Communication In Thailand

Buddhist values, the fear of losing face and a great need for harmony are one of the reasons why Thai people tend to communicate indirectly and diplomatically. This style is characterized by soft and implicit formulations. Hints and allusions are important. Much is said in a roundabout way and you must always read between the lines. At the same time, you should also choose your words carefully.

Redundancy is relevance

Repetitions are also typical of an indirect style of communication. If a topic is of particular importance, it will be repeated several times in the discussion.

Circular discussions

Thai people tend to have circular conversations: topics are touched on, dropped and later taken up again. This is especially the case with difficult topics, where disagreements and thus a disturbance of harmony may occur. Once an agreement has been reached on one issue, another sensitive issue will be raised again.

The Asian No

You will rarely hear a direct “no” in Thailand. People do not want to offend others with a rejection.

Therefore, “no” is often expressed by evasive phrases, such as “perhaps…”, “later…” or “tomorrow perhaps…”.

Understanding the “Yes”

In addition, it is possible that your Thai interlocutor will say “yes” in a way that another Thai person would immediately hear the intended refusal but you may not.

Also, strong nodding with many “yesses” can mean that your discussion partner actually understood quite little and is only trying to save face by agreeing.

Likewise, the Thai “khrap”, which is used very often, actually means no more than “I take note that you have just said something to me”.

To ensure that a statement is in fact an agreement, it is advisable to refrain from questions that can only be answered with yes or no. Also, ask several times, but vary the wording each time so that you don’t appear to be a know-all or that you are putting pressure on the other person. Use the circular conversation method!

The more concrete and detailed the Thai side finally formulates its statements, the sooner you can rate this as approval.

Voicing criticism

Thai people do not distinguish between the objective and the personal. Critical words, even if they only concern the facts, are therefore taken personally and in most cases amount to a deep offence. The loss of face is usually irreversible.

For this reason, it is not done to expose people in public, that is, to cause loss of face by pointing out their mistakes and mistakes and openly criticizing them in front of others. Such inappropriate behaviour can also cause you to lose face yourself.

Criticism should therefore only be expressed in private, if at all, and should always be balanced with a lot of praise. Encourage improvement instead of criticizing. People will understand exactly what is meant. In addition, it often helps to invoke “kin liability”! This means that not an individual person but the entire group is carefully criticized.

Addressing problems

Problems that arise, e.g. in project work, are also kept secret in Thailand as far as possible, simply to spare the business partner from “suffering”. Nobody wants to be the bearer of bad news.

You must therefore usually obtain information on the status of the project yourself. A moderate, relaxed manner is the key to achieving the desired result. Many questions that only vaguely address an unpleasant topic are usually sufficient to express one’s dissatisfaction with the course of the project. You can use pretexts as to why it is important to achieve which improvement.

Resolving conflicts

An existing conflict in Thailand is only indirectly addressed, i.e. the problem is played down in the discussion. Don’t try to ascertain who is guilty and avoid assigning blame. Instead, look for a joint solution to the problem. The relationship between business partners should be cultivated more strongly when there is disagreement on some issue: joint restaurant visits, excursions, sightseeing tours and evening events must then be high on the agenda.

Interested in more?

Related videos