Why Most Filipinos Fear Confrontations And Westerners Don’t

argumentOne key difference between the western man and the Filipino is that in the face of an argument, the western man can keep going on and on without “losing it”. He is able to construct reason and communicate it effectively to the other party while not being overly emotional about the situation at the same time. He’ll fight reason with reason.

In many instances, even when an argument is personal, two men can manage to keep their cool. One will endeavor to know the reason of the other and he will also try to explain his side using as much logic as possible. Overflowing emotions are kept at bay and there’s a desire to take a draw for a result so long as the wrong is acknowledged.

The Filipino, on the other hand, can only take it up to a certain point. When blood rushes through the body, emotion takes over the mind. After that, instead of exchanging reasons, they’re mainly exchanging emotions. Rancor is almost always a guaranteed result regardless of whether the opponent capitulates or not.

If the argument is about a certain property, for example, two Filipinos can easily take every little accusation (or attempt to right a wrong) personally. What’s not personal is quickly taken as personal, and when it becomes such, each party feels bad. It is this bad feeling a.k.a. emotional pain that escalates to the taking over of the mind. The Filipino can’t take it. When there’s a conflict, he has a low emotional pain threshold. While the western man’s bad feeling container can be filled up to the volume of a beaker, the Filipino’s can only be filled up to the volume of a test tube. When the test tube overflows, he’s done.

Yet in almost every argument one will inevitably be told that he is wrong, and it’s natural. An argument between two individuals can hardly be called an argument if there’s no attempt to point out a wrong from one or both of the parties. A lot of times the ‘wrong’ is not even about the person himself but about a certain thing, but the Filipino is easily hurt and that’s the problem. I blame it on the low emotional threshold. The lower the threshold, the higher the sensitivity and the faster the individual loses his ability to reason and settle the issue justly .

When a Filipino “loses it” (which often happens only seconds after an argument started), he doesn’t always manifest it by fighting. When he can’t take the emotion anymore he may end up like a deer caught in the headlights or murmur or scowl his way out of it or do the so-called ‘tampo’. But almost always, effective reasoning stops, as well as the desire to resolve the original issue justly and amicably.

But what this low threshold really does that is detrimental to society is that it prevents the individual from trying to confront his fellows about a wrong, especially in a public setting. More often than not, arguments and conflicts are avoided because the person had experienced having his emotional tank overfilled before and it didn’t feel good. Most people, therefore, keep away from arguments rather than engage the wrongdoer. If they have a high tolerance for emotional pain they’d be more willing to engage. Sadly, that is not the case.

Facial expressions also have a lot to do with with the escalation of emotion. Even if you don’t have a low threshold, if the other person manifests an emotional pain overflow, it can be very contagious. Somehow everyone is aware of everyone else’s vulnerability to such an overflow, making initiating a confrontation even more unappetizing.

This is not to say that every Filipino has a low emotional threshold and every westerner has a high threshold, or that all the descriptions of behavior I mentioned apply to all of them respectively. It’s just a general observation. And of course, western men ‘lose it’ too. But more often than not, at the level that the Filipino’s tank is filled to the brim, the western man’s tank is not even half-filled and he can keep fighting reason with reason.

I tend to think that a portion of this low threshold is culturally rather than biologically determined. Some Filipinos who grew up in the U.S., for instance, may have learned from the culture so when they become adults, they’re able to have a high emotional threshold and argue for minutes on end.

This is something that the more intelligent Filipinos can learn. It’s always a good thing to contain an argument within the boundaries of the original issue so that a settlement can be reached more easily and the heart that beats like crazy can soon regain its sanity. If one practices it, eventually he can raise his emotional pain threshold. Then he will be able to do more things in life.


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