Ending Conflict with Grace

June 7, 2011

Being gracious during conflict is essential to leadership and building business relationships. How you handle conflict will largely define your character, especially if you are in a place of authority or leadership. Whether you are engaged in the conflict or are moderating an issue between others, your ability to handle issues graciously will enhance your character and effectiveness.

Part of being gracious is allowing others to save face. When you allow someone to save face, you are preserving his or her self-image, a gesture people remember and appreciate.

It is a horrible feeling to realize you are in the wrong, especially when you have been arguing on your own behalf. For many people, there is nothing worse than realizing they are wrong or they hold responsibility. A common reaction is to dig their heels in, become stubborn, and prolong the argument. This is the moment for saving face. You gain nothing by forcing the individual to admit their fault.

Allow the individual to save face by:

  • Giving them a way out of the argument, don’t require them to admit their faults
  • Focus the conversation toward what was gained from the situation
  • Allow them to give small concessions
  • Don’t gloat or draw attention to the fact that you were ‘right’ or that you ‘won’ the argument

Saving face does not mean you are not holding others accountable. In a situation that requires correcting, saving face may be as simple as not allowing others to know of the error. For example, you may choose to handle a situation with a coworker amongst yourselves and not report the error to your boss. Some may see this as the perfect opportunity to get a leg up on the competition, but ultimately it undermines your character and limits your effectiveness.

Allowing someone to save face may be something you do with your spouse or your children, but it rarely occurs with others, especially in competitive industries. This principle, however, is especially important in competitive situations. When you demonstrate grace by allowing another to save face, you are truly winning friends and gaining the power to influence people.

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