What does it mean for the negotiators themselves to save face on a personal level as well as for the country they represent?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

From the most theoretical of levels, the need for the negotiators in any political dispute to save face exists on both national and personal levels.  In terms of the latter, it is essential that the negotiator themselves save face so that they can be taken seriously in future negotiations.  The negotiator who is delegitimized in one negotiation as being ineffective or not worthy of trust ensures that their ability to negotiate in the next set of negotiations is limited.  On a national level, the negotiator represents a particular country.  This means that said country's promises and word rests with the negotiator.  It is significant that the negotiator seeks to save face on both levels in order to sustain their word through the current negotiations and the ones to follow.

The negotiations to end the Vietnam War represented how these perceptions were internalized.  Both sides fought for everything and anything in the negotiations because they understood that they were being judged on both personal and national levels.  The mere shape of the negotiation table was haggled over for a prolonged period of time. The United States' negotiators only wanted one table with two sides present- The U.S. on one side with Saigon representatives on the other.  For their part, " The Communists wanted to have four sides: 1) the US, 2) Republic of Vietnam (the Saigon government), 3) the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (the Hanoi government), and 4) the guerrilla movement in South Vietnam which had originally called itself the National Liberation Front and was by this time calling itself the Provisional Revolutionary Government (PRG)."  The intense negotiations on the shape of the negotiating table reflects how negotiators themselves seek to save face on a personal as well as a national level when confronted with issues of perception and prestige.

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