Jai yen is a well-known expression in Thailand which literally translates to “cool heart” (jai meaning heart or feelings, and yen meaning peaceful). The term means to approach any situation pleasantly and in a non-confrontational manner, keeping moderate emotions as to never lose your temper or express anger. Thai culture emphasizes keeping calm and composed, and the ability to keep one’s cool in tense situations- jai yen– is highly admired. This is all a bit ironic considering the fact that Thailand has one of the highest gun murder rates in the world, but nevertheless, people in Thailand (a country that is 95% Theravada Buddhist) are generally peaceful and non-violent. In the United States, on the other hand, it is quite common to get into confrontations or to raise one’s voice in controlled anger, even with strangers- the waitress who gets your order wrong, or the taxi driver who overcharges you. In fact, sometimes demonstrating anger is interpreted as a sign of strength or power in our Western culture. But in Thailand, outwardly showing any signs of anger is not customary and somewhat dishonorable.
As someone who actively avoids confrontation and feels uncomfortable when others are argumentative or angry, I find the concept of jai yen highly appealing. In my opinion, seldom do situations arise that actually require conflict and therefore keeping your calm, and thus keeping the peace, is generally far more advantageous than getting into it with someone else and straining relationships, or possibly leading to physical violence. I think more of the world should adopt the idea of jai yen, which also goes hand in hand with the common Thai phrase mai pen lai, meaning let it go (another concept Americans have a difficult time wrapping their heads around). I think the Thais have the right idea- sometimes when it comes to your relationships with others, whether it be family, your significant other, your boss, or just a random stranger on the street, it is better to just swallow your pride, keep your calm, and let it go. Why waste time being angry?