4 Tutorials that teach Addressing Worldview Difference in Cross-Cultural Conflicts
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Addressing Worldview Difference in Cross-Cultural Conflicts

Addressing Worldview Difference in Cross-Cultural Conflicts

Author: Marlene Johnson

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand how to raise the issue of possible cultural influence in conflict or conflict resolution situations and work with parties to address the issue.

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Video Transcription

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The cultures we grow up in greatly influence how we see the world and how we behave in the world. And cultures differ. Well, I'm Marlene, and today I'd like to look at these cultural differences and how to address them when we find ourselves in conflict.

So I think it's important to note that most of us, I think just about everybody unless they're specially trained, take their own views and ways of seeing the world as normal and true and perhaps universally true, instead of attributing our personal views to a cultural world view that we grew up in. Now, of course, a worldview is the way we think and make decisions about our world and our beliefs about what is right and normal. And that comes from our culture. And the culture that we grew up in we grew up in with other people, members of a group who share our same language, our norms, our traditions, our viewpoint. So we take all of this for granted.

And we tend to think that the way we see things is just the way everybody sees things, when that isn't true. Different cultures have different world views. Now, to become fluent in another worldview, another culture's worldview, requires years of immersion in that culture. And most of us don't have time to do that. We may travel abroad or spend some time in a culture. But we rarely spend enough time to become really fluent in the culture. So what is required of us is to become culturally competent. And that is possible without becoming totally fluent in a culture.

And to be culturally competent means that we are able to recognize when there might be some sort of cultural misunderstanding at play in a conflict, and then have the strategies and ability to raise that up, to suggest that that might be at play and bring it to the parties' attention in a way that's effective. So it is absolutely critical for a conflict resolver to be able to be culturally competent in this way. So how do you raise an issue of differences in culture?

The most effective way to do it is to perhaps raise a question for the parties to discuss, the possibility, if you see something that you perceive might be a cultural issue, whether it be verbal or non-verbal, perhaps the parties have a different way of expressing themselves. You might have one party that's very volatile and engaged and perhaps speaks at a louder volume, they're used to interrupting one another. In their culture that's the norm, sort of a back and forth quick exchange, whereas the other party may be more accustomed to speaking slower with silent periods waiting for pauses.

It could be a cultural difference that's getting in the way of these two parties understanding each other's needs. There could be nonverbal signals getting in the way that each party's interpreting based on their own cultural viewpoint that may be giving them perceptions about the other party that are not allowing them to really be present in terms of understanding that party's needs or letting that party understand their needs. So those are a couple of examples how the verbal communication can get in the way.

There could be other elements. There could be beliefs about power and status or gender, any number of elements that could be culturally based could be preventing the parties from really being able to communicate successfully with each other about their needs. So noticing and respectfully raising a question, a possibility, can be a very effective way to start to generate a discussion about worldview and differences in culture. And that discussion in itself can open the door for the parties to reach understanding and be able to express their needs in a way where each side can hear the other.

Now, an ineffective way, of course, is to stereotype, perhaps make a statement that sounds stereotypical of a particular culture coming from a bias that maybe you carry. We all have our own biases. We have to be very careful and very self aware during this process. Or saying something that could sound blaming for one party or the other. So listening attentively, respecting differences, and raising questions in a way that is helpful to each party can go a long way towards helping them address what could be cultural differences that are getting in the way of resolving the conflict. So I've enjoyed being part of this tutorial, and I look forward to next time.

  • Culture

    A form of human social organization in which people identify themselves as members of a group sharing symbol systems, norms, traditions, and viewpoints towards the world.

  • Worldview

    The way a person interprets and makes decisions about his or her environment (world), including beliefs or assumptions about what is considered right or normal.