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How Can Putin Save Face?
Elayne Savage. Ph.D. -- The Rejection Expert Elayne Savage. Ph.D. -- The Rejection Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: San Francisco, CA
Sunday, May 1, 2022


by Elayne Savage, PhD

CanstockphotoPutin© Can Stock Photo : AndreyPopov

© Can Stock Photo / AndreyPopov

I’ve been thinking a whole lot lately about 'Saving Face' as world-wide tensions are mounting after attacks on civilians and cities in the Ukraine.

There have been opinion pieces and several TV talking heads pondering just how Putin can feel he is saving face and can he make a graceful exit? Will he agree to negotiate a peaceful resolution or will he fight to the bitter end even if that means Russia goes down in flames as well. 

And now it seems every day heads of state are publicly shaming Putin. Sending him off to sit in the corner.

And Putin again and again puffs himself up, attacking Ukrainian cities and killing adults and children.

Here’s how this kind of bully behavior works:

Bullies are usually not feeling very good about themselves. In fact, they are probably feeling insecure, anxious, hurting, ineffectual, or vulnerable. Maybe all of the above.

When the bully inflates himself and takes up all that space, it is with the intention of diminishing his opponent. Putin’s need to diminish, shrivel and devastate Ukraine is pretty apparent here. But along with his acts Putin is at the same time losing respect from much of the world (and very possibly losing self-respect.)

I’m wondering if somehow we could offer Putin the opportunity to save face and  save his honor, this war could end. If we could only point him to a graceful exit, could we find a workable solution?

The Age-old Chinese Concept of 'Managing Face'

I'm been intrigued with the age-old Chinese concept of 'Managing Face' and I blogged about it almost a decade ago. Because respect is such a huge part of my focus with workshop participants, therapy and workplace clients I can't help but notice how the concept of respect and self-respect are woven throughout these definitions:

So let’s explore the Chinese wisdom of ‘Saving Face’ and ‘Losing Face’:

Managing Face

The concept of Face ('mian zi') includes personal esteem, your reputation and your honor. In other words, Respect.

Managing Face encompasses: Losing Face, Lending Face, Gaining Face, and Saving Face.

Losing Face

Losing Face is a translation of the Chinese phrase 'tiu lien' which means being unable to show one's face in public: losing your reputation and the respect of others, feeling humiliated losing self-respect.

This would include all the "diss" words I so often write about including: disrespected, dismissed, discounted, displaced, disdained, disregarded, dishonored, disgraced, disenfranchised. These feelings of course lead to self-rejection and losing face.

Lending Face

Lending Face is making someone look good. One way of doing this is through compliments.

Gaining Face

Gaining Face means gaining prestige through words or deeds. Making a name for yourself.

Saving Face

Saving Face ('yao mianzi') means to be concerned about appearances. Keeping your pride, dignity, reputation and integrity intact. Maintaining acceptance, self-acceptance, self-respect and the respect of others.

The skill of creatively negotiating means allowing someone to gracefully restate an opinion, change their mind or make concessions. Sometimes it only takes a slight change in wording or reframing an idea. The result is you leave an opponent a 'way out.'

Some folks will go to great lengths to 'Save Face.' They may continue a conflict in order not to look 'bad.' They might even blame the other person to deflect the embarrassment away from themselves. They might lie to cover up a mistake or blunder.

Playing 'Chicken' with the Abyss

Do you remember the "Chicken Run" scene in 'Rebel Without a Cause'? On a dare, Jim and Buzz race stolen cars toward the abyss.  "We are both heading for the cliff, who jumps first, is the Chicken."

Putin and world heads of state also appear to be engaged in a high-stakes game of 'Chicken." Can they step back from the abyss? Or go sailing over the cliff as Buzz did?

Lots of press lately about what to do about saving face and Honor:

Yahoo:       We should give Putin a face-saving way out of this war'

Fox News:  Russia is trying to save face after being embarrassed in Ukraine

BBC News: Ukraine: Putin will search for a way to save face - BBC News

More info about 'Managing Face':


© Elayne Savage, PhD

Let’s have a dialogue what are your ideas for saving face in this terrible situation between Russia and the Ukraine.

What are our own experiences?

You can send me an email at elayne@QueenofRejection.com or Comment below. . .

Until next month,


Elayne Savage is the author of ground-breaking relationship books published in 9 languages.
Both books are now available on Kindle!



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