Negotiation Examples: The Power of “Face”


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"Face" is a person’s standing in the eyes of others. In negotiations, that means looking good to each negotiation side, peers, management, spouse and family. It avoids putting someone in an awkward position that could humiliate or embarrass them, particular with a direct confrontation. When confronted negatively, negotiations can quickly deteriorate. However, giving someone "face" makes them feel good and helps form good business relationships.

A Business Negotiation Example – Saving "Face"

At K&R Negotiations, we have extensive experience in business negotiations. We’ve collected numerous negotiation skills examples from a wide variety of business negotiations. Here’s an illustration of saving face from our collection of negotiation examples.

We were representing a buyer of equipment from a Chinese company. We were buying, not selling. Harvey was in the second seat, sitting across from the most senior negotiation on the opposing team. We’ll call him "Lu Jiang". He was serving as a mentor for a much younger team member, Chang Lee, who was the lead negotiator for the Chinese team. As the mentor, Lu Jiang had a lot of face riding on this negotiation.

At the end of a long negotiation day, the head of our team said, "Now we will have to address the process of the negotiation."

Chang Lee said something important, but off the topic. Our lead negotiator jumped on the remark and said tersely, "Let’s not talk about that now. We have to address the process." The entire team from the Chinese company was shocked. Lu Jiang was clearly offended. Chang Lee had lost face not only in front of his team but also in front of his mentor. This was serious to the Chinese, who place a premium on face.

K&R Negotiations co-founder, Harvey, understood that we would never get anywhere unless we could help the Chinese team save face. So he turned to the lead negotiator and said, "Chang Lee makes an excellent point. We will have to address his point before we finish today." Harvey’s comment pumped air back into their entire team. Lu Jiang supported that comment and praised his lead negotiator for making a good point. Humiliation was avoided, harmony restored, and the negotiation continued.

Remember:   All other things being equal, people do business with
people they like – The Power of "Face."

View Additional K&R Negotiation Examples

Mladen Kresic
Mladen Kresic is President of K&R Negotiations, a team of professional negotiators who improve profitability by providing the negotiation training and tools necessary to Win Wisely™ at the sales negotiation table. He has served as lead negotiator for numerous acquisition and divestitures, strategic alliances, licensing and strategic sales deals. Mladen has negotiated, consulted and delivered programs on six continents and in over 40 countries around the world.


  1. Great anecdote. It's amazing how much the success of a negotiation can hinge upon these little social cues. When you layer onto that the differing standards of communication in each culture, it becomes a risky business indeed. The important thing, as evidenced in your example, is finding a way to control the situation without coming off as controlling.

    My father has worked extensively with Chinese corporations and the way they handle office interaction certainly stands in contrast to the way many American companies operate. Do you find there's a specific culture of negotiation that Americans have a more difficult time assimilating with?

  2. Thanks for your comment Jacob.

    Regarding your question about negotiation and specific cultures, we find that many have their own unique challenges. The key is to understand each business culture.


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