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Saving Face summary

Maya Hu-Chan

How to Preserve Dignity and Build Trust

4.2 (39 ratings)
26 mins

Brief summary

Saving Face by Maya Hu-Chan explores the cultural differences in navigating conflicts and building relationships across East and West. It offers practical strategies and principles to build trust and strengthen communication in a diverse workplace.

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    Saving Face
    Summary of 9 key ideas

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    “Face” is a complex social currency that governs our relationships.

    Here’s a disaster scenario: You’re in charge of your company’s cash flow process. Under your watch, someone has embezzled huge amounts of money. Worse still, you didn’t catch the theft until it was too late. Will your colleagues take you seriously ever again?

    Well, that depends. If your boss disciplines and demeans you in a company-wide email, probably not. But if she talks to you in private and then publicly announces that she trusts you to redesign a more secure system, you might leave the situation unscathed.

    The difference? In the second scenario, your boss has helped you save face.

    The key message here is: “Face” is a complex social currency that governs our relationships.

    The concept of “face,” as in the phrase “saving face,” can be hard to define. That’s because in this context, “face” doesn’t mean your physical visage. This version of face is a rough translation of the Chinese word miàn zi. It doesn’t have an exact equivalent in English. However, it’s close to concepts like respect, dignity, and credibility. 

    So, your “face” corresponds to the level of esteem you have of yourself and to the status and respect you are given in your community. Someone with lots of face, like an honored elder, will carry themselves with confidence and pride and often be treated with appreciation and deference by others. Someone with little face, like a disgraced politician, can expect the opposite; they will be mocked and ridiculed.

    It’s important to remember that face isn’t a constant quality. In practice, it’s actually more like money. It can be accrued and lost over time in accordance with your actions. A healthy relationship built on empathy and respect will increase face for both participants. However, being deceitful or disrespectful will make you lose face in the eyes of others.

    While this may all sound very abstract, it’s actually a useful way of understanding the social world. Consider your own life. Those you know who are successful in business or popular in your community most likely cultivate face for themselves and others. And you’ve probably considered the status of your own face at work and at home – even if you didn’t use that same terminology.

    In the next blink, we’ll continue exploring how face works. And, crucially, we’ll look at how to avoid losing it. 

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    What is Saving Face about?

    Saving Face (2020) adapts the multifaceted concept of “face” to the modern world. This practical guide shows how to build and maintain healthy and productive business and social relations across time and space. 

    Saving Face Review

    Saving Face (2021) by Maya Hu-Chan is a thought-provoking exploration of cross-cultural communication in the global workplace. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It offers practical strategies to navigate the complexities of cultural differences, fostering understanding, and building strong relationships.
    • The book provides real-life examples and case studies, offering valuable insights into the experiences of individuals from different cultures and backgrounds.
    • With its insightful analysis of communication styles and cultural norms, the book keeps readers engaged, presenting a fascinating perspective on the global business landscape.

    Best quote from Saving Face

    The ability to save face is the first and most important step in a leaders ability to retain talent and have the group work as a team.

    —Maya Hu-Chan
    example alt text

    Who should read Saving Face?

    • Managers interested in fostering a humane, communicative, and inspiring workplace
    • Remote workers attempting to sustain healthy business relationships
    • Anyone curious about cross-cultural psychology

    About the Author

    Maya Hu-Chan is a management consultant, executive coach, and sought-after public speaker. She is the founder and president of Global Leadership Associates and co-authored the forward-thinking leadership guide Global Leadership: The Next Generation.

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    Saving Face FAQs 

    What is the main message of Saving Face?

    The main message of Saving Face is the importance of cross-cultural communication and understanding.

    How long does it take to read Saving Face?

    The reading time for Saving Face varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Saving Face a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Saving Face is a valuable read for anyone interested in improving their cross-cultural communication skills. It offers practical insights and strategies in a concise format.

    Who is the author of Saving Face?

    The author of Saving Face is Maya Hu-Chan.

    What to read after Saving Face?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Saving Face, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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