.
As skilled negotiators, it is in our interest to help the other side save face. At the same time, we need to be aware of our own reactions and work to build a thicker skin so that our face doesn’t have a negative impact on the negotiations.
You can measure a negotiators face-saving needs by using a scale called the Face Threat Sensitivity (FTS) scale. People with high FTS are easily upset or angered and people with low FTS have lower emotional reactions and fair better in tough negotiations. To measure your FTS, ask these three simple questions:
- Do I respond well to direct criticism
- Do my feelings get hurt easily
- Am I pretty thin skinned
Here are a few Face Saving strategies.
- Compliment the person. (You have put together a good presentation and I appreciate the work you have done)
- Apologize for something you have done. (I am sorry that I was abrupt on the telephone earlirt. It was unprofessional. I am under some tension and it wasn’t fair for me take it out on you)
- Ask for feedback about how the process is going (Mr. Seller, we are working together for the first time and I’d love to hear some feedback about how things are going so far.)
- If the other party says that this is their final offer, respond collaboratively by acknowledging their comment and gently stating that there are other points to discuss. Do not respond aggressively
- Focus forward, not back. William Ury in Getting to Yes says, “We are not going to agree about the past, but we might agree about the future.”
- Point out the concessions that you have made
- Be personable and say that you care about the relationship and about the interests of the other party.
Grow a thicker skin for yourself, learn the art of helping the other side save face and all of your negotiations will go smoother and more successfully. You owe it to your clients to be the most skilled negotiator you can be.