What are Thich Nhat Hanh’s Behavioral Traits?

We have to walk in a way that we only print peace and serenity on the Earth.

Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.

-Thich Nhat Hanh

Even if you’re not super into Zen, you’ve likely heard of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh— if not through our own resources, then on the news or at your local book store. His name graces hundreds of books in any mindfulness section and his teachings have impacted politicians, business leaders, activists, teachers and numerous others. Revered around the world for his innovative teachings on mindfulness, global ethics and peace, he is recognized globally as one of the most influential spiritual leaders, poets and peace activists. Through the energy of mindfulness, he believes that we can learn to find joy, relaxation, and meaning in the present moment—the only way to truly cultivate peace, both in one’s self and in the world.

Thich Nhat Hanh’s Behavioral Line Chart

So what can we learn from the way Thich Nhat Hanh mindfully walks through the world? How can we embody his behaviors to live more peaceful, present lives? Let’s take a look at some of his key behavioral traits on the chart below. The red line shows Thich Nhat Hanh’s behaviors, while the blue line shows an anonymous person’s behaviors for comparison.

Thich Nhat Hanh’s Key Behavioral Traits

Adjectives: Gentle, Intelligent, Affectionate, Peaceful, Forgiving, Inventive, Cheerful, Warm, Clear Thinking, Simple, Humble, Soft Hearted, Helpful, Composed, Sympathetic, Relaxed, Natural, Reflective, Stable, Adaptable, Insightful, Patient, Tolerant, Kind, Self Controlled, Curious, Wholesome, Changeable, Easy Going, Slow, Calm, Wise, Contented, Unselfconscious, & Good Natured.

High Support (Sup)

The ability to be encouraging and kind in a way that attempts to benefit others. 

The first element of true love is loving kindness. The essence of loving kindness is being able to offer happiness. You can be the sunshine for another person. You can’t offer happiness until you have it for yourself. So build a home inside by accepting yourself and learning to love and heal yourself. Learn how to practice mindfulness in such a way that you can create moments of happiness and joy for your own nourishment. Then you have something to offer the other person.” 

-Thich Nhat Hanh, How to Love

Thich Nhat Hanh is very sensitive to the physical and emotional needs and wants of others. He is peace-loving and warm and people confide in him for spiritual guidance. He is an encourager who sees the good in others and prioritizes cultivating and offering loving kindness to others. He believes that “understanding someone’s suffering is the best gift you can give another person. Understanding is love’s other name. If you don’t understand, you can’t love.” 

According to Plum Village’s Life Story of Thich Nhat Hanh, “When war came to Vietnam, monks and nuns were confronted with the question of whether to adhere to the contemplative life and stay meditating in the monasteries, or to help those around them suffering under the bombings and turmoil of war. Thich Nhat Hanh was one of those who chose to do both, and in doing so founded the Engaged Buddhism movement, coining the term in his book Vietnam: Lotus in a Sea of Fire. His life has since been dedicated to the work of inner transformation for the benefit of individuals and society.”

Low Aggression (Aggression)

The desire to be assertive, act quickly, and be competitive. 

“I would not look upon anger as something foreign to me that I have to fight… I have to deal with my anger with care, with love, with tenderness, with nonviolence.” 

-Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace

Thich Nhat Hanh provides a calming presence to others. He is patient, slow to anger and very tolerant. He is a peacemaker who makes few, if any, demands on others. He is flexible, easy to be around and sees the good in others. In his teachings, he advocates for non-violence, saying “Anyone can practice nonviolence, even soldiers. Some army generals, for example, conduct their operations in ways that avoid killing innocent people; this is a kind of nonviolence. To help soldiers move in the nonviolent direction, we have to be in touch with them. If we divide reality into two camps – the violent and the nonviolent – and stand in one camp while attacking the other, the world will never have peace. We will always blame and condemn those we feel are responsible for wars and social injustice, without recognizing the degree of violence in ourselves. We must work on ourselves and also with those we condemn if we want to have a real impact. It never helps to draw a line and dismiss some people as enemies, even those who act violently. We have to approach them with love in our hearts and do our best to help them move in a direction of nonviolence. If we work for peace out of anger, we will never succeed. Peace is not an end. It can never come about through non-peaceful means.”

High Change (Cha)

The need for variety and constant newness in one’s experience. 

“Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible.”

-Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh finds comfort in impermanence and non-attachment. He celebrates the newness of every present moment and encourages us to “Let go of the past. Let go of the future. Let go of the present… and proceed to the opposite shore with a free mind, leaving behind all conditioned things.”

High Personal Adjustment (P-Adj)

The ability to handle the normal challenges of life without a lot of drama.

Suffering is not enough. Life is both dreadful and wonderful…How can I smile when I am filled with so much sorrow? It is natural–you need to smile to your sorrow because you are more than your sorrow.”

-Thich Nhat Hanh

I think we can all agree that someone who has dedicated their life to being a Buddhist Monk has the ability to handle life without a lot of drama. Ordained as a monk at 16 in Vietnam, Thich Nhat Hanh has spent a lifetime cultivating excellent coping skills and mastery of his own mind. He is open, trusting, centered and positive when facing everyday challenges.

High Mentoring (Men)

The desire to help others develop their skills and abilities.

You cannot transmit wisdom and insight to another person. The seed is already there. A good teacher touches the seed, allowing it to wake up, to sprout, and to grow.”

-Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh has dedicated his life to mentoring, encouraging and sustaining relationships with others. He has been a source of “good” counsel to thousands in monasteries, schools and workplaces and continues to awaken the seeds of mindfulness in everyone he meets.

Other notable traits: High Endurance (End, Low Exhibition (Exh), Low Emotional Support (ES), High Self-Control (S-Cn), High Self-Confidence (S-Cfd), Low Criticality (CY), & High Creativity (Cre).

After reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s key behavioral traits, it’s easy to see why so many people across the globe revere his teachings. His leadership style balances loving kindness with mindful action that continually draws people toward the path of peace. Despite enduring significant hostility and war in his home country, Thich Nhat Hanh continues to make the call for peace and responds to the suffering of the world with gentleness, non-violence and loving kindness.

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