The Thai are first and foremost ego oriented, characterized by the highest ego value of being independent, being one’s self (pen tua khong tua eng), and having high self-esteem. Thai people have big egos, a deep sense of independence, pride, and dignity. They cannot tolerate any violation of the “ego” self whether that be Buddhism, the king, the nation, or parents. Despite their cool and calm front, they can be easily provoked to strong emotional reactions if the “self” or anybody close to the “self” line, like one’s father or mother is insulted. Basically, it boils down to the question of “face” and “dignity”.
Since Thai culture values “ego” and “face”, straightforward, negative performance feedback, strong criticism, and face-to-face confrontation techniques and challenges should be avoided. “Face-saving” is a key criterion in handling all person-related decisions, particularly negative ones. Compromise is often used as an effective means to save face and to keep the “surface harmony” even at the expense of some task.
– From a study done by Dr. Suntaree Komin, a Thai psychologist and a Fulbright scholar, who wrote a publication entitled Psychology of the Thai People: Values and Behavioral Patterns.
Lessons for a Missionary:
- Work on church discipline/restoration. Confront sin lovingly from scripture.
- Be as nice as possible. They call it manners in the States.
- Develop relationships in which you can correct and train people in righteousness.
- Compromise your preferences when they are just your preferences.
- Encourage rather than criticize.