Conflict Management and Cultures

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Intercultural Conflict Management
How should we define an intercultural conflict? Is there any difference between a conflict and an intercultural one? The following chapter, which is a summary of the chapter “Constructive Intercultural Conflict Management” (Stella Ting-Toomey, Communicating Across Cultures, 1999, pages 194-197), attempts to answer these two questions. At the end of the chapter, we also include an extract of the “Intercultural Conflict Style Inventory” (Mitchell Hammer, 2002)

1. Definition of intercultural conflicts

“Intercultural conflict is defined as the perceived or actual incompatibility of values, norms, processes, or goals between a minimum of two cultural parties over content, identity, relational, and procedural issues. Intercultural conflict often starts off with different expectations concerning appropriate or inappropriate behavior in an interaction episode.” (Ting-Toomey, 1999, p.194).

Another author holds a similar view: “Conflicts are always cultural, since we are all cultural beings. Yet the very definition of conflict is challenging because of our cultural ways of seeing”. (Michelle Le Baron and Venashri Pillay, Conflict across Cultures, 2006, page 13).

According to Le Baron, conflict occurs at

← the material level, or the “what” of the conflict; ← the symbolic level, the meaning of issues to the people involved, especially those meanings that resonate with peoples' identities, values, and worldviews; ← and the relational level, or the dance among parties, or the way in which conflict plays out.

“Effective conflict resolution across cultures must address all three dimensions. Culture contextualizes and shapes all three dimensions, so conflict resolution must also be anchored in cultural fluency”. (Le Baron and Pillay, 2006, page 19)

Stella Ting-Toomey proposes the following definitional…...

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