Conflict Management Tips

Handling Cross-Cultural Disputes

  • Check your own assumptions: When in a cross-cultural dispute, it is important for everyone to start by examining themselves, their own biases, and the hot buttons and triggers they have to gain a greater awareness of how the conflict arose. Toni Hawkins mentioned, “We don’t want to make the assumption that because there’s a conflict, and that conflict might be between people of different cultures, that the conflict itself is a result of the cultures…We don’t want to assume that the little bit we think we know about someone is applicable to that person, situation, or even culture.” Making assumptions from the start can build barriers to resolving the conflict at hand, so it is crucial to examine and separate assumption from reality.
  • Learn about the people around you: This tip reflects a point made previously about staying curious. Asking questions, using Google, and reading can help you understand the experiences of others while validating them to those sharing. Additionally, it is important to recognize that not everyone necessarily feels like sharing these experiences or teaching others about their culture—and this is completely acceptable on their part. Ask these questions with an openness of truly wanting to learn about others’ experiences but also be open to the fact that they may not want to share experiences at the moment.
  • Listen: This is likely the most important tip provided here. One should genuinely listen with the intent to learn from others instead of with the intent to share their ideas or teach the other something. In cross-cultural communication, the simple act of listening can help build trust and understanding, often leading to more constructive conflict management.
  • Highlight the presence and contributions of different cultures: Toni Hawkins explained this point comparing different cultural contributions to food items at a potluck: “I tell everyone, ‘bring your best dish—bring the thing that you want to share with everyone else.’ When everyone brings their best to the table, it makes the party so much better. The same thing applies to the workplace.” This relates to another earlier point—cross-cultural communication requires a celebration of differences instead of being fearful of them.
  • Hire an expert to help with workplace conflict: Whether a cross-cultural dispute or not, allowing experts to come and assist with the dispute can make a huge difference in work life and job satisfaction. Not only can conflict resolution consultants help with various conflicts, but they can train employees in establishing positive communication skills, proactively dealing with conflict, and making the workplace a diverse and inclusive place for everyone.