If ever there was a time in our social and political environment to preserve dignity and build trust, that time is now. Maya Hu-Chan, author of Saving Face: How to Preserve Dignity and Build Trust, intended her work to inform how we create and nurture positive relationships in professional spaces. At the same time, there’s plenty for readers to consider in how we engage in environments beyond the business realm.
Hu-Chan reframes the eastern concept of “face” as social currency. Her language helps shape the ideas in a way that translates well for western leaders engaging in global organizations. She likens honoring face to “making deposits” in relationships, losing face to interactions that devalue or demonstrate a lack of appreciation for another, and saving face as intentional and authentic acts to turn around or prevent a loss of respect or dignity.
Individuals cause a loss of face when creating “shame, fear, vulnerability” and “negative emotions” in others through actions, behaviors, conversations, and public commentary. Small or large offenses trigger a loss of face. Alternately, honoring or saving face creates psychological safety and amplifies voice.
In one part of her text, Hu-Chan addresses the contribution of technology to a loss of civility, where the immediacy of the message, decoupled from visual cues or tonal inflection, generates communication primed for misunderstanding. She also cites a study describing significant decreases in empathy for others. The author includes plenty of examples of both what not to do and opportunities to shift perception and actions to support building positive relationships.
Saving Face offers a model for developing relationships, based on the acronym BUILD:
- B – benevolence and accountability
- U – understanding
- I – interactions
- L – learning
- D – delivery
Hu-Chan encourages sensitivity to cultural differences and honing of cultural agility, building awareness of and appreciation for diverse perspectives and contexts, and acting intentionally to honor those differences. She also reminds readers that everyone makes mistakes. How we respond to our own and others missteps should reflect integrity and caring.
As a leadership development practitioner and executive coach, I’d recommend Saving Face as a book with enough “chew” for readers who seek to create personal and professional relationships that elevate respect and dignity for others. As a human in our current turbulent times, I recommend Saving Face as a suggestion for how to create opportunity for voice that doesn’t diminish people who hold diverse views.
I was given a copy of Saving Face to provide my honest opinion about this book. I’d love to hear your thinking about the ideas of author Maya Hu-Chan and how we might extend these beyond professional engagement to our social and political spaces. Feel free to comment on LEADistic’s Facebook page.
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