Dale Carnegie knew the importance of avoiding embarrassing situations by letting other people save face. In his book, “How to Develop Self Confidence & Influence People by Public Speaking,” he cites the example of Charles Steinmetz, who was an employee of the General Electric Company.
General Electric was faced with the delicate task of removing Steinmetz from the head of a department. Steinmetz was a genius when it came to electricity, but was a failure as the head of the calculating department. Yet the company didn’t dare offend the man because he was indispensable and highly sensitive. So they gave him a new title. They made him consulting engineer of the General Electric Company—a new title for work he was already doing—and let someone else head the calculating department.
Steinmetz was happy, and so were the officers of G.E. They had gently maneuvered their most temperamental star, and they had done it without causing any uproar—by letting him save face.
Even if we are right and the other person is definitely wrong, we only destroy ego by causing someone to lose face. The legendary French aviation pioneer and author, Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote: “I have no right to say or do anything that diminishes a man in his own eyes. What matters is not what I think of him, but what he thinks of himself. Hurting a man in his dignity is a crime.”
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