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intercultural conflict essay

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  • Lessons Learned from Cultural Conflicts in the Covid-19 Era

Cultural Conflicts became more common during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Through a deeper understanding of how our cultural differences evolved, we can begin to deal with intercultural conflict.

By Katie Shonk — on May 16th, 2024 / Conflict Resolution

intercultural conflict essay

During the Covid-19 pandemic, new types of conflict arose. People would argue on Facebook or Twitter about whether stay-at-home orders had gone too far. Protestors—sometimes armed—showed up at state capitols, demanding the right to move about freely. In your own home, you might have been clashing with teens who trying to assert the same right.

Such conflicts reflect a fundamental intercultural conflict : a tension between personal liberties and societal constraint. Cultural conflicts between “loose” and “tight” cultures dates back many centuries, writes University of Maryland professor Michele Gelfand in her book Rule Makers, Rule Breakers: How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire Our World (Scribner, 2018).

By understanding the roots of the tight-loose cultural conflicts we witnessed, we can understand each other better and determine how to deal with cultural conflict more productively.

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The Tight-Loose Divide

All cultures have social norms—accepted standards of behavior, from whether jaywalking and tardiness are acceptable to whether citizens should wear protective masks in public. Cultures vary in the strength of their social norms along a tight-loose continuum, with profound effects on behavior.

The degree of threat that cultures face from the outside world greater determines whether they evolve to be relatively tight or loose (or somewhere in the middle), Gelfand and her colleagues have documented in their research. Countries such as China, Malaysia, Singapore, and Pakistan have survived severe threats—from earthquakes to wars to pandemics or scarcity—by “tightening up.” Coordination and strict adherence to social norms have been keys to their survival, though they risk becoming too homogenous or authoritarian.

By comparison, cultures that have faced fewer threats have the luxury of being loose. In loose cultures such as the United States, the Netherlands, Spain, and Brazil, citizens prize their freedom, and social norms are lax. Loose cultures run on creativity and innovation, but they can be chaotic and have difficulty responding to crises that require tight coordination.

Not surprisingly, countries that “lean tight,” such as Singapore and South Korea, were successful at slowing the spread of the coronavirus through their disciplined coordination and the ready compliance of their citizens. By comparison, the U.S. government’s disorganized response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the resistance of some citizens to restrictions on their freedom garnered predictably loose responses.

When Cultural Conflicts Arise

Beyond nations, all types of cultures—from states to companies to families—tend to vary from tight to loose. Moreover, a sudden threat can lead a culture to tighten up dramatically. New York City, for example, thrives on looseness, as seen in its reputation for openness, diversity, and creativity. But as the coronavirus threatened to overwhelm the city’s hospitals, New Yorkers quickly tightened up, largely accepting restrictions on their movement. Meanwhile, areas that have been less affected by the virus, such as Florida and Wisconsin, favored looser responses, such as allowing businesses and beaches to stay open.

Tight-loose cultural conflicts even showed up within families. Those most vulnerable to the virus, including the elderly and those with underlying health vulnerabilities, may have had the “tightest” responses, venturing outside rarely and wearing masks when they did. The young and the healthy may have been more inclined to resist such limitations, believing they’re at low risk of becoming seriously ill.

“When groups with fundamentally different cultural mind-sets meet, conflict abounds,” writes Gelfand in Rule Makers, Rule Breakers . Those who lean tight accuse those who lean loose of endangering their lives. And those on the loose end accuse those who favor tightening measures of devastating the economy and curbing fundamental American values.

Strategies to Prevent Cultural Misunderstandings

Given these cultural conflicts, how can we engage in effective intercultural conflict resolution in our homes, our communities, and society at large? “Creating space for empathy can prove invaluable for combating intergroup hostility,” Gelfand writes in Rule Makers, Rule Breakers .

When cultural conflicts about adherence arise in your home, think about whether tight-loose mindsets are clashing. Where do you fall on the tight-loose continuum? While all of us are capable of tightening (think libraries) or loosening (think parties) depending on the context, we tend to have a default preference for rule making and rule breaking. To find out yours, take the TL mindset quiz .

Next, think about where others fall on the continuum and why their own experiences may have affected their own mindsets. Listen to their perspective without judgment. Share your own experience and fears, then try to negotiate solutions.

Virtual interactions can reduce cultural conflicts for those located far apart. In their research, Gelfand her collaborator Joshua Jackson tried an intervention aimed at reducing hostility between Americans and Pakistanis—members of loose and tight cultures, respectively. Students from both cultures were asked to read diary entries written by other students about their daily lives. Those who read entries by students from the other culture came to view that culture as much more similar to their own than they had previously believed, and also more positively. By taking time to read and listen to people’s stories, we can better understand their behavior.

What types of cultural conflicts did you manage to resolve effectively during the Covid-19 pandemic?

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8.1: Characteristics of Intercultural Conflict

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Conflict Defined

Conflict is a part of all human relationships (Canary, 2003). Almost any issue can spark conflict—money, time, religion, politics, culture—and almost anyone can get into a conflict. Conflicts are happening all around the world at the personal, societal, political, and international levels. Conflict is not simple and it’s not just a matter of disagreement. According to Wilmot & Hocker (2010), “ conflict is an expressed struggle between at least two interdependent parties who perceive incompatible goals, scare resources, and interference from others in achieving their goals. (p. 11)” There are several aspects of conflict that we must consider when pondering this definition and its application to intercultural communication.

Expressed Struggle

Conflict is a communication process that is expressed verbally and nonverbally. Wilmot & Hocker assert that communication creates conflict, communication reflects conflict, and communication is the vehicle for the management of conflict (Wilmot & Hocker, 1998). Often, conflict is easily identified because one party openly and verbally disagrees with the other, but intrapersonal, or internal conflict, may exist for some time before being expressed. An example could be family members avoiding each other because both think, “I don’t want to see them for awhile because of what they did.” The expression of the struggle is often activated by a triggering event which brings the conflict to everyone’s attention.

Interdependent

Parties engaged in expressed struggle do so because they are interdependent . “A person who is not dependent upon another—that is, who has no special interest in what the other does—has no conflict with that other person” (Braiker & Kelley, 1979). In other words, each parties’ choices effect the other because conflict is a mutual activity. Each decision impacts the other. Consider the teenager who chooses to wear an obnoxious or offensive t-shirt before catching the bus. People with no connections to the teen who notice the t-shirt are unlikely to engage in conflict. They have never seen the teen before, and probably won’t again. The ill-advised decision to wear the t-shirt does not impact them, therefore the reason to engage in conflict does not exist. The same scenario involving a teen and their parents would probably turn out differently. Because parents and teens are interdependent, the ill-advised decision to wear an offensive t-shirt could quickly escalate into a power struggle over individual autonomy that leads to harsh words and hurt feelings.

Parties in conflict have perceptions about their own position and the position of others. Each party may also have a different perception of any given situation. We can anticipate having such differences due to a number of factors that create perceptual filters or cultural frames that influence our responses to the situation. Such influences can be things like culture, race & ethnicity, gender & sexuality, knowledge, impressions of the messenger, and previous experience. These factors and more conspire to form the perceptual filters through which we experience conflict.

Clashes in Goals, Resources, and Behaviors

Conflict arises from differences. It occurs whenever parties disagree over their values, motivations, ideas, or desires. The perception might be that goals are mutually exclusive, or there’s not enough resources to go around, or one party is sabotaging another. When conflict triggers strong feelings, a deep need is typically at the core of the problem. When the legitimacy of the conflicting needs is recognized, it opens pathways to problem-solving.

Characteristics of Intercultural Conflict

Intercultural conflicts are often characterized by more ambiguity, language issues, and the clash of conflict styles than same culture conflict. Intercultural conflict characteristics rest on the principles discussed in greater depth in the foundation chapters. These principles stressed that culture is dynamic and heterogeneous, but learned. Values are manifest in beliefs and behaviors, which lead to the worldviews that guide our perception and navigation through life. Michelle LeBaron (2003) states that “cultures affect the ways we name, frame, blame, and attempt to tame conflicts (p. 3).”

Ambiguity, or the confusion about how to handle or define the conflict, is often present in intercultural conflict because of the multi-layered and heterogeneous nature of culture. What appears on the surface of the conflict may mask what is more deeply hidden below. Verbally indirect, high context cultures, may be reluctant to use words to explore issues of extreme importance than verbally direct, low context cultures. Yet, knowing the general norms of a group does not predict the behavior of a specific member of a group. Dimensions of context, and individual differences can be crucial to understanding intercultural conflict.

Conflict and Communication

Conflict can arise over differences of opinion regarding substantive issues such as Climate Change. On the other hand, they may derive from misunderstandings based on verbal or nonverbal communication tied to cultural norms and values. These can be minor – such as not performing a given greeting appropriately – or more serious – such as perceived rudeness based on how a request has been formulated. Missteps in most forms of nonverbal communication can typically be easily remedied (through observation and imitation) and normally do not pose major sources of conflict. Non-natives in most cases will not be expected to be familiar with established rituals. Most Japanese, for example, will not expect Westerners to have mastered the complexities of bowing behavior, which relies on perceptions of power/prestige differentials unlikely for a foreigner to perceive in the same way as native Japanese. Similarly, non-natives will be forgiven making speaking errors in grammar, vocabulary, or pronunciation. Russians will not expect non-natives to have mastered the complex set of inflections that accompany different grammatical cases. Native Chinese will not expect a mastery of tones. Of course, if the errors interfere with intelligibility, there will be problems in communicative effectiveness. There may be, as we have discussed, some prejudice and possible discrimination against those who do not have full command of a language or who speak with a noticeable foreign accent. Conflict is less likely to come from language mechanics and more likely from mistakes in language pragmatics, most frequently in the area of speech acts, i.e. using language to perform certain actions or to have them performed by others. Native English speakers, for example, will typically qualify requests by prefacing them with verbs such as "would you" or "could you", as in the following:

"Could I please have another cup of tea?"

"Would you pass the ketchup when you're through with it?"

The use of the modal verb "could" or the conditional form "would" is not semantically necessary – they don't add anything to the meaning. They are included as part of the standard way polite requests are formulated in English. Asking the same questions more directly, i.e. "Bring me another cup of tea", would be perceived as abrupt and impolite. Yet, in many cultures, requests to strangers might well be formulated in such a direct way. Languages as different from one another as German and Chinese are both more direct in formulating requests. Non-native English speakers might transfer those formulations from their native language word-for-word into English, leading to a possible perception of rudeness. This is known as pragmatic transfer (See Chapter 4). In another example, Sharifian (2005) illustrates how a particular Persian deep-level cultural value is reflected in language use that can lead to misunderstanding. "Adab va Ehteram", roughly translated as 'courtesy and respect in social relations,' in English, encourages Iranians to constantly place the presence of others at the center of their conceptualizations and monitor their own ways of thinking and talking to make them harmonious with the esteem that they hold for others. (p. 42). To reflect this value, Iranians use the cultural concept known as sharmandegi (sometimes translated as 'being ashamed'). Sharmandegi is rendered in a number of speech acts and can lead to misunderstanding with non-Persian speakers:

Expressing gratitude: 'You really make me ashamed'

Offering goods and services: 'Please help yourself, I'm ashamed, it's not worthy of you.'

Requesting goods and services: 'I'm ashamed, can I beg some minutes of your time.'

Apologizing: 'I'm really ashamed that the noise from the kids didn't let you sleep.'

An important part of how we communicate nonverbally involves paralanguage, not what is said, but how it is said (see Chapter 5). Confusion or conflict can arrive in some cases from differences in tone or intonation. Donal Carbaugh (2005) gives an example, based on work done by John Gumperz: Example \(\PageIndex{1}\)

As East Asian workers in a cafeteria in London served English customers, they would ask the customers if they wanted "gravy" [sauce], but asked with falling rather than rising intonation. While this falling contour of sound signaled a question in Hindi, to English ears it sounded like a command. The servers thus were heard by British listeners to be rude and inappropriately bossy, when the server was simply trying to ask, albeit in a Hindi way, a question. This source of conflict, a misperception of another person's actions or intent, here attributing rudeness to a difference in communication style, is one of the more common occurrences in both everyday interactions and in cross-cultural encounters.

Conflict and Ethnocentrism

In our everyday lives, we don't have to think about how to navigate through our own culture. Knowledge of how things work becomes automatic, not requiring any conscious thought. We assume that what we experience as "common-sense" or "normal" is the default human behavior worldwide. When communicating across cultures, this error in thinking can lead us to create expectations for behavior that fail to factor in the cultural context. When expectations are not fulfilled, we may feel vulnerable. That can translate into resentment, anger, and perhaps negative judgment of the host culture. This ethnocentric thinking (see Chapter 7) can easily lead to misunderstanding and conflict. Instead, we need to remember that all cultures have their own values, norms, behaviors, and unique ways of being in the world. Consider the example in the contrast between visiting a pub in Britain and a bar in Spain (see sidebar Example \(\PageIndex{1}\)

Drinking in a Spanish bar or an English pub: not the same

In Spain the norm may be: enter the bar and greet the people there with a general 'Buenos dias', go to the bar; see if there are any friends around; offer to get them drinks; order the drinks at the bar; drink and accept any offers of other drinks from others; when you want to go ask how much you owe, often clarifying with the barman/woman which drinks you are responsible for; make sure you say goodbye to everyone you know and to those you don't with a general 'Hasta luego.' A Spanish man greeting strangers in a bar in England would probably be disappointed in the lack of reciprocity of his greeting. The locals would be suspicious or amused; the Spaniard would feel the locals are perhaps unfriendly. He may be seen as dishonest or evasive if he doesn't offer to pay for the first drink he asks for upon being served that drink. An Englishman entering a Spanish bar may be seen as a little odd or ingenuine if he uses 'please' and 'thank you' all the time. These terms tend to be reserved for asking favors and for having rendered a favor, and are thus not used so 'lightly'.

-Holliday, Hyde & Kullman (2004), p. 199

Conflict Styles

Miscommunication and misunderstanding between people within the same culture can feel overwhelming enough, but when this occurs with people from another culture or co-culture, we may feel a serious sense of stress. Intercultural conflict experts have developed conflict style inventories that help us to understand our own personal tendencies toward dealing with conflict, and the tendencies others may have. Acquiring this knowledge can hopefully help us transform conflicts into meaningful dialog, and become better communicators in the process.

  • Direct Approaches are favored by cultures that think conflict is a good thing, and that conflict should be approached directly, because working through conflict results in more solid and stronger relationships. This approach emphasizes using precise language, and articulating issues carefully. The best solution is based on solving for set of criteria that has been agreed upon by both parties beforehand.
  • Indirect Approaches on the other hand are favored by cultures that view conflict as destructive for relationships and prefer to deal with conflict indirectly. These cultures think that when people disagree, they should adapt to the consensus of the group rather that engage in conflict. Confrontations are seen as destructive and ineffective. Silence and avoidance are viewed as effective tools to manage conflict. Intermediaries or mediators are used when conflict negotiation is unavoidable, and people who undermine group harmony may face sanctions or ostracism.
  • Emotionally Expressive people or cultures are those who value intense displays of emotion during disagreement. Outward displays of emotion are seen as indicating that one really cares and is committed to resolving the conflict. It is thought that it is better to show emotion through expressive nonverbal behavior and words than to keep feelings inside and hidden from the world. Trust is gained through the sharing of emotions, and that sharing is necessary for credibility.
  • Emotionally Restrained People or cultures are those who think that disagreements are best discussed in an emotionally calm manner. Emotions are controlled through “internalization” and few, if any, verbal or nonverbal expressions will be displayed. A sensitivity to hurting feelings or protecting the face or honor of the other is paramount. Trust is earned through what is seen as emotional maturity, and that maturity is necessary to appear credible.

Another way to view conflict styles resolution is through the Intercultural Conflict Style Inventory developed by Mitchell Hammer (2005). According to the theory behind the inventory, disagreements leading to conflict have two dimensions, an affective (emotional) and a cognitive (intellectual or analytical) side. According to Hammer, parties in a conflict experience an emotional response based on the disagreement, its perceived cause, and the threat they see it as posing. How the two parties interact he sees as dependent on how emotionally expressive they tend to be and how direct their communication styles are. This instrument measures people’s approaches to conflict along two different continuums: direct/indirect and expressive/restrained.

The discussion style combines direct and emotionally restrained dimensions. As it is a verbally direct approach, people who use this style are comfortable expressing disagreements. User perceived strengths of this approach are that it confronts problems, explores arguments, and maintains a calm atmosphere during the conflict. The weaknesses perceived by others is that it is difficult to read “read between the lines,” it appears logical but unfeeling, and it can be uncomfortable with emotional arguments. The discussion style can often be found in Northern Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and various co-cultures in the United States.

The engagement style emphasizes a verbally direct and emotionally expressive approach to dealing with conflict. This style views intense verbal and nonverbal expressions of emotion as demonstrating a willingness to resolve the conflict. User perceived strengths to this approach are that it provides detailed explanations, instructions, and information. This style expresses opinions and shows feelings. The weaknesses perceived by others are the lack of concern with the views and feelings of others along with the potential for dominating and rude behavior. Individual viewpoints are not separated from emotion. The engagement style is often used in Mediterranean Europe, Russia, Israel, Latin America, and various co-cultures in the United States.

The accommodating style combines the indirect and emotionally restrained approaches. People who use this approach may send ambiguous message because they believe that by doing so, the conflict will not get out of control. Silence and avoidance are also considered worthy tools. User perceived strengths to this approach are sensitivity to feelings of the other party, control of emotional outburst, and consideration to alternative meaning of ambiguous messages. Weaknesses as perceived by others are difficulty in voicing your own opinion, appearing to be uncommitted or dishonest, and difficulty in providing explanations. Accommodators tend to avoid direct expression of feelings by using intermediaries, friends or relatives who informally act on their behalf when dealing with the conflict. Mediation tends to be used in more formal situations when one person believes that conflict will encourage growth in the relationship. The accommodating style is often used in East Asia, North America and South America.

The dynamic style uses indirect communication along with more emotional expressiveness. These people are comfortable with emotions, but tend to speak in metaphors and often use mediators. Their credibility is grounded in their degree of emotional expressiveness. User perceived strengths to this approach are using third parties to gather information and resolve conflicts, being skilled at observing nonverbal behaviors, and being comfortable with emotional displays. Weaknesses as perceived by others are appearing too emotional, unreasonable, and possibly devious, while rarely getting to the point. The dynamic style is often used in the Middle East, India, Sub-Saharan Africa, and various co-cultures in the United States.

Conflict Styles chart

It is important to recognize that people, and cultures, deal with conflict in a variety of ways for a variety of different reasons, and that conflict styles preferred in one culture may not work very well in a different culture. For example, business consultants in the United States advocate for using various versions of the seven-step conflict resolution model . The seven steps are:

  • State the Problem. Ask each of the conflicting parties to state their view of the problem as simply and clearly as possible.
  • Restate the Problem. Ask each party to restate the problem as they understand the other party to view it.
  • Understand the Problem. Each party must agree that the other side understands both ways of looking at the problem.
  • Pinpoint the Issue. Zero in on the objective facts.
  • Ask for Suggestions. Ask how the problem should be solved.
  • Make a Plan.

A quick review of the previous seven steps betrays its western roots with the unspoken assumption that conflicting individuals will be verbally direct and e motionally restrained, advocates of the discussion style of conflict. As we know from the model above, this may be too direct and/or not emotionally expressive enough to be an effective way to resolve conflicts in other cultures, or with people from other cultures. Lastly, it's important to keep in mind that preferred conflict styles are not static and rigid. People use different conflict styles with different partners and for different issues. Gender, ethnicity, and religion may all influence how we handle conflict. Conflict may even occur over economic, political, and social issues. How such conflicts are managed varies in line with the context and individuals concerned. Communication scholars have identified patterns in conflict management, discussed in the next section.

Contributors and Attributions

Intercultural Communication for the Community College , by Karen Krumrey-Fulks. Provided by LibreTexts. License: CC-BY-NC-SA

Language and Culture in Context: A Primer on Intercultural Communication , by Robert Godwin-Jones. Provided by LibreTexts. License: CC-BY-NC

Communication in the Real World: An Introduction to Communication Studies , by No Attribution- Anonymous by request. Provided by LibreTexts. License: CC-BY-NC-SA

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8 Ch. 8: Conflict

Ch. 8: conflict, learning objectives.

By the end of this chapter, readers should:

  • Identify and describe the five types of conflict.
  • Identify and describe the style of conflict present in a given situation.
  • Understand how and why individuals approach conflict in various ways.
  • Understand how and why individuals manage conflict in various ways and be able to suggest more productive ways for handling intercultural conflict.
  • Explain the four-skill approach to managing intercultural conflict.

Key Vocabulary

Affective conflict, conflict of interest, value conflict, cognitive conflict, goal conflict, direct vs.indirect approach, emotional expressiveness vs. restraint, destructive vs. productive, competitive vs. cooperative, conflict face-negotiation theory, mindful listening, mindful reframing, collaborative dialogue, culture-based conflict resolution steps.

Conflict is a part of all human relationships (Canary, 2003).   Almost any issue can spark conflict— money, time, religion, politics, culture —and almost anyone can get into a conflict.  Conflicts are happening all around the world at the personal, societal, political, and international levels.  Conflict is not simple and it’s not just a matter of disagreement.  According to Wilmot & Hocker (2010), “ conflict is an expressed struggle between at least two interdependent parties who perceive incompatible goals, scare resources, and interference from others in achieving their goals. (p. 11)”  There are several aspects of conflict that we must consider when pondering this definition and its application to intercultural communication.

Expressed Struggle

Conflict is a communication process that is expressed verbally and nonverbally.  Wilmot & Hocker assert that communication creates conflict, communication reflects conflict, and communication is the vehicle for the management of conflict (Wilmot & Hocker, 1998).  Often, conflict is easily identified because one party openly and verbally disagrees with the other, but intrapersonal, or internal conflict, may exist for some time before being expressed.  An example could be family members avoiding each other because both think, “I don’t want to see them for awhile because of what they did.”  The expression of the struggle is often activated by a triggering event which brings the conflict to everyone’s attention.  In the case of family members, a triggering event could be going on vacation instead of attending a golden wedding anniversary party or other significant life event.

Interdependent

Parties engaged in expressed struggle do so because they are interdependent .   “A person who is not dependent upon another—that is, who has no special interest in what the other does—has no conflict with that other person” (Braiker & Kelley, 1979).  In other words, each parties’ choices effect the other because conflict is a mutual activity.  Each decision impacts the other.

Consider the teenager who chooses to wear an obnoxious or offensive t-shirt before catching the bus.  People with no connections to the teen and notice the t-shirt are unlikely to engage in conflict.  They have never seen the teen before, and probably won’t again.  The ill-advised decision to wear the t-shirt does not impact them, therefore the reason to engage in conflict does not exist.

The same scenario involving a teen and their parents would probably turn out differently.  Because parents and teens are interdependent, the ill-advised decision to wear an offensive t-shirt could quickly escalate into a power struggle over individual autonomy that leads to harsh words and hurt feelings.

Parties in conflict have perceptions about their own position and the position of others.  Each party may also have a different perception of any given situation.  We can anticipate having such differences due to a number of factors that create perceptual filters or cultural frames that influence our responses to the situation.  Such influences can be things like culture, race & ethnicity; gender & sexuality; knowledge; impressions of the messenger; and previous experience.  These factors and more conspire to form the perceptual filters through which we experience conflict.

Clashes in Goals, Resources, and Behaviors

Conflict arises from differences.  It occurs whenever parties disagree over their values, motivations, ideas, or desires.  The perception might be that goals are mutually exclusive, or there’s not enough resources to go around, or one party is sabotaging another.  When conflict triggers strong feelings, a deep need is typically at the core of the problem.  When the legitimacy of the conflicting needs is recognized, it opens pathways to problem-solving.

Conflict Types

Conflict can be difficult to analyze because it occurs in so many different settings.  Knowing the various types of conflict that occur in interpersonal relationships helps us to identify appropriate strategies for managing conflict.  Mark Cole (1996) states that there are five types of interpersonal conflict:  affective, interest, value, cognitive, and goal.

  • Affective conflict occurs when people become aware that their feelings and emotions are incompatible.  For example, if a romantic couple wants to go out to eat, but one of the partners is a vegetarian while the other is on the Paleo diet, what do they do?  The food choices that they have committed to may impact their feelings for each other causing them to question a future together. If the same romantic couple marries and begins to raise children, what will their diet consist of?  Do they follow the Paleo diet or the vegetarian one?  Conflict of interest arises when people disagree about a plan of action or when they have incompatible preferences for a course of action. A difference in ideologies or values between relational partners is called value conflict.   Our romantic partners eating preferences may be the result of strongly held religious or political views.  Remember the old saying, “Never talk about religion and politics.”  Many people engage in value conflict about religion and politics.
  • Cognitive conflict is when people become aware that their thought processes or perceptions are in conflict.  Our romantic partners may disagree about the meaning of a wink from a car salesman as they shopped for a new car.  One of the partners believes that the wink was friendly and meant to build a relationship with the couple, but the other partner saw the wink as a sign that the couple would get a better deal if they looked seriously at a specific car.
  • Goal conflict occurs when people disagree about a preferred outcome or end state.  Our car-shopping romantic partners need transportation.  For one, the cost of a new car reinforces the choice made to continue using public transportation to save the money not spent for a house.  For the other, buying a new car means gaining access to the suburbs where they can afford to buy a new house now.

Rarely do the types of conflict stand alone.  Most often, several types of conflict are found intertwined within each other and within the context itself.  The actual situation in which the conflict happens can occur on the personal level, the societal level, and even the international level.  How we choose to manage the conflict may depend on the types of conflict, the contexts that they occur within, and the particular situation.

Characteristics of Intercultural Conflict

Intercultural conflicts are often characterized by more ambiguity, language issues, and the clash of conflict styles than same culture conflict.  Intercultural conflict characteristics rest on the principles discussed in greater depth in the foundation chapters.  These principles stressed that culture is dynamic and heterogeneous, but learned.  Values are manifest in beliefs and behaviors, which lead to the worldviews that guide our perception and navigation through life.  Michelle LeBaron (2003) states that “cultures affect the ways we name, frame, blame, and attempt to tame conflicts (p. 3).”

Ambiguity, or the confusion about how to handle or define the conflict, is often present in intercultural conflict because of the multi-layered and heterogeneous nature of culture.  What appears on the surface of the conflict may mask what is more deeply hidden below.  Verbally indirect, high context cultures, may be reluctant to use words to explore issues of extreme importance that verbally direct, and low context cultures need to access the symbolic levels that are largely outside of their awareness.  Yet, knowing the general norms of a group, does not predict the behavior of a specific member of a group.  Dimensions of context, and individual differences can be crucial to understanding.

Language issues can also add to the confusion—or clarity—as we try to name, frame, blame , and tame the conflict.  Not knowing each other’s languages very well, could make conflict resolution difficult, and remaining silent could also provide a needed “cooling off” period with time to think.  The Western approach to conflict resolution often means labeling and analyzing the smaller components parts of an issue ( name, frame, blame ), before a resolution ( tame ) can be proposed.  The Eastern approach to conflict resolution often means reinforcing all aspects of the relationship ( tame ), before ever discussing the issue ( name, frame, blame )– if at all.  In the Eastern approach, language is more of a means of creating and maintaining identity than solving a problem.

Intercultural Conflict Management

Culture is always a factor in conflict, though it rarely causes it alone.  When differences surface between people, organizations, and nations, culture is always present, shaping perceptions, attitudes, behaviors, and outcomes.  Attitudes and behaviors shared with dominant or national cultures often seem to be normal, natural, or the way things are done.   Our cultural background, and how we were raised, largely determines how we deal with conflict.

The term facework refers to the communication strategies that people “use to establish, sustain, or restore a preferred social identity to others during interaction” (Samp, 2015, p. ?).  Goffman (1959) claims that everyone is concerned about how others perceive them.  To lose face is to publicly suffer a diminished self-image, and saving face is to be liked, appreciated, and approved by others.  Brown & Levinson (1987) use the concept of face to explain politeness, and to them politeness is universal, resulting from people’s face needs.

Facework varies from culture to culture and influences conflict styles.  For example, people from individualistic cultures tend to be more concerned with saving their own face rather than anyone else’s face.  This results in a tendency to use more direct conflict management styles.  In contrast, people from collectivistic cultures tend to be more concerned with preserving group harmony and saving the other person’s face during conflict.  Making use of a less direct conversation style to protect the other or make them look good is considered the best way to manage facework .

Conflict Face-Negotiation Theory (Ting-Toomey, 2004) is based a number of assumptions about the extent to which face negotiated within a culture and what existing value patterns shape culture members’ preferences for the process of negotiating face in conflict situations.  The Conflict Face-Negotiation Theory is not only influenced by the individual and culture, but also the relationship and the situation of the people experiencing the conflict.

Two Approaches to Conflict

Ways of naming and framing vary across cultural boundaries.  People generally deal with conflict in the way that they learned while growing up.  For those accustomed to a calm and rational discussion, screaming and yelling may seem to be a dangerous conflict.  Yet, conflicts are subject to different interpretations, based on cultural preference, context, and facework ideals.

  • Direct Approaches is favored by cultures that think conflict is a good thing, and that conflict should be approached directly, because working through conflict results in more solid and stronger relationships.  This approach emphasizes using precise language, and articulating issues carefully.  The best solution is based on solving for set of criteria that has been agreed upon by both parties beforehand.
  • Indirect Approaches on the other hand are favored by cultures that view conflict as destructive for relationships and prefer to deal with conflict indirectly.   These cultures think that when people disagree, they should adapt to the consensus of the group rather that engage in conflict.  Confrontations are seen as destructive and ineffective.  Silence and avoidance are viewed as effective tools to manage conflict.   Intermediaries or mediators are used when conflict negotiation is unavoidable, and people who undermine group harmony may face sanctions or ostracism.
  • Emotionally Expressive people or cultures are those who value intense displays of emotion during disagreement.  Outward displays of emotion are seen as indicating that one really cares and is committed to resolving the conflict.  It is thought that it is better to show emotion through expressive nonverbal behavior and words than to keep feelings inside and hidden from the world.  Trust is gained through the sharing of emotions, and that sharing is necessary for credibility.
  • Emotionally Restrained People or cultures are those who think that disagreements are best discussed in an emotionally calm manner.  Emotions are controlled through “internalization” and few, if any, verbal or nonverbal expressions will be displayed.  A sensitivity to hurting feelings or protecting the face or honor of the other is paramount.  Trust is earned through what is seen as emotional maturity, and that maturity is necessary to appear credible.

Conflict Styles

Miscommunication and misunderstanding between people within the same culture can feel overwhelming enough, but when this occurs with people of another culture or co-culture, we may feel a serious sense of stress.  Frequently, all of the good intentions and patience we are able to use during lower-stress encounters can be forgotten, and sometimes we may find that our behavior can surprise even ourselves.  Because of this, intercultural conflict experts have developed conflict style inventories that help us to understand our own personal tendencies toward dealing with conflict, and the tendencies others may have.

The Intercultural Conflict Style Inventory or ICS (Hammer, 2005), measures people’s approaches to conflict along two different continuums:  direct/indirect and expressive/restrained.  Different individuals, but also people of different national cultures, approach conflict in different ways.

The discussion style combines direct and emotionally restrained dimensions.  As it is a verbally direct approach, people who use this style are comfortable expressing disagreements.  User perceived strengths of this approach are that it confronts problems, explores arguments, and maintains a calm atmosphere during the conflict.  The weaknesses perceived by others is that it is difficult to read “read between the lines,” it appears logical but unfeeling, and it can be uncomfortable with emotional arguments.  Discussion style can often be found in Northern Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and various co-cultures in the United States.

The engagement style emphasizes a verbally direct and emotionally expressive approach to dealing with conflict.  This style views intense verbal and nonverbal expressions of emotion as demonstrating a willingness to resolve the conflict.  User perceived strengths to this approach are that it provides detailed explanations, instructions, and information.  This style expresses opinions and shows feelings.  The weaknesses perceived by others are the lack of concern with the views and feelings of others along with the potential for dominatingly rude behavior.  Individual viewpoints are not separated from emotion.  Engagement style is often used in Mediterranean Europe, Russia, Israel, Latin America, and various co-cultures in the United States.

The accommodating style combines the indirect and emotionally restrained approaches.  People who use this approach may send ambiguous message because they believe that by doing so, the conflict will not get out of control.  Silence and avoidance are also considered worthy tools.  User perceived strengths to this approach are sensitivity to feelings of the other party, control of emotional outburst, and consideration to alternative meaning of ambiguous messages.  Weaknesses as perceived by others are difficulty in voicing your own opinion, appearing to be uncommitted or dishonest, and difficulty in providing explanations.

Accommodators tend to avoid direct expression of feelings by using intermediaries, friends or relatives who informally act on their behalf when dealing with the conflict.  Mediation tends to be used in more formal situations when one person believes that conflict will encourage growth in the relationship.  Accommodating style is often used in East Asia, North America and South America.

The dynamic style uses indirect communication along with more emotional expressiveness.  These people are comfortable with emotions, but tend to speak in metaphors and often use mediators.  Their credibility is grounded in their degree of emotional expressiveness.  User perceived strengths to this approach are using third parties to gather information and resolve conflicts, being skilled at observing nonverbal behaviors, and being comfortable with emotional displays.  Weaknesses as perceived by others are appearing too emotional, unreasonable, and possibly devious, while rarely getting to the point.  Dynamic style is often used in the Middle East, India, Sub-Saharan Africa, and various co-cultures in the United States.

It is important to recognize that people, and cultures, deal with conflict in a variety of ways for a variety of different reasons.  Preferred styles are not static and rigid.  People use different conflict styles with different partners.  Gender, ethnicity, and religion may all influence how we handle conflict.  Conflict may even occur over economic, political, and social issues.

Two Approaches to Managing Conflict

How people choose to deal with conflict in any given situation depends on the type of conflict and their relationship to the other person.  Cognitive conflicts with close friends may be more discussion based in the United States, but more accommodating in Japan.  Both are focused on preserving the harmony within the relationship.  However, if the cognitive conflict takes place between acquaintances or strangers, where maintaining a relationship is not as important, the engagement or dynamic styles may come out.

Considering all the variations in how people choose to deal with conflict, it’s important to distinguish between productive and destructive conflict as well as cooperative and competitive conflict.

  • Destructive conflict leads people to make sweeping generalizations about the problem.  Groups or individuals escalate the issues with negative attitudes.  The conflict starts to deviate from the original issues, and anything in the relationship is open for examination or re-visiting.  Participants try to jockey for power while using threats, coercion, and deception as polarization occurs.  Leaders display militant, single-minded traits to rally their followers.
  • Productive conflict features skills that make it possible to manage conflict situations effectively and appropriately.  First the participants narrow the conflict to the original issue so that the specific problem is easier to understand.  Next, the leaders stress mutually satisfactory outcomes and direct all their efforts to cooperative problem-solving.  Research from Alan Sillars and colleagues found that during disputes, individuals selectively remember information that supports themselves and contradicts their partners, view their own communication more positively than their partners’, and blame partners for failure to resolve the conflict (Sillars, Roberts, Leonard, & Dun, 2000).  Sillars and colleagues also found that participant thoughts are often locked in simple, unqualified and negative views.  Only in 2% of cases did respondents attribute cooperativeness to their partners and uncooperativeness to themselves (Sillars et al., 2000).
  • C ompetitive conflict promotes escalation.  When conflicts escalate and anger peaks, our minds are filled with negative thoughts of all the grievances and resentments we feel towards others (Sillars et al., 2000).  Conflicted parties set up self-reinforcing and mutually confirming expectations.  Coercion, deception, suspicion, rigidity, and poor communication are all hallmarks of a competitive atmosphere.
  • cooperative conflict promotes perceived similarity, trust, flexibility, and open communication.  If both parties are committed to the resolution process, there is a sense of joint ownership in reaching a conclusion.

Because it is very difficult to turn a competitive conflict relationship into a cooperative conflict relationship, a cooperative relationship must be encouraged from the very beginning before the conflict starts to escalate.  A cooperative conflict atmosphere promotes perceived similarity, trust, flexibility, and open communication.  If both parties are committed to the resolution process, there is a sense of joint ownership in reaching a conclusion.

Consequently, the most important thing you can do to enhance cooperative and productive conflict is to practice critical self-reflection.  Business consultants in the United States offer various versions of the seven-step conflict resolution model that is a good place to start.  The seven steps are:

  • State the Problem. Ask each of the conflicting parties to state their view of the problem as simply and clearly as possible.
  • Restate the Problem. Ask each party to restate the problem as they understand the other party to view it.
  • Understand the Problem. Each party must agree that the other side understands both ways of looking at the problem.
  • Pinpoint the Issue. Zero in on the objective facts.
  • Ask for Suggestions. Ask how the problem should be solved.
  • Make a Plan.

A quick review of the previous seven steps betrays its western roots with the unspoken assumption that conflicting individuals will be verbally direct and e motionally restrained or advocates of the discussion style of conflict.

Culture and Managing Conflict

The strongest cultural factor that influences your conflict approach is whether you belong to an individualistic or collectivistic culture (Ting-Toomey, 1997).  People raised in collectivistic cultures often view direct communication regarding conflict as personal attacks (Nishiyama, 1971), and consequently are more likely to manage conflict through avoidance or accommodation.  People from individualistic cultures feel comfortable agreeing to disagree, and don’t particularly see such clashes as personal affronts (Ting-Toomey, 1985).  They are more likely to compete, react, or collaborate.

Gudykunst & Kim (2003) suggest that if you are an individualist in a dispute with a collectivist, you should consider the following:

  • Recognize that collectivist may prefer to have a third party mediate the conflict so that those in conflict can manage their disagreement without direct confrontation to preserve relational harmony.
  • Use more indirect verbal messages.
  • Let go of the situation if the other person does not recognize the conflict exists or does not want to deal with it.

If you are a collectivist and are conflicting with someone from an individualist culture, the following guidelines may help:

  • Recognize that individualists often separate conflicts from people. It’s not personal.
  • Use an assertive style, filled with “I” messages, and be direct by candidly stating your opinions and feelings.
  • Manage conflicts even if you’d rather avoid them.

Another thing to consider is replacing the ethno-centric “seven steps” with a more culturally friendly, or ethno-relative , four skills approach from Conflict Face-Negotiation Theory (Ting-Toomey & Oetzel, 2001).  These skills are:

  • Mindful Listening: Pay special attention to the cultural and personal assumptions being expressed in the conflict interaction.  Paraphrase verbal and nonverbal content and emotional meaning of the other party’s message to check for accurate interpretation.
  • Mindful Reframing: This is another face-honoring skill that requires the creation of alternative contexts to shape our understanding of the conflict behavior.
  • Collaborative Dialogue: An exchange of dialogue that is oriented fully in the present moment and builds on Mindful Listening and Mindful Reframing to practice communicating with different linguistic or contextual resources.
  • What is my cultural and personal assessment of the problem?
  • Why did I form this assessment and what is the source of this assessment?
  • What are the underlying assumptions or values that drive my assessment?
  • How do I know they are relative or valid in this conflict context?
  • What reasons might I have for maintaining or changing my underlying conflict premise?
  • How should I change my cultural or personal premises into the direction that promotes deeper intercultural understanding?
  • How should I flex adaptively on both verbal and nonverbal conflict style levels in order to display facework sensitive behaviors and to facilitate a productive common-interest outcome?

(Ting-Toomey, 2012; Fisher-Yoshida, 2005; Mezirow, 2000)

Just as there is no consensus across cultures about what constitutes a conflict or how the conflicting events should be framed, there are also many different conflict response theories.  LeBaron, Hammer, Sillars, Gudykunst, Kim, and Ting-Toomey are only a few of the many researchers who have explored the complexities of intercultural conflict.  It is also a topic of interest for sociologists, psychologists, business managers, educators, and communities.  Acquiring knowledge about personal and intercultural conflict styles can hopefully help us transform conflicts into meaningful dialogue, and become better communicators in the process.

References:

Intercultural Communication for the Community College Copyright © 2019 by Karen Krumrey-Fulks is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Cutting Edge | Overcoming barriers to peace through culture

intercultural conflict essay

Overcoming barriers to peace through culture

As a powerful force that bridges across differences, culture brings people together, and thus underpins social cohesion, peace and security. Notwithstanding this unifying function, the past 20 years have witnessed a growing instrumentalization of culture for divisive purposes. This negative exploitation of culture has not only contributed to more protracted crises and relapses into conflict, but also the denial of human rights, including cultural rights. Culture is integral to who we are and where we come from. From heritage to creative expression, culture contributes to identity, belonging and meaning. As a resource for community vitality, well-being and expression, it shapes peaceful societies through the recognition of and respect for the diversity of cultures and freedom of expression.

However, by virtue of its significance and deep-rooted connection to people, culture has increasingly been brought to the frontlines of conflict as a tool for division. Across the globe, contemporary armed conflicts are increasingly complex and taking place within national borders. These clashes are stoked by a multitude of drivers, involving more non-State actors and groups, some of which connect to criminal and extremist networks. Moreover, conflicts are increasingly fueled by ethnic and belief differences, grievances and identity misinterpretation. The increased movement of peoples through migration has brought cultures into closer proximity, increasing the points of interaction and friction that can give rise to identity-related tensions. Growing rifts among communities of different cultural backgrounds, religions and beliefs have often been accompanied by incitement to violence that, at times, have seized culture as its justification. Often rooted in a fear of “the other,” these acts are governed by exclusion and a rejection of diversity. Attacks on heritage and people based on their cultural, ethnic or religious affiliation are tragic illustrations of the depths to which fear and exclusion can take root. Instances of disinformation and hate speech have surged, while increasing reports of attacks on artists – both online and offline – contribute to this alarming scenario. Media have also been used for recruitment, manipulation and coordination by non-State armed groups, and to facilitate illicit trafficking of cultural property. The protection of culture is not only a cultural issue; it has become a security imperative.

Culture in the crossfire of conflict

During the past two decades, culture has increasingly been instrumentalized to stir division. Attacks on cultural heritage bear witness to how heritage can be used – and abused – by non-State armed groups in attempts to obliterate cultural diversity or to impose their own symbols and identities linked to a specific community. Attacks on cultural heritage often target significant areas of rich cultural diversity, where communities of different cultural and religious backgrounds have coexisted and forged unique cultural expressions. These attacks on culture can also be part of broader and systematic strategies. Following the war in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the reconstruction of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Mostar Bridge in Bosnia and Herzegovina was, therefore, highly symbolic. It was not only about rebuilding the heritage to its former glory, but also about re-establishing identity and solidarity as part of the post-conflict healing process. The Dayton Accords peace agreement, which brought the war to a close, included in its provisions human rights, the return of refugees and displaced persons, as well as cultural heritage protection. This process was a particular turning point as – for the first time in modern conflict resolution policy – cultural heritage was recognized as a fundamental component for sustainable peace.

Attempts to destroy culture is a bid to wipe out people’s past, present and future. Poverty, lack of education and unemployment are key underlying factors driving attacks on culture. Twenty years ago when the Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan were destroyed, the event was broadcast around the world as part of a tactic to spread an ideology of terror and exclusion. This also led to the adoption of the Declaration on the Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage in 2003 by UNESCO’s Member States. A decade on, when a non-State armed group attacked Timbuktu in Mali, intentionally destroying its mausoleums, the group’s first strategy was to destroy the sacred gate of the mosque of Sidi Yahia, a religious and cultural landmark, and to halt all cultural practices and religious ceremonies. UNESCO's work in the reconstruction of the mausoleums and the conservation of ancient manuscripts in Timbuktu demonstrates the successful integration of culture into peacebuilding and reconciliation strategies. Backed by the European Union and Switzerland, the Organization mobilized cooperation to reconstruct and safeguard the cultural property in close partnership with the Malian authorities, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and local communities. Attempts to ban or expunge the cultural life of societies by depriving them of music, heritage or rituals are an affront to freedom and critical thinking. As a response for the recovery of the city of Mosul in Iraq, UNESCO launched in 2018 the Revive the Spirit of Mosul initiative to revitalize cultural and intellectual life in the city by empowering local communities in rebuilding their historic landmarks and neighbourhoods to build hope and resilience. Like many of Iraq’s archaeological sites, Babylon has endured years of looting and economic crises during which precious artifacts have been sold off. Two years ago the city was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, signaling hope for its recovery and future. In the Syrian Arab Republic, the 12th Century Crusader castle Crac des Chevaliers has been left exposed to damage and was a strategic stronghold for armed groups for some periods of the conflict. When bombs were dropped on the Yemeni capital Sana’a it resulted in loss of lives and damage to one of the treasured urban jewels of the Islamic world, leaving the city vulnerable to ongoing conflict, food shortages and weather shocks. These attempts to attack UNESCO World Heritage sites and to undermine and destroy cultural diversity cut to the heart of communities and draw on media to spread ideological propaganda.

Lack of education and unemployment can also lead young people to enroll in armed groups as a way of making a living. Historic settlements and archaeological sites, both as targets or as collateral damage of armed conflict, can be left vulnerable to looting and illicit trafficking of cultural objects. This can sometimes inflict irreversible damage to a country’s collective memory and social cohesion, thus hindering its capacity to recover. This issue has been highlighted in statutory meetings of the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Article 9 of the Convention lays down the conditions for the prevention of irremediable injury to cultural heritage endangered by the pillaging of archaeological or ethnological materials.

This upsurge in conflicts and increasing threats on culture have contributed to a global setback on cultural rights, notably by curtailing the right to practice cultural activities and access to culture, but also by jeopardizing cultural diversity itself. A growing number of alerts formulated by the United Nations and other intergovernmental organizations over the past years made reference to cultural rights infringements in situations of violence with regard to attacks on cultural heritage and cultural minorities. Echoing this concern, the 2019 report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reiterates economic, social and cultural rights as essential building blocks for staying on track towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

intercultural conflict essay

Yanggiri/Getty Images Pro*

Crossing new frontiers in heritage safeguarding : the humanitarian, security and peacebuilding nexus

UNESCO has taken a leading advocacy role in addressing attacks on culture, and crimes against culture. The magnitude of destruction and long-lasting impacts on communities have acted as a wake-up call to combat the instrumentalization of culture. It has raised awareness among the international community about the need for future generations to know about their identity and where they come from through heritage. Intense advocacy efforts have advanced the concepts of heritage and why it is important for countries to ratify international conventions on culture. The lack of awareness of the value of heritage and the lack of opportunities to engage in preserving and safeguarding heritage in the public sphere puts heritage at risk of being irremediably lost. It also impoverishes young generations’ sense of identity and belonging, thereby limiting their ability to engage and contribute meaningfully to society at large, while also weakening the foundations of peace and security. This is why UNESCO carries out a comprehensive programme for heritage education that facilitates the engagement of youth in the promotion, protection and transmission of heritage in all its forms. On a broader level, education plays a critical role in equipping young people with the skills and cultural literacy they need to understand their environment and make informed choices. The UNESCO-led #Unite4Heritage global campaign launched in 2015 reached millions of people around the world to mobilize against deliberate attacks on cultural heritage during conflict. Civil society and decision-makers alike contributed to the campaign to counter propaganda, sectarian agendas and extreme violence, as well as promote cultural diversity as a positive unifying force. The deliberate destruction of heritage was pronounced by UNESCO as a war crime and a tactic of war in a strategy of cultural cleansing. These efforts made several breakthroughs in the adoption of UN Security Council resolutions for the protection of heritage, and the first International Criminal Court (ICC) ruling on cultural heritage as a war crime. In doing so, it has also contributed to bringing culture to the core of the international security agenda.

The Organization’s active commitment has contributed to strengthening the position of culture in humanitarian, security and peacebuilding work. This enlarged cooperation is promoted in UNESCO’s strategy adopted by the UNESCO General Conference in 2015 to prevent, mitigate and recover the loss of cultural heritage and diversity resulting from conflict. A core idea of this strategy is to engage partners outside the “culture box”, and to work closely with local communities. In this respect, UNESCO has strengthened and broadened cooperation in the area of cultural heritage with other UN entities and key IGOs and NGOs, including the UN Counter-Terrorism Centre and the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), INTERPOL, World Customs Organization (WCO), International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT), International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), International Council of Museums (ICOM), International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the Blue Shield, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the UN Security Council. Human rights education in schools on the importance of respecting one's culture and those of others has further anchored these efforts.

intercultural conflict essay

Bamiyan (Afghanistan)

Picassos/Getty Images*

Strengthening international legal frameworks in culture

Setting a historical precedent, in 2016 an international trial regarding the destruction of the mausoleums in Timbuktu in Mali resulted in the first war crimes charge by the ICC for the destruction of cultural heritage. Such deliberate destruction of heritage was defined a war crime under Article 8 of the International Criminal Court’s statute. The perpetrator was sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment and, in 2017, was ruled to pay €2.7 million in individual and collective reparations. The decision was instrumental in strengthening international justice and re-establishing hope in Timbuktu. A symbolic reparations ceremony was held in March 2021 in Bamako, organized by the Trust Fund for Victims and the ICC in collaboration with the Malian Government, to commemorate the destruction of the cultural heritage of Timbuktu. During the ceremony, the Malian authorities and UNESCO were given a symbolic euro in recognition of the harm caused by the destruction to the Malian people and to all humanity.

The adoption of UN Security Council resolutions for the protection of heritage has given new impetus to multilateral cooperation in cultural heritage protection in situations of armed conflict. The adoption of resolution 2199 in 2015 underlined the link between looting and smuggling of cultural heritage items and financing terrorism activities, as well as introduced legally-binding measures to combat the illicit trafficking of antiquities and cultural objects from Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic. The recognition of the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage as a war crime was reaffirmed in resolution 2347 , unanimously adopted by the UN Security Council in 2017, and marked the first time the UN Security Council adopted a resolution devoted to the protection and recovery of cultural heritage.

This achievement was further underpinned by the policy instruments developed within UNESCO Culture Conventions to prevent and mitigate the impact of conflicts on culture. Over the past 70 years, UNESCO has refined its conceptual frameworks and provided legal provisions to defend culture through its Culture Conventions. The protection of cultural heritage is part of international humanitarian law under the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in Armed Conflict and its two (1954 and 1999) Protocols, which forbids the targeting of cultural property and the use of its immediate surroundings for military purposes. In addition, calling for extreme vigilance to the possible export of illicit property through the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, is part of UNESCO’s work to protect and safeguard our world’s culture and its diversity.

intercultural conflict essay

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In addition to shaping a legal framework for culture to be safeguarded, UNESCO’s normative instruments have also helped to safeguard cultural diversity and advance cultural rights through various angles, providing an enabling environment for conflict prevention. The protection of cultural rights is central to sustaining peaceful and inclusive societies, and a critical condition for cultural diversity to flourish. The right of access to, participation in and enjoyment of culture – enshrined in Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and further reiterated in the 2001 UNESCO Declaration on Cultural Diversity – is fundamental to peacebuilding efforts. The Declaration brings to the fore the importance of pluralism in societies and that cultural diversity “is as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature”. These core principles of cultural access and participation have been put into practice through the UNESCO Culture Conventions. For example, by promoting inclusive, participatory management of World Heritage sites, the 1972 World Heritage Convention places individuals and communities at the centre of conservation efforts, while also ensuring that they can access and benefit from their cultural heritage. The 1970 Convention promotes peaceful societies by stating that communities should not be deprived of their cultural heritage. Likewise, the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage ensures – through its Operational Guidelines – that local communities, including indigenous peoples, have access to and can participate in the identification, inventorying, safeguarding and transmission of their cultural heritage. By providing a normative framework and policy instruments, the 2005 Convention for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and the 1980 UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of the Artist support countries in protecting, defending and monitoring fundamental freedoms, including the right to freedom of expression and creativity, while also recognizing the importance of intellectual property rights. The concepts and, to some extent, legal provisions provided by the Culture Conventions across different cultural domains have therefore supported Member States’ efforts in strengthening national cultural policy frameworks with a view to better protecting cultural rights.

More recently, UNESCO has expanded its scope of work to protect artistic freedom . This is understood as a bundle of rights protected under international law encompassing the right to create without censorship or intimidation, the right to freedom of association, the right to protection of social and economic rights, the right to participate in cultural life, the right to have artistic work supported, distributed and remunerated, and the right to freedom of movement. The rights of artists to express themselves freely are under threat worldwide, especially where artistic expressions contest or critique political ideologies, religious beliefs and cultural and social preferences. These threats range from censorship - by corporations, political, religious or other groups - to imprisonment, physical threats, and even killings. In 2020, there were reports of 978 acts of violations of artistic freedom in 89 countries and online spaces . 74% of all documented imprisonments of artists concerned criticizing government policies and practices.

Other global platforms and policy mechanisms developed over the past two decades have been instrumental in highlighting the importance of cultural rights, notably of indigenous peoples. In a global landscape marked by the urgency of climate change, countries and communities are urged to recognize their interdependence and the critical importance of protecting cultural rights, notably for indigenous peoples. Echoing this recognition, culture is one of six mandated areas of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and integral to indigenous peoples’ identity, traditional knowledge, and connection with the natural environment. The Permanent Forum increasingly reflects, in its Recommendations on Culture , the importance of cultural rights. UNESCO’s cross-cutting 2018 Policy on Engaging with Indigenous Peoples takes a rights-based approach to ensure that the Organization’s work upholds the 2006 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) – including in relation to cultural heritage, environmental conservation, knowledge, expressions, languages and intellectual property rights. In this respect, Member States are increasingly confronted with issues of cultural appropriation, which is further amplified by accelerated digital transformation. Recent cases linked to, for example, the use of traditional medicines by pharmaceutical companies, or the appropriation of traditional cultural expressions by the fashion industry without appropriate remuneration or economic benefits for custodian communities, testify to this growing trend. This aspiration is also increasingly underlined by regional organizations, including the African Union, which emphasizes cultural memory in its Charter for African Cultural Renaissance, as well as fostering a common heritage in its strategic framework Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want.

Building on these conceptual and normative advances, further work is needed in the coming years to codify cultural rights . Cultural rights remain a rather “underdeveloped” category of human rights, therefore, more efforts will be needed to define their scope, legal content and enforceability. This deficit was recognized by the Human Rights Council, which in 2009 created the mandate of Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights. Since then, the Special Rapporteur has produced 21 thematic reports on issues related to cultural rights. The accelerated digital transformation makes these efforts even more critical, as it has deeply reshaped the exercise of cultural rights relating to diversity of cultural contents, intellectual property rights and multilingualism in cyberspace, as well as challenges related to the remuneration of artists. Against this backdrop, wider policy dialogue and concerted action will be required, building on existing frameworks, notably the guidelines developed by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to support Member States in monitoring cultural rights. Although constructing universal frameworks may raise specific challenges, the respect of cultural diversity remains a global commitment, enshrined in all UNESCO Culture Conventions, to frame the scope of cultural rights.

intercultural conflict essay

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The struggle for inclusion and social cohesion

In a globalized world, migration, urbanization and digital transformation are bringing cultures together into closer proximity. To a growing extent, cultural and religious diversity is an intrinsic component of societies in all parts of the world. This increased diversity, particularly in urban settings, has generated fresh opportunities for exchange, learning and ideas, but it has also brewed tensions. Record numbers of people who are forcibly displaced due to persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations, can face persistent barriers in enjoying their cultural rights. Migrants, in general, come up against significant challenges in host communities in terms of stigma, exclusion and xenophobia. Migrations are also fueled by protracted economic crises, youth unemployment and, to an increasing extent, climate change and related disasters.

The digital transformation has introduced new forms of innovation and possibilities for dialogue and creative expression, while also raising new challenges, notably related to hate speech. UNESCO’s work with UNITAR/UNOSAT in the use of post-conflict satellite imagery, for instance, has been a gamechanger for damage assessments of built heritage in inaccessible areas, such as in Syrian Arab Republic, Iraq, Libya and Yemen. Media, while being an effective advocacy tool that can mobilize the international community around an issue, can also provide spaces for inciting violence and polarization, and channels to spread discrimination and hate. Social media has been used to facilitate illicit trafficking of cultural property, and for recruitment, manipulation and coordination by non-State armed groups. Artists and cultural workers have been turning to the Internet and social media to promote their work and access new audiences, which has introduced new challenges for their online safety . Countering the growing spread and use of hate speech globally underpins the UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech launched in 2019. The Strategy and Plan of Action contains 13 commitments to address the root causes and drivers of hate speech and its impact on societies, while upholding the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

In this regard, engaging youth in culture and boosting their livelihoods are particularly critical to combatting hate speech and nurturing social cohesion. The cultural exclusion and marginalization of youth can indeed generate broader repercussions for social cohesion and peace - stemming from grievances, political distrust, isolation and a sense of hopelessness. Within the UN-wide system, UNESCO leads on the implementation of the United Nations Secretary General's Plan of Action for the Prevention of Violent Extremism (PVE) adopted in 2016. This leverages “soft power” in preventing hatred and ignorance through tools and trainings to tackle disinformation, hate speech and violent extremism on social media, and build learners’ resilience to violent extremism. Since the start of the conflict in Yemen, UNESCO World Heritage properties have been severely impacted while the vibrancy of cultural life has been suspended. In some parts of the country, this has given way to radical sectarian narratives that erode the pluralist social fabric needed to unify and stabilize societies. Commentators observe that the cultural void caused by the war has produced despair and disillusionment among young people, which incurs secondary political risks, such as an increased likelihood of youth involvement in violent extremism. The UNESCO/EU project “Cash for Work: Improving livelihood opportunities of urban youth in Yemen” recognizes the important value of cultural heritage preservation, but also youth participation and access to culture as confidence-building measures for peace. Through cash-based urban rehabilitation works, the project is currently employing over 1,300 skilled and unskilled youth under 35.

intercultural conflict essay

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Harnessing cultural diplomacy and intercultural dialogue for conflict prevention and reconciliation

Culture should be a force of unity, not division. Numerous experiences demonstrate how culture can provide a crucial entry point for international cooperation to unite people across borders in the protection of shared cultural heritage or cultural exchange. Cultural diplomacy is at the heart of the UNESCO Silk Roads programme, which for more than 30 years has engaged several countries in building links between people from different communities along these routes. Culture was also the catalyst for reopening dialogue to overcome the contentious frontier between Thailand and Cambodia through the safeguarding of the Temple of Preah Vihear. The 2018 joint inscription of Traditional Korean wrestling (Ssirum/Ssireum) on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity brought together the two Koreas in a sign of solidarity and rapprochement. In the Lake Chad Basin region, the UNESCO project “Biosphere and Heritage of Lake Chad” (BIOPALT) has taken a multidisciplinary approach to strengthen national capacities in shared natural resource management across five countries (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Niger, Nigeria and Chad). In Nigeria, for instance, UNESCO has conducted training in management of transboundary water resources using a “Potential Conflict to Potential Cooperation (PCCP)” approach, thereby strengthening water diplomacy and collaborative natural resource management for peace and sustainable development. Likewise, in Ivory Coast, UNESCO joined United Nations Development Program (UNDP), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Ministry of Culture last October to roll out a series of dialogue and peacebuilding mechanisms to promote inter-ethnic alliances between local communities, including youth. These efforts were followed up in January as part of World Day for African and Afrodescendant Culture with the launch of an awareness caravan that provides content on the history of ethnic alliances in order to support peacebuilding. To date, 400 young community relays for peace have been trained, who act as peace mediators for the consolidation of inter-ethnic values throughout Ivory Coast.

When the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace in 1999, it became the universal blueprint for the international community to promote a culture of peace and non-violence. This was carried forward across the UN with thesubsequent International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010), the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2010) and the Programme of Action for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence. A culture of peace promotes the values, attitudes, institutions and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies through a range of human rights-based actions, including education, culture and media. The increased recognition of the value of intercultural dialogue resulted in the UN International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013 – 2022), which is led by UNESCO.

Within the UN-wide system, the shift towards sustaining peace and conflict prevention has placed greater emphasis on the role of culture in peacebuilding frameworks. When UN Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, the reciprocal links between peace and sustainable development were brought to the fore in building “peaceful, just and inclusive societies which are free from fear and violence”. Sustaining peace and conflict prevention are articulated in SDG 16 that focuses on achieving peaceful and inclusive societies and to significantly reduce all forms of violence and related deaths everywhere. In the following year, the UN twin resolutions on sustaining peace (A/RES/70/262) and (S/RES/2282)  addressing the root causes of conflict defined prevention as the avoidance of “the outbreak, escalation, recurrence, or continuation of conflict”. Peace is more than the absence of war, it is a dynamic process, that requires tools, resources and political will. This task is explored in UNESCO’s 2018 publication “Long Walk of Peace : towards a culture of prevention” , which compiles the experiences of 32 UN bodies and highlights the dynamic reconfiguration of UN peacebuilding from a post-conflict context to a framework of sustaining peace. Responding to crisis rather than investing in prevention generates untenably high human and financial costs. This therefore gives impetus for policymakers at all levels – from local to global – to focus on preventing violent conflict more effectively through culture.

As a critical tool in conflict prevention, education nurtures values of understanding, tolerance and respect. Multicultural and interfaith approaches to education are fundamental, particularly in situations of growing ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity. In the long-term, such approaches help build inclusive societies that are resilient in the face of crisis. Based on principles of solidarity, dialogue and respect for diversity, UNESCO’s Global Citizenship Education programme empowers learners with the skills, values, attitudes and behaviors to shape more peaceful and sustainable societies. Similarly, UNESCO’s intercultural competencies tool “Story Circles” has been piloted in five countries (Thailand, Costa Rica, Zimbabwe, Austria and Tunisia), where it has demonstrated positive results in the inclusion of migrants and dialogue among indigenous peoples.

Likewise, UNESCO is committed to tackling prejudice, racial discrimination and social injustices that have been left in the aftermath of slavery and have long-lasting repercussions on peoples’ identities, inclusion and opportunities. The Slave Route Project, launched in 1994, examines the foundations and consequences of this painful legacy in different regions of the world. Through research, pedagogical materials, conservation of archives, oral traditions and sites of memory, it aims to contribute to a better understanding of the continued impact of this history. The International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024) also promotes the fulfilment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of people of African descent and a greater knowledge of their contribution to humankind.

intercultural conflict essay

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Intercultural dialogue is increasingly recognized for its role in preventing conflict. Based on a 2017 UNESCO survey amongst Member States, some 71% of countries have policy frameworks in place on intercultural dialogue. However, gaps remain in how intercultural dialogue can be better supported to tackle culture or identity-based grievances that may be reported as triggers of community tension and conflict and - in the worst case - violence and genocide. UNESCO is working with the Institute for Economics and Peace to develop data to better understand the structures, processes and skills needed to render dialogue effective towards these peace-related outcomes.

In addition to supporting intercultural dialogue, the arts can also provide learners with an open environment to exchange experiences and personal worldviews. In times of crisis, the arts can be a significant source of solace and healing to help cope with trauma and loss. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, interactive theatre has been used as part of human rights-based approaches to boost intercultural competences in schools to fight against hate speech and prejudice. The integration of cultural diversity into curricula has also demonstrated benefits in nurturing intercultural understanding and tolerance. UNESCO’s Art Lab for Human Rights and Dialogue highlights the power of art for memory, rehabilitation and reconciliation. Launched in 2018 in collaboration with the National Theatre of Chaillot (Paris, France), the programme works to mainstream arts to strengthen human rights across development and humanitarian programmes. Last December, Art Lab put forward recommendations for boosting the arts for inclusion and justice.

Inherently connected to the understanding of community, intangible cultural heritage is a vehicle that enables social cohesion, inclusion and a sense of belonging. It helps intergenerational and inter-ethnic communication, fosters respect for the linkage between intangible and material values, and promotes a balanced approach to the use of renewable natural resources, thus strengthening sustainable development. Intangible cultural heritage can also be a basis for resilience, reconciliation and peace. For example, in the village of Conejo in Colombia’s Guajira Department, a UNESCO-funded project led by the Fundación Universidad del Norte from 2018 to 2020 made a difference to the lives of former combatants through their reintegration into civil life and the revitalization of the social fabric, while building on living heritage as a tool for dialogue and reconciliation in this territory affected by the armed conflict. Social agreements for coexistence were established between the two communities (former combatants and the inhabitants of Conejo), which resulted in joint practices, such as a community-based entrepreneurship initiative on rural tourism, and the creation of a community museum.

Indigenous knowledge, in particular, plays a crucial role in establishing dialogue to address conflict and ensure climate and food security. The Los Pinos Declaration [Chapoltepek] – Making a Decade of Action for Indigenous Languages (2022-2032) was the outcome of the high-level closing event of the International Year of indigenous Languages (IYIL2019) held last February in Mexico. The Declaration underscores the value of indigenous languages in peacebuilding processes and in creating better futures for peace, development, justice and reconciliation. UNESCO has been working in conjunction with indigenous pastoralists in Africa to promote peace-building in the context of climate stress and adaptation in the Sahel and East Africa, under the umbrella of the Organization’s Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (LINKS) programme. Pastoralists have emphasized that resource conflicts can be eased through understanding indigenous knowledge of weather and climate. Through dialogue with scientists, policy-makers and neighbouring communities there is greater awareness of climate sensitive adaptation.Building on a process that began in 2016, the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples stresses the importance of taking a human rights-based approach to the repatriation of indigenous peoples’ ceremonial objects, human remains and cultural heritage, in recognition of their rights to self-determination, culture, property, spirituality, religion, language and traditional knowledge.

intercultural conflict essay

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Moving forward with a rights-based compass

In a world marked by fracture and tensions, both within and between countries, culture should be harnessed as a crucial component of conflict prevention, building on its “soft power” to address their root causes. At the outset, this entails addressing the appropriation of the memory of the past, and the lingering impacts of colonialism and the Slave Route. Teaching about culture and heritage is also crucial to counter stereotypes and help prevent violent extremism. Moreover, inclusion must remain the touchstone of actions to ensure the participation of all segments of society, including through intergenerational dialogue.

Culture – with its unifying quality and capacity to bring people together – should be integral to peacebuilding efforts. This perspective supports the UN Secretary-General’s reform of the UN system and peacebuilding architecture and the focus shift to conflict prevention and sustaining peace. It also echoes the vision and rationale of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The benefits of culture to conflict prevention and resolution processes can be seen in practices ranging from the arts, education and media, to mediation and traditional conflict resolution mechanisms. This approach should be more firmly enshrined in global policy discussions on culture, such as the upcoming Ministerial Conference on Culture to be held under the Italian Presidency of the G20 in July 2021, which is slated to raise this issue.

When conflicts do happen, culture also contributes to easing tensions and supporting reconciliation and trust. As seen in numerous cases, from the Mostar Bridge in Bosnia Herzegovina to Timbuktu in Mali, or currently in Mosul in Iraq, culture represents a unifying force. In doing so, culture-based actions lay down the groundwork to strengthen national unity and reconstruction, and support inclusive, locally-led actions where communities can shape their future societies. For that reason, culture is increasingly taken into account within cultural diplomacy and intercultural dialogue efforts deployed at national, regional or interregional levels, in particular by Member States or regional intergovernmental organizations, both in terms of regional integration and external action, thus signaling that the issue is gaining ground.

intercultural conflict essay

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Acknowledging and ensuring the respect of cultural diversity must be central to these peacebuilding efforts. Against a backdrop of broader global trends – such as mobility, urbanization, digitalization and trade flows – cultural diversity should not be viewed as a threat or instrumentalized for divisive purposes. Rather it should be understood and promoted as an asset and as an element of cohesion and stability, and defended as such by countries. Leading up to the 20-year anniversary of the adoption of the 2001 UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity its message still resonates : “respect for the diversity of cultures, tolerance, dialogue and cooperation, in a climate of mutual trust and understanding are among the best guarantees of international peace and security”. In this regard, States have a key role to play in promoting cultural diversity, as guarantors of fundamental rights but also from an educational standpoint.

As a critical condition for cultural diversity to flourish, the protection of cultural rights is central to sustaining peaceful and inclusive societies. The right of access to, participation in and enjoyment of culture is fundamental to peacebuilding efforts. The disturbing escalation of violence ranging from attacks on cultural heritage and cultural minorities to artists and cultural professionals, increasingly call to attention the need to develop and uphold cultural rights as a condition for peace, stability and security. The concepts and, to some extent, the legal provisions provided by the Culture Conventions across different cultural domains can support Member States’ efforts in strengthening national cultural policy frameworks with a view to better protecting cultural rights.

Looking forward, building on the progress made in upholding individual rights, the subject of collective rights – which has garnered increased attention – also requires further policy engagement. The magnitude and urgency of the climate crisis compels a rethinking of policy action based on a stronger recognition of the relationship between people and their environment, and the intrinsic link between cultural and biological diversity. This is not only critical for shaping more sustainable forms of development, but also peace and social cohesion. Protecting cultural rights, including for indigenous peoples, will be critical in this context to foster climate adaptation and mitigation. Expanding policy discussions on cultural rights, including individual and collective rights, and strengthening related policy and legislation options, will therefore be an important area of policy discussion in the coming years and a critical foundation for harnessing the power of culture for peacebuilding and stability.

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Intercultural conflict.

  • Min-Sun Kim Min-Sun Kim Department of Communicology, University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228613.013.24
  • Published online: 26 October 2016

Conflict, as part of interpersonal interactions, occurs in specific cultural settings. Viewing conflict as cultural behavior helps explain why disputes over seemingly similar issues can be handled so dissimilarly in different cultures. There have been numerous cross-cultural comparison studies of different conflict management strategies, most of them utilizing a “national culture” approach. The findings reported in the cross-cultural conflict literature point to a picture that collectivists value harmonious interpersonal relationships with others, preferring indirect or avoiding styles of dealing with conflict and showing concern for face-saving. Understanding the range of behavior choices and strategies available to manage conflict as well as differences in preferred styles adds considerably to people’s skills as effective communicators.

  • cultural conflict
  • face negotiation theory
  • managerial grid
  • cross-cultural conflict
  • intercultural miscommunication
  • conflict management

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Four Intercultural Conflict Styles

  • Introduction

The essence of Dual Concern Model

Situations with different intercultural conflict styles.

  • “Code Words” about Different Styles

The current paper aims at discussing the peculiarities of the Intercultural Conflict Style model and inventory offered by Hammer in Moodian’s book. There are four main styles defined by the author: discussion, accommodation, engagement, and dynamic. Each style is a good chance to explain how conflict is developed, what the reasons for such conflict, and what the methods of its solution are. People need to have a good guide and a list of special code words to realize that any conflict is only a period of human weakness that may be improved with time. Emotions and communication are the two important factors of every conflict that cannot be neglected. Therefore, Hammer and many other researchers focus on these concerns to explain how emotions and communication may be combined and lead to sufficient results in developing the relations of different types with the representatives of different cultures.

Intercultural Conflict Styles: Essay Introduction

Chapter 17 in Moodian’s book discusses the ways of how different intercultural conflicts have and may be solved on the basis of a properly developed Intercultural Conflict Style (ICS) model and inventory. Its author, Hammer (2009), admits that conflict is one of the forms of “social interaction in which substantive disagreements arise between two or more individuals” (p. 222). He evaluates conflict and its possible methods of solution from a variety of perspectives and introduces a dual concern model considering its possible forms and explanations. Each conflict style has its own peculiarities and grounds, and people have to know and understand all of them to be ready to find the most successful and effective way out of a conflict (Healey, 2012). The current paper aims at analyzing the dual concern model offered by Hammer, discussing the situations with different intercultural conflict styles (discussion, engagement, accommodation, and dynamics), and introducing a list of codewords applicable to all styles mentioned.

In the chapter, the author introduces two types of dual concern model by means of which it is possible to analyze and study conflicts as they are. In the beginning, the work of Pruitt and Carnevale is mentioned with their attempt to introduce such concerns like problem-solving (characterized by high concerns for personal and others’ goals), contending (demonstrates a high concern for personal goals and a low concern for others’ goals), yielding (paying more attention to the goals of the others then to the personal goals), and avoiding (no attention is paid either to own goals or to others’ goals) as the main conflict styles.

However, this model is free from an important culturally generalized concern, and therefore, Hammer underlines the importance of a new dual model within the frames of which it is possible to consider various intercultural conflict styles. The new model consists of the following types: discussion (direct communication and restraint of emotions are inherent), engagement (direct communication, evaluation, and emotions are used), accommodation (indirect methods and restrained emotions are characterized), and, finally, dynamic (emotional intense and indirect messages are observed).

There are situations that help to comprehend the true essence of each type of conflict and choose the most appropriate solution regarding the demands and expectations of the conflicting parties. For example, Croucher’s research (2011) introduces the situation when people of different religions (Christian and Muslim) are not able to come to one conclusion as the Muslims like to find compromises (problem-solving or even yielding sometimes that leads to discussions and further accommodation), and the Christians like to dominate in all spheres (contending mode that is characterized by a dynamic style of conflict). Regarding the ICS model, it is possible to offer the parties direct communication and even the attraction of a third party to divide the spheres of influence and set the rules that have to be followed.

The conflict between young male Arabs and Americans offered by Khakimova, Zang, and Hall (2012) introduces two other forms of the conflict based on cultural diversity. The Arabs are the nation with its own rules and traditions that other countries are not allowed to touch. Therefore, it seems to be a contending or even avoiding model that leads to the engagement style of conflict and the possibility to be solved creating the boundaries and providing explanations. The American young men do not like to care too much about their cultural identities. What they do care about is their personal comfort and satisfaction of their needs. This is why they serve as the best example of the group that likes to avoid misunderstandings and accommodate or be engaged with the conditions set. The conflict between such groups is of the emotional expression style and can be solved by means of a third party or a direct personal emotionally-colored communication (Khakimova et al., 2012).

“ Code Words” about Different Styles

Regarding the situations and explanations given to different intercultural conflict-resolution styles, the following codewords may be offered to each of them:

  • Discussion conflict style: “Say what you mean, and mean what you say” (Hammer, 2009, p. 226), Mr. Confidence, give me an argument, get ready to discuss it, etc.
  • Engagement conflict style: “What is nearest the mouth is nearest the heart” (Hammer, 2009, p. 226), speak emotionally, put everything on the table, etc.
  • Accommodation conflict style: “Hear one and understand 10” (Hammer, 2009, 226), listen and remember, mask to control, hide the truth.
  • Dynamic conflict style: egoist, offender, dangerously explosive, hyperbolic, etc.

Intercultural Conflict Styles: Essay Summary

In general, each conflict based on cultural diversity and the inability to find a required consensus has its own peculiarities and explanations. It is wrong to believe that even the most emotionally-colored conflicts cannot be solved with time. People are smart indeed to use their best skills and choose the most efficient way out. The ICS model and inventory offered by Hammer is a unique chance to study conflicts from a variety of perspectives and consider the role of emotions and communication in the process.

Croucher, S. (2011). Muslim and Christian conflict styles in Western Europe”. International Journal of Conflict Management, 22 (1), 60-74.

Hammer, M. (2009). Solving problems and resolving conflict using the intercultural conflict style model and inventory. In M.A. Moodian (Eds.), Contemporary leadership and intercultural competence: Exploring the cross-cultural dynamics within organizations (pp. 219-232). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Healey, J.F. (2012). Diversity and society: Race, ethnicity, and gender. Thousand Oaks, C: Sage Publications.

Khakimova, L., Zang, Y.B., & Hall, J.A. (2012). Conflict management styles: The role of ethnic identity and self-construal among young male Arabs and Americans. Journal of Intercultural Communication Research, 41 (1), 37-57.

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By Michelle LeBaron

July 2003  

Culture is an essential part of conflict and conflict resolution. Cultures are like underground rivers that run through our lives and relationships, giving us messages that shape our perceptions, attributions, judgments, and ideas of self and other. Though cultures are powerful, they are often unconscious, influencing conflict and attempts to resolve conflict in imperceptible ways.

Cultures are more than language, dress, and food customs. Cultural groups may share race, ethnicity, or nationality, but they also arise from cleavages of generation, socioeconomic class, sexual orientation, ability and disability, political and religious affiliation, language, and gender -- to name only a few.

Two things are essential to remember about cultures: they are always changing, and they relate to the symbolic dimension of life. The symbolic dimension is the place where we are constantly making meaning and enacting our identities. Cultural messages from the groups we belong to give us information about what is meaningful or important, and who we are in the world and in relation to others -- our identities.

Cultural messages, simply, are what everyone in a group knows that outsiders do not know. They are the water fish swim in, unaware of its effect on their vision. They are a series of lenses that shape what we see and don't see, how we perceive and interpret, and where we draw boundaries. In shaping our values, cultures contain starting points and currencies[1]. Starting points are those places it is natural to begin, whether with individual or group concerns, with the big picture or particularities. Currencies are those things we care about that influence and shape our interactions with others.

How Cultures Work

Though largely below the surface, cultures are a shifting, dynamic set of starting points that orient us in particular ways and away from other directions. Each of us belongs to multiple cultures that give us messages about what is normal, appropriate, and expected. When others do not meet our expectations, it is often a cue that our cultural expectations are different. We may mistake differences between others and us for evidence of bad faith or lack of common sense on the part of others, not realizing that common sense is also cultural. What is common to one group may seem strange, counterintuitive, or wrong to another.

Cultural messages shape our understandings of relationships, and of how to deal with the conflict and harmony that are always present whenever two or more people come together. Writing about or working across cultures is complicated, but not impossible. Here are some complications in working with cultural dimensions of conflict, and the implications that flow from them:

Culture is multi-layered -- what you see on the surface may mask differences below the surface.

Therefore, cultural generalizations are not the whole story, and there is no substitute for building relationships and sharing experiences, coming to know others more deeply over time.

Culture is constantly in flux -- as conditions change, cultural groups adapt in dynamic and sometimes unpredictable ways.

Therefore, no comprehensive description can ever be formulated about a particular group. Any attempt to understand a group must take the dimensions of time, context, and individual differences into account.

Culture is elastic -- knowing the cultural norms of a given group does not predict the behavior of a member of that group, who may not conform to norms for individual or contextual reasons.

Therefore, taxonomies (e.g. "Italians think this way," or "Buddhists prefer that") have limited use, and can lead to error if not checked with experience.

Culture is largely below the surface, influencing identities and meaning-making, or who we believe ourselves to be and what we care about -- it is not easy to access these symbolic levels since they are largely outside our awareness.

Therefore, it is important to use many ways of learning about the cultural dimensions of those involved in a conflict, especially indirect ways, including stories, metaphors, and rituals.

Cultural influences and identities become important depending on context. When an aspect of cultural identity is threatened or misunderstood, it may become relatively more important than other cultural identities and this fixed, narrow identity may become the focus of stereotyping , negative projection, and conflict. This is a very common situation in intractable conflicts.

Therefore, it is useful for people in conflict to have interactive experiences that help them see each other as broadly as possible, experiences that foster the recognition of shared identities as well as those that are different.

Since culture is so closely related to our identities (who we think we are), and the ways we make meaning (what is important to us and how), it is always a factor in conflict. Cultural awareness leads us to apply the Platinum Rule in place of the Golden Rule. Rather than the maxim "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," the Platinum Rule advises: "Do unto others as they would have you do unto them."

Culture and Conflict: Connections

Cultures are embedded in every conflict because conflicts arise in human relationships. Cultures affect the ways we name, frame, blame, and attempt to tame conflicts. Whether a conflict exists at all is a cultural question. In an interview conducted in Canada, an elderly Chinese man indicated he had experienced no conflict at all for the previous 40 years.[2] Among the possible reasons for his denial was a cultural preference to see the world through lenses of harmony rather than conflict, as encouraged by his Confucian upbringing. Labeling some of our interactions as conflicts and analyzing them into smaller component parts is a distinctly Western approach that may obscure other aspects of relationships.

Culture is always a factor in conflict, whether it plays a central role or influences it subtly and gently. For any conflict that touches us where it matters, where we make meaning and hold our identities, there is always a cultural component. Intractable conflicts like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the India-Pakistan conflict over Kashmir are not just about territorial, boundary, and sovereignty issues -- they are also about acknowledgement, representation, and legitimization of different identities and ways of living, being, and making meaning.

Conflicts between teenagers and parents are shaped by generational culture, and conflicts between spouses or partners are influenced by gender culture. In organizations, conflicts arising from different disciplinary cultures escalate tensions between co-workers, creating strained or inaccurate communication and stressed relationships. Culture permeates conflict no matter what -- sometimes pushing forth with intensity, other times quietly snaking along, hardly announcing its presence until surprised people nearly stumble on it.

Culture is inextricable from conflict, though it does not cause it. When differences surface in families, organizations, or communities, culture is always present, shaping perceptions, attitudes, behaviors, and outcomes.

When the cultural groups we belong to are a large majority in our community or nation, we are less likely to be aware of the content of the messages they send us. Cultures shared by dominant groups often seem to be "natural," "normal" -- "the way things are done." We only notice the effect of cultures that are different from our own, attending to behaviors that we label exotic or strange.

Though culture is intertwined with conflict, some approaches to conflict resolution minimize cultural issues and influences. Since culture is like an iceberg -- largely submerged -- it is important to include it in our analyses and interventions. Icebergs unacknowledged can be dangerous, and it is impossible to make choices about them if we don't know their size or place. Acknowledging culture and bringing cultural fluency to conflicts can help all kinds of people make more intentional, adaptive choices.

Culture and Conflict: How to Respond

Given culture's important role in conflicts, what should be done to keep it in mind and include it in response plans? Cultures may act like temperamental children: complicated, elusive, and difficult to predict. Unless we develop comfort with culture as an integral part of conflict, we may find ourselves tangled in its net of complexity, limited by our own cultural lenses. Cultural fluency is a key tool for disentangling and managing multilayered, cultural conflicts.

Cultural fluency means familiarity with cultures: their natures, how they work, and ways they intertwine with our relationships in times of conflict and harmony. Cultural fluency means awareness of several dimensions of culture, including

  • Communication,
  • Ways of naming, framing, and taming conflict,
  • Approaches to meaning making,
  • Identities and roles.

Each of these is described in more detail below.

Communication refers to different starting points about how to relate to and with others. There are many variations on these starting points, and they are outlined in detail in the topic Communication, Culture, and Conflict . Some of the major variations relate to the division between high- and low-context communications, a classification devised by Edward T. Hall.[3]

In high-context communication, most of a message is conveyed by the context surrounding it, rather than being named explicitly in words. The physical setting, the way things are said, and shared understandings are relied upon to give communication meaning. Interactions feature formalized and stylized rituals, telegraphing ideas without spelling them out. Nonverbal cues and signals are essential to comprehension of the message. The context is trusted to communicate in the absence of verbal expressions, or sometimes in addition to them. High-context communication may help save face because it is less direct than low-context communication, but it may increase the possibilities of miscommunication because much of the intended message is unstated.

Low-context communication emphasizes directness rather than relying on the context to communicate. From this starting point, verbal communication is specific and literal, and less is conveyed in implied, indirect signals. Low-context communicators tend to "say what they mean and mean what they say." Low-context communication may help prevent misunderstandings , but it can also escalate conflict because it is more confrontational than high-context communication.

As people communicate, they move along a continuum between high- and low-context. Depending on the kind of relationship, the context, and the purpose of communication, they may be more or less explicit and direct. In close relationships, communication shorthand is often used, which makes communication opaque to outsiders but perfectly clear to the parties. With strangers, the same people may choose low-context communication.

Low- and high-context communication refers not only to individual communication strategies, but may be used to understand cultural groups. Generally, Western cultures tend to gravitate toward low-context starting points, while Eastern and Southern cultures tend to high-context communication. Within these huge categories, there are important differences and many variations. Where high-context communication tends to be featured, it is useful to pay specific attention to nonverbal cues and the behavior of others who may know more of the unstated rules governing the communication. Where low-context communication is the norm, directness is likely to be expected in return.

There are many other ways that communication varies across cultures. High- and low-context communication and several other dimensions are explored in Communication, Culture, and Conflict .

Ways of naming, framing, and taming conflict vary across cultural boundaries. As the example of the elderly Chinese interviewee illustrates, not everyone agrees on what constitutes a conflict. For those accustomed to subdued, calm discussion, an emotional exchange among family members may seem a threatening conflict. The family members themselves may look at their exchange as a normal and desirable airing of differing views. Intractable conflicts are also subject to different interpretations. Is an event a skirmish, a provocation, an escalation, or a mere trifle, hardly worth noticing? The answer depends on perspective, context, and how identity relates to the situation.

Just as there is no consensus across cultures or situations on what constitutes a conflict or how events in the interaction should be framed, so there are many different ways of thinking about how to tame it. Should those involved meet face to face, sharing their perspectives and stories with or without the help of an outside mediator? Or should a trusted friend talk with each of those involved and try to help smooth the waters? Should a third party be known to the parties or a stranger to those involved?

John Paul Lederach, in his book Preparing for Peace: Conflict Transformation Across Cultures, identifies two third-party roles that exist in U.S. and Somali settings, respectively -- the formal mediator and the traditional elder.[4] The formal mediator is generally not known to those involved, and he or she tries to act without favoritism or investment in any particular outcome. Traditional elders are revered for their local knowledge and relationships, and are relied upon for direction and advice, as well as for their skills in helping parties communicate with each other. The roles of insider partial (someone known to the parties who is familiar with the history of the situation and the webs of relationships) and outsider neutral (someone unknown to the parties who has no stake in the outcome or continuing relationship with the parties) appear in a range of cultural contexts. Generally, insider partials tend to be preferred in traditional, high-context settings, while outside neutrals are more common in low-context settings.

These are just some of the ways that taming conflict varies across cultures. Third parties may use different strategies with quite different goals, depending on their cultural sense of what is needed. In multicultural contexts, parties' expectations of how conflict should be addressed may vary, further escalating an existing conflict.

Approaches to meaning-making also vary across cultures. Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars suggest that people have a range of starting points for making sense of their lives, including:

  • universalist (favoring rules, laws, and generalizations) and particularist (favoring exceptions, relations, and contextual evaluation)
  • specificity (preferring explicit definitions, breaking down wholes into component parts, and measurable results) and diffuseness (focusing on patterns, the big picture, and process over outcome)
  • inner direction (sees virtue in individuals who strive to realize their conscious purpose) and outer direction (where virtue is outside each of us in natural rhythms, nature, beauty, and relationships)
  • synchronous time (cyclical and spiraling) and sequential time (linear and unidirectional).[5]

When we don't understand that others may have quite different starting points, conflict is more likely to occur and to escalate. Even though the starting points themselves are neutral, negative motives are easily attributed to someone who begins from a different end of the continuum.[6]

For example, when First Nations people sit down with government representatives to negotiate land claims in Canada or Australia, different ideas of time may make it difficult to establish rapport and make progress. First Nations people tend to see time as stretching forward and back, binding them in relationship with seven generations in both directions. Their actions and choices in the present are thus relevant to history and to their progeny. Government negotiators acculturated to Western European ideas of time may find the telling of historical tales and the consideration of projections generations into the future tedious and irrelevant unless they understand the variations in the way time is understood by First Nations people.

Of course, this example draws on generalizations that may or may not apply in a particular situation. There are many different Aboriginal peoples in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and elsewhere. Each has a distinct culture, and these cultures have different relationships to time, different ideas about negotiation, and unique identities. Government negotiators may also have a range of ethno cultural identities, and may not fit the stereotype of the woman or man in a hurry, with a measured, pressured orientation toward time.

Examples can also be drawn from the other three dimensions identified by Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars. When an intractable conflict has been ongoing for years or even generations, should there be recourse to international standards and interveners, or local rules and practices? Those favoring a universalist starting point are more likely to prefer international intervention and the setting of international standards. Particularlists will be more comfortable with a tailor-made, home-grown approach than with the imposition of general rules that may or may not fit their needs and context.

Specificity and diffuseness also lead to conflict and conflict escalation in many instances. People, who speak in specifics, looking for practical solutions to challenges that can be implemented and measured, may find those who focus on process, feelings, and the big picture obstructionist and frustrating. On the other hand, those whose starting points are diffuse are more apt to catch the flaw in the sum that is not easy to detect by looking at the component parts, and to see the context into which specific ideas must fit.

Inner-directed people tend to feel confident that they can affect change, believing that they are "the masters of their fate, the captains of their souls."[7] They focus more on product than process. Imagine their frustration when faced with outer-directed people, whose attention goes to nurturing relationships, living in harmony with nature, going with the flow, and paying attention to processes rather than products. As with each of the above sets of starting points, neither is right or wrong; they are simply different. A focus on process is helpful, but not if it completely fails to ignore outcomes. A focus on outcomes is useful, but it is also important to monitor the tone and direction of the process. Cultural fluency means being aware of different sets of starting points, and having a way to speak in both dialects, helping translate between them when they are making conflict worse.

These continua are not absolute, nor do they explain human relations broadly. They are clues to what might be happening when people are in conflict over long periods of time. We are meaning-making creatures, telling stories and creating understandings that preserve our sense of self and relate to our purpose. As we come to realize this, we can look into the process of meaning making for those in a conflict and find ways to help them make their meaning-making processes and conclusions more apparent to each other.

This can be done by storytelling and by the creation of shared stories, stories that are co-constructed to make room for multiple points of view within them. Often, people in conflict tell stories that sound as though both cannot be true. Narrative conflict-resolution approaches help them leave their concern with truth and being right on the sideline for a time, turning their attention instead to stories in which they can both see themselves.

Another way to explore meaning making is through metaphors. Metaphors are compact, tightly packaged word pictures that convey a great deal of information in shorthand form. For example, in exploring how a conflict began, one side may talk about its origins being buried in the mists of time before there were boundaries and roads and written laws. The other may see it as the offspring of a vexatious lawsuit begun in 1946. Neither is wrong -- the issue may well have deep roots, and the lawsuit was surely a part of the evolution of the conflict. As the two sides talk about their metaphors, the more diffuse starting point wrapped up in the mists of time meets the more specific one, attached to a particular legal action. As the two talk, they deepen their understanding of each other in context, and learn more about their respective roles and identities.

Identities and roles refer to conceptions of the self. Am I an individual unit, autonomous, a free agent, ultimately responsible for myself? Or am I first and foremost a member of a group, weighing choices and actions by how the group will perceive them and be affected by them? Those who see themselves as separate individuals likely come from societies anthropologists call individualist. Those for whom group allegiance is primary usually come from settings anthropologists call collectivist, or communitarian.

In collectivist settings, the following values tend to be privileged:

  • cooperation
  • filial piety (respect for and deference toward elders)
  • participation in shared progress
  • reputation of the group
  • interdependence

In individualist settings, the following values tend to be privileged:

  • competition
  • independence
  • individual achievement
  • personal growth and fulfillment
  • self-reliance

When individualist and communitarian starting points influence those on either side of a conflict, escalation may result. Individualists may see no problem with "no holds barred" confrontation, while communitarian counterparts shrink from bringing dishonor or face-loss to their group by behaving in unseemly ways. Individualists may expect to make agreements with communitarians, and may feel betrayed when the latter indicate that they have to take their understandings back to a larger public or group before they can come to closure. In the end, one should remember that, as with other patterns described, most people are not purely individualist or communitarian. Rather, people tend to have individualist or communitarian starting points, depending on one's upbringing, experience, and the context of the situation.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to conflict resolution, since culture is always a factor. Cultural fluency is therefore a core competency for those who intervene in conflicts or simply want to function more effectively in their own lives and situations. Cultural fluency involves recognizing and acting respectfully from the knowledge that communication, ways of naming, framing, and taming conflict, approaches to meaning-making, and identities and roles vary across cultures.

[1] See also the essays on Cultural and Worldview Frames and Communication Tools for Understanding Cultural Differences .

[2] LeBaron, Michelle and Bruce Grundison. 1993. Conflict and Culture: Research in Five Communities in British Columbia, Canada . Victoria, British Columbia: University of Victoria Institute for Dispute Resolution.

[3] Hall, Edward T. 1976. Beyond Culture . Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

[4] Lederach, John Paul. 1995. Preparing for Peace. Conflict Transformation Across Cultures . Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, pp. 94.

[5] Hampden-Turner, Charles and Fons Trompenaars. 2000. Building Cross Cultural Competence. How to Create Wealth from Conflicting Values. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

[6] There is also the set of essays on framing which is closely related to the idea of meaning making.

[7] Ibid., 244.

Use the following to cite this article: LeBaron, Michelle. "Culture and Conflict." Beyond Intractability . Eds. Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess. Conflict Information Consortium, University of Colorado, Boulder. Posted: July 2003 < http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/culture-conflict >.

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Intercultural Communication: Paul Haggis’ “Crash” Essay (Movie Review)

This research paper looks at the movie Crash of the director Paul Haggis. The film was released in 2004 and received three Academy Awards in 2005. This research draws upon mostly primary sources including articles, published reviews, and the book about intercultural communication. The aim of this paper is to highlight and describe the most important issues raised in the movie in accordance with the book. The results show that the film covers and demonstrates the social contradictions of identified themes.

“Moving at the speed of life, we are bound to collide with each other” ( Crash , n.d, para. 2). This statement is the tagline of the movie called Crash. It reflects the real world where a lot of people are living nowadays, and where they bump into each other every day in streets, parks, and shops. Some of these meetings are fleeting and not significant, while others give a variety of emotions and new acquaintances. Thus, such substantial events have a considerable impact on the people’s future. In Crash , the director Paul Haggis is focused on demonstrating several short stories, united in a few car accidents, shootings, and robberies with the focus on the theme of the place of a human in the modern world and society.

The movie is made very professionally. Despite a large number of characters and storylines, the plot develops gradually and quite logically. It allows the audience to see the interconnected networks of social relationships that draw the characters together.

The film begins with the policemen who find the corpse of a black man somewhere outside the city. Further, events go back a day ago, and the viewer watches short episodes from the life of different people living in this city. These individuals and events, happening to them, are somehow related to each other and closely intertwined.

There are four main storylines. Rick Cabot (Brendan Fraser) is the District Attorney of Los Angeles, a big boss. Nevertheless, two African-American guys, threatening him with a gun, take his car. The robbery of the District Attorney is a good story for the news media, but Rick cannot afford such a scandal because the voices of black voters are very crucial to him. The African-American policeman Graham (Don Cheadle) knows about the situation of the white policeman, but he cannot help him. He has to keep silent because prosecutors threaten his brother, who got into a bad company. The police officer John Ryan (Matt Dillon) scoffs at an African-American couple in front of his young teammate Hansen (Ryan Phillippe). The Iranian gets a weapon to defend his small shop, the only thing he has. Ironically, this gun will be pointed at the same poor immigrant. Some storylines of Crash come to their logical conclusion, the other part remains unfinished (there is a clear sense in it), but at the final culmination all the same happens – the killing of a black man. This murder connects most of the characters.

Some people say that the main subject of the movie Crash is political correctness, and due to it, the film won the Academy Award for the best picture in 2005. However, this movie is not limited by political correctness issue. The plot of Crash is focused on the numerous difficulties of coexistence in a huge multinational state. The director accentuates the idea of understanding. According to Neuliep (2015), people from different nations think differently. Indeed, sometimes it is very tough for a human of one culture to accept some habits and traditions of the completely different world because people think through categories. People use categories in the process of thinking to reduce uncertainty (Neulip, 2015). It is necessary for a human to use categories to make an inference and increase the accuracy of understanding. What is more, categorization is an essential part of intercultural communication because when people meet something or someone unfamiliar, the first thing they do is trying to compare the unfamiliar subject with the familiar one. Thus, culture is connected with the theory of uncertainty. The problem of misconception is the central theme of Crash, and Paul Haggis shows the tragic consequences of such misunderstanding.

Other issues, which are raised in the movie, are political correctness and ethnocentrism, which are directly related to intercultural communication. The movie shows how people from different cultures are under pressure, and how others oppress them. Some characters in Crash tend to offend and disadvantage members of a particular group. The brightest example is attitudes and actions towards African-American individuals. Although the United States of America is a multinational country that gathers immigrants who come to the United States to get a better life, there is a decrease in tolerance and increase in distrust in American society nowadays. The majority of people do not like foreigners, and Paul Haggis shows it in his movie. The problems of intolerance and ethnocentrism are the most burning nowadays. However, governments and different media pay a lot of attention to them. For example, the video from Globe Today (2016) demonstrates how judgmental the world is today. Tolerance is one of the most important human characteristics.

Except for political correctness, uncertainty, and ethnocentrism, one more theory is used in the movie. This theory is the theory of stereotype. Though this term is a part of categorization to some extent, it is necessary to highlight. On first glance, some characters can seem negative and primitive to the viewer. For instance, on the one hand, the Iranian is a very unfavorable character, but on the other hand, he is just an unfortunate man. The locksmith with tattoos, who looks like a truly criminal, is a quiet and peaceful family man, adoring his daughter. The young police officer, who was extremely outraged by the actions of his racist partner, saves a black TV producer from certain death. However, on the same day, he kills an African-American boy for no apparent reason. These actions are examples of controversial human nature. It is important to emphasize that there is no clear concept of good and evil in the movie. The characters are not divided into two groups: innocent and guilty people, or heroes and villains. All people are ordinary with their advantages and disadvantages, strengths and weaknesses. Their behavior is a reaction to the outer world, and their actions depend on different circumstances.

To sum up, despite the annoying performance of some artists, Crash is a deep film. The film received mostly positive reviews from such influential media sources as Washington Post, Rolling Stone, USA Today, Empire, and others. The movie Crash is completely independent work, and Paul Haggis, who is better known as a screenwriter and whose screenplay for “Million Dollar Baby” led to Academy Awards, fulfills different tasks as a director, producer, and screenwriter at the same time. The plot of Crash is vital and urgent because it reflects today’s problems. The movie demonstrates social contradictions, and it contains hurt, cruelty, and anger. Haggis emphasizes that every very person is unpredictable, and no one can know what will happen tomorrow. The movie shows that there is not any clear line between good and evil. Not everything that is done by rules and laws is good, and not all people who defy the laws are criminals. However, there is always hope and faith. It can be unseen, but kindness exists within people, even behind the destructive behavior.

Crash . (n.d.). Film info. Web.

Globe Today. (2016). I am not black, you are not white. Web.

Neuliep, J. W. (2014). Intercultural communication: A contextual approach. Sage Publication.

  • "Crash" by Paul Haggis: Sociological Concepts
  • Perpetuating Racism in “Crash” by Paul Haggis
  • "Crash" the Film by Paul Haggis
  • “Boardwalk Empire” by Terence Winter
  • "Children of Heaven” by Majid Majidi
  • Tupac: Resurrection by Lauren Lazin
  • “Saving Private Ryan” by Steven Spielberg
  • “Eve’s Bayou” by Kasi Lemmons
  • Chicago (A-D)
  • Chicago (N-B)

IvyPanda. (2022, January 17). Intercultural Communication: Paul Haggis' "Crash". https://ivypanda.com/essays/paul-haggis-crash-movie-analysis/

"Intercultural Communication: Paul Haggis' "Crash"." IvyPanda , 17 Jan. 2022, ivypanda.com/essays/paul-haggis-crash-movie-analysis/.

IvyPanda . (2022) 'Intercultural Communication: Paul Haggis' "Crash"'. 17 January.

IvyPanda . 2022. "Intercultural Communication: Paul Haggis' "Crash"." January 17, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/paul-haggis-crash-movie-analysis/.

1. IvyPanda . "Intercultural Communication: Paul Haggis' "Crash"." January 17, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/paul-haggis-crash-movie-analysis/.

Bibliography

IvyPanda . "Intercultural Communication: Paul Haggis' "Crash"." January 17, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/paul-haggis-crash-movie-analysis/.

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    Conflict is a part of all human relationships (Canary, 2003). Almost any issue can spark conflict— money, time, religion, politics, culture —and almost anyone can get into a conflict. Conflicts are happening all around the world at the personal, societal, political, and international levels. Conflict is not simple and it's not just a ...

  5. Cutting Edge

    The increased recognition of the value of intercultural dialogue resulted in the UN International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013 - 2022), which is led by UNESCO. Within the UN-wide system, the shift towards sustaining peace and conflict prevention has placed greater emphasis on the role of culture in peacebuilding frameworks.

  6. Intercultural Conflict

    Summary. Conflict, as part of interpersonal interactions, occurs in specific cultural settings. Viewing conflict as cultural behavior helps explain why disputes over seemingly similar issues can be handled so dissimilarly in different cultures. There have been numerous cross-cultural comparison studies of different conflict management ...

  7. Intercultural Conflict from a Multilevel Perspective: Trends

    The purpose of this essay is to review and synthesize trends in research on intercultural conflict in four contexts: interpersonal, organizational, community, and international. The key trends in each context are identified and then an integrative approach for the contexts, the social ecological framework, is introduced.

  8. A Systematic Review of Studies on Interculturalism and Intercultural

    An array of fields of research has evolved over the last few decades attempting to account for and analyse intercultural issues. Among these are intercultural education, intercultural communication, intercultural relations, intercultural competence, intercultural understanding, intercultural conflict, cultural studies and cosmopolitanism.

  9. Facework competence in intercultural conflict: an updated face

    Theobjective of this essay is three-fold: first, to review and provide an update on face-negotiation theory (Ting-Toomey 1988); second, to introduce a facework competence model for intercultural conflict training; and third, to discuss several major training and research issues in using the face-negotiation theory and the facework competence model.

  10. Four Intercultural Conflict Styles: Free Essay Example

    Intercultural Conflict Styles: Essay Introduction. Chapter 17 in Moodian's book discusses the ways of how different intercultural conflicts have and may be solved on the basis of a properly developed Intercultural Conflict Style (ICS) model and inventory. Its author, Hammer (2009), admits that conflict is one of the forms of "social ...

  11. (PDF) INTERCULTURAL MISUNDERSTANDINGS: CAUSES AND SOLUTIONS

    Abstract. Intercultural misunderstandings involve a number of complex causes which can easily. escalate into conflicts. Since conflicts are also complex, it is not easy to find solutions beca use ...

  12. Intercultural communication: Where we've been, where we're going

    Intercultural communication and identity. There are two ways to approach identity in intercultural communication: the traditional and the modern (Banks & Banks, Citation 1995).The traditional paradigm posits communication is an internal source of conflict and identity stress during which the communicator tries to reduce fear and anxiety (Hall, Citation 1992).

  13. The Intercultural Conflict Resolution Education Essay

    A conflict resolution model is the NVC model (Rosenberg cited in Helde M.L and Nygaard B 2012, p. 14) that contains four key points in conflict resolution. The first point is the facts, the observation of what has happened. The second point is the expectations and the interpretations on what has happened without accusing the other.

  14. Intercultural conflict management

    Intercultural Conflict Management Today's society is a multicultural environment that holds both extreme promise and conflicts (Adler, 1998, pp. 225-245). Through rapid developments in technology, global communication has been revolutionized in the past few decades. By the end of the twentieth century, new technology made it simple for people ...

  15. Facework competence in intercultural conflict: an updated face

    Commun. Res. 2003. TLDR. This study sought to test the underlying assumption of the face-negotiation theory that face is an explanatory mechanism for culture's influence on conflict behavior by asking participants in 4 national cultures to describe interpersonal conflict.

  16. Culture and Conflict

    By Michelle LeBaron July 2003 Culture is an essential part of conflict and conflict resolution. Cultures are like underground rivers that run through our lives and relationships, giving us messages that shape our perceptions, attributions, judgments, and ideas of self and other. Though cultures are powerful, they are often unconscious, influencing conflict and attempts to resolve conflict in ...

  17. Intercultural Conflict

    Intercultural Conflict. Decent Essays. 790 Words. 4 Pages. Open Document. Many of us individuals face conflicts almost everyday in our lives. People of all culture have challenging in their lives that they come across a certain incident and get confused in what decision to be made. These conflicts could be a conflict between oneself and another ...

  18. PDF Case Studies for Intercultural and Conflict Communication

    interpersonal and intercultural conflicts. While factual knowledge of theories and concepts is essential in learning about communication, case teaching facilitates mastery of discussion participants' understanding through creating spaces where discussants engage in natural conversations about abstract theories in situated realities. ...

  19. Example Of Intercultural Conflict

    1137 Words. 5 Pages. Open Document. Intercultural conflict can be defined as, "the implicit or explicit emotional struggle between persons of different cultural communicates over perceived or actual incompatibility of cultural ideologies and values situational norms, goals, face-orientations, scarce resources, style/processes, and/or outcomes ...

  20. The Requirements and Importance of Intercultural Communication

    Based on the results from the reviewed papers, cultural awareness and intercultural sensitivity, language proficiency, empathy, flexibility, and some other traits and skills are among the components of ICC, ... declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. Funding.

  21. Exploring intercultural sensitivity in bicultural and multicultural

    Specifically, on the identity-level, integration was positively related to intercultural sensitivity, while compartmentalization was negatively associated with it. Additionally, on the contextual-level, identification with the online network and high-quality online intergroup contact were associated with greater intercultural sensitivity.

  22. Intercultural Communication: Paul Haggis' "Crash" Essay (Movie Review)

    In Crash, the director Paul Haggis is focused on demonstrating several short stories, united in a few car accidents, shootings, and robberies with the focus on the theme of the place of a human in the modern world and society. The movie is made very professionally. Despite a large number of characters and storylines, the plot develops gradually ...