Resolving conflicts is a part of human life.
Everyone has faced it at one time or another, whether with friends, family members, or work colleagues. However, when different cultures are involved, managing conflict can be particularly challenging for people who are new to the culture. While cultural differences can lead to conflict, these differences make us unique as individuals and we should celebrate them.
Evaluate the Intercultural Conflict and Cultural Boundaries in a Multicultural Team
When there is an interpersonal conflict in the workplace, it is not always easy to tell who is right and who is wrong. When cross-cultural conflict occurs in the workplace, the conflicting parties each have a different logic, see things from different perspectives and values, and it can be difficult to distinguish between two positions. This can be frustrating if it happens regularly, as it will most likely affect your relationship with the other party.
The first step is to determine the nature of the cultural dimension and assess whether it is a conflict for both sides or just one side, because some cultures are constantly in conflict in the eyes of another culture, while it may not be a conflict at all for them.
Take the French and the English: the French love debates, while the English regard them as arguments. Once you are aware of the cultural difference, interpersonal communication becomes clearer and it becomes easier to know which conflict resolution style and management style is best.
Examples of the Causes of Cultural Misunderstanding
Cultural difference is an inevitable part of any society, and they can cause a lot of pain and suffering. It is important to understand that a conflict situation, although it may seem politically or emotionally charged, is often just an unconscious bias about different cultural values between the conflicting parties. They are not always about race or nationality. In order for there to be an understanding, both sides must recognize this and work toward a solution.
Cultural barriers impede effective communication due to differences in cultural beliefs, ideas, practices, etc. of people who belong to different cultures. A cultural barrier can be:
- social values
- beliefs and ideas
- ethnic background
Lack of Cultural Awareness
Cultural misunderstanding occurs when people from different cultures interpret situations differently.
Misunderstanding is a normal part of an interpersonal conflict.
The way we perceive and interpret what is happening around us depends on our beliefs and values, which are influenced by our language, culture, and cultural background.
When we are with people who share the same language, culture, and background, there is a good chance that we can communicate easily and get along well. But when someone comes from a different culture, we may have difficulty understanding or being understood by them.
Stereotypes are simplifications of reality. They reduce people and cultures to a few familiar characteristics and ignore their rich diversity. Even if they are shared by a large number of people, they do not reflect reality.
Communication is a very important part of our lives. But sometimes we fail to communicate with other people because they are different in their culture and values. Effective communication skill training is what can help us understand better people and their essence.
You have to figure out the best way to communicate with other people so that you can be productive in your relationship. Everyone needs to understand and accept that there are different cultures in the world, and they all have their own way of communicating that is different from yours.
When you communicate with someone, you express yourself not only with words but also with your body language.
The importance of nonverbal communication varies from culture to culture. In some cultures, smiling or making eye contact may be considered rude. You should always be aware of the culture of your counterpart. Although nonverbal communication can convey a lot at once, it is difficult to interpret if you do not know the cultural context. It is important to know that certain gestures have different meanings in different cultures and parts of the world.
Body language is one of the most important components of nonverbal communication. It can convey many emotions at once: Joy, anger, disappointment, etc., but also underline and confirm what we say verbally.
People often believe that they can read other people’s body language well and that they themselves do not send misleading signals. However, it is not always easy to interpret body language correctly, and it is even more difficult to ensure that others interpret our body language as we intend.
Nonverbal communication is not only about how you use your body, but also about how you are dressed, the tone of voice you use, and much more.
How to Avoid Cultural Misunderstandings
The best way to approach people from other cultures is to listen to them and understand their needs. Understand what drives them and why they do what they do. Listen to how they talk about themselves, their family, and their culture.
Try not to make assumptions about how people view their own culture.
If you understand one person’s cultural background, you have a better chance of understanding another person’s cultural background. It can be helpful to find out when a person was born (or at least when they were born in the country they live in now).
Find out what the person’s family is like and where they grew up. It may surprise you to know that the same is true when you talk to someone who grew up in another country.
- When trying to build relationships with people from other cultures, remember the power of reciprocity.
- Be friendly and non-confrontational.
- Be polite and friendly.
- Do not be provocative or make others feel like they are on trial.
- Avoid staring or laughing at anything: An outsider might see it that way rather than the person being stared at.
- Ask questions before making judgments.
In many cultures, you are expected to ask questions if you do not understand something that happened. So if you notice a stranger touching their food, or if you hear someone say something rude, simply ask:
- What does that mean?
- That’s likely to be better received than saying
- What kind of person talks like that?
Dealing With Cultural Differences
Cultural Conflict can arise from misunderstandings about others’ intentions, motivations, and expectations. When people from different cultures come together, these differences can become especially apparent.
The best practices of conflict management style are to learn to understand the other party’s perspective. Before judging, try to see things from the other person’s perspective. Find out about their different cultural background, cultural orientations, cultural values and beliefs, and cultural barriers. Ask about cross-cultural experiences they have had and learn from them.
One way to deal with conflict management is to understand your own cultural values and how they differ from the values of others. Awareness of cultural difference is the first step in conflict resolution that arise from cultural disputes.
Some tips for conflict resolution:
- Take responsibility for your part of the cultural conflict management and ask the other person to do the same.
- Explain why you feel the way you do and what you need from the other person for resolution.
- Listen carefully to what the other person is saying and try to understand where they are coming from.
- Be open to the possibility that you might be wrong or that there might be a different way of looking at things.
- Do not be judgmental or critical of what the other person says, but try to understand their point of view clearly.
How Do You Deal With Cultural Differences in the Workplace?
Sometimes we can reconcile with a situation, while other times it is better to resolve conflicts immediately. When communicating across cultures, conflicts can arise due to differences in language, values, and views.
Every office has its own culture. Some are very strict about time, others have a more flexible approach to meetings, etc. When you work in the same office, these cultural differences are almost invisible – you learn them by spending time in the workplace.
However, when some of your employees live on the other side of the world, these cultural differences can become a bit more obvious and potentially problematic. How can you deal with this?
You can not change each other’s culture, but there are ways to create a better work environment for everyone. Start with the company culture.
Each company has a mission statement, values, policies, etc.
The company culture sets the tone for everything else in the workplace, so make sure your employees are aware of that culture.
Good company culture is characterized by open communication, trust in employees, and respect for the views of others. This means that employees talk to each other and do not allow problems to grow into big issues. It also means they do not feel they have to hide or downplay their own culture when they work with a multicultural team.
Working in a global environment can be extremely rewarding, but sometimes challenging.
We are all unique and all have different backgrounds. But when we work together, it’s important to find the right balance between your own cultural background and that of others.
When a workplace conflict arises, best practices for good conflict management require a good understanding of cultural diversity (e.g., individualistic cultures and collectivistic cultures), knowing when to draw cultural boundaries and mutual respect, and when to enlist the help of the Human Resource department or someone who has experience and expertise in dealing with cross-cultural conflict resolution.
Through my experience working with different cultures, I have learned that it is important to understand what drives people.
We are not all driven by the same things.
What makes us happy or how we express ourselves is not necessarily the same for everyone. It’s good to keep this in mind throughout your time with a multicultural team, and hopefully, you will have the chance to learn even more about yourself and other cultures.