Cultural Conflict Management Styles

Several conflict styles are used to manage conflicts: factual-inductive, axiomatic-deductive, and affective-intuitive (Gudykunst & Kim, 2003, p 299). Factual-inductive style, typical of the United States, focuses on facts and inductively moves toward a conclusion (Gudykunst & Kim, 2003, p 299). This aligns with the universalist culture which prescribe consistent standards irrespective of cultural norms (Lanier, 2012). The axiomatic-deductive style relies on general principals and deduces implications for specific situations (Gudykunst and Kim, 2003, p 299). The affective-intuitive style is based on the use of emotional or affective messages (Gudykunst and Kim, 2003, p 299). Axiomatic-deductive and affective-intuitive styles are synonymous with countries like the Soviet Union (Gudykunst and Kim, 2003, p 299) and are aligned with the universalist or collectivist cultures (Lanier, 2012).

Conflict can be managed if not averted altogether through a familiarity of the culture (Lanier, 2012). Literature predicts cultural differences are based on five styles: integrating style, compromising style, dominating style, obliging style, and avoiding style (Gudykunst and Kim, 2003, p 300).

The integrating style focuses on managing conflict out of high concern for self and others (Gudykunst and Kim, 2003, p 299). The compromising Style focuses on moderate concern for self and moderate concern for others (Gudykunst and Kim, 2003, p 300). The dominating style represents a high concern for self and a low concern for others and is typically used to control or dominate (Gudykunst and Kim, 2003, p 300). An obliging style presents a low concern for self and a high concern for others and is present when we give in to others to avoid conflict (Gudykunst and Kim, 2003, p 300). Finally, the avoiding style involves low concern for self and others and the topic of conflict is avoided by all at all times (Gudykunst and Kim, 2003, p 300).

References

Lanier, John (2012). Retrieved from his posting: Blackboard Dialogues for Doctorate in Strategic Leadership, Regent University, Virginia Beach, VA.

Gundykunst, William B. and Kim, Young Yun (2003). Communicating with Strangers – 4th edition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Philip A Foster, MA is Founder/CEO of Maximum Change Inc. Elevating leaders and their organizations to the next level since 2005. Master Certified Coach, Philip A Foster, MA and his associates facilitate effective positive change by helping organizations, leaders and individuals in high demand — design and implement strategies that maximize focus and deliver results. Specializing in Organization and Strategic Leadership.

Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Skype: philip.a.foster | 615-216-5667

 

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Developing a Cultural Hermeneutic to Conflict Resolution

In dealing with conflict, leaders should develop a cultural hermeneutics that assist the leader and organization to function successfully within a given culture (Branch, 2012). The essence of the hermeneutic should be to develop processes whereby the source of conflict is understood and where possible avoided. To develop a cultural hermeneutic we must first understand the nature of conflict in what Eisenberg and Goodall (2004) define “as the interaction of interdependent people who perceive opposition of goals, aims, and values, and who see the other parties as potentially interfering with the realization of these goals” (p 288).

Literature argues that conflicts should be understood as a portion of a broader network of interdependencies that produce wider and wider impact within the culture (Eisenberg and Goodall, 2004, p 169). Language is used to frame and work through the context of conflict is often invaluable in assisting individuals understanding of dealing with disputes (Eisenberg and Goodall, 2004, p 169).

While conflict avoidance is typically preferred, some recognize the benefits of conflict and its role in generating different ideas and perspectives as well as facilitating the sharing of information (Eisenberg and Goodall, 2004, p 288). Therefore, some degree of conflict is essential to achieving higher levels of productivity and effective communication (Eisenberg and Goodall, 2004, p 288).

It can be argued that developing a cultural hermeneutic should include an understanding of cultural context and language as well as the impact of conflict within the culture and its use as a lubricant to information sharing and productivity.

References:

Branch, Chester (2012). Retrieved from his posting: Blackboard Dialogues for Doctorate in Strategic Leadership, Regent University, Virginia Beach, VA.

Eisenberg, Eric M. and Goodall, Jr., H.L. (2004). Organizational Communication. Fourth Edition. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin.

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Philip A Foster, MA is Founder/CEO of Maximum Change Inc. Elevating leaders and their organizations to the next level since 2005. Master Certified Coach, Philip A Foster, MA and his associates facilitate effective positive change by helping organizations, leaders and individuals in high demand — design and implement strategies that maximize focus and deliver results. Specializing in Organization and Strategic Leadership.

Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Skype: philip.a.foster | 615-216-5667

Cross-Cultural Conflict Avoidance

While avoiding allows conflict to go unresolved or projects responsibility on to others for solving the problem (Fletcher, 2012), it does not allow these individuals to preserve important goals, values and ideas – nor does it allow them to preserve relationships (Elmer, 1993, p 36). From a Westerner point of view, the ideal that avoiding conflict somehow causes it to go away most often creates the dynamic in which the individual ends up with weak or superficial relationships and little to no influence on important decisions (Elmer, 1993, p 36). However, Elmer (1993) does argue that strategic withdrawal can be a wise choice when emotions are running high and if the confrontation may cause someone to act unwisely or lose control (p 39). Conflict avoidance is also wise when the potential consequences of confrontation are too serious (Elmer, 1993, p 39). As Elmer (1993) puts it, avoiding conflict can be a sign of wisdom and maturity in some cases and in others it may signal an unwillingness to discuss important issues or a refusal to take a stand on a given decision (p 39).

Compromising within conflict resolution in fact seeks to set a middle ground between two parties (Fletcher, 2012). However, Elmer (1993) argues many simply give in to accommodate or smooth over the differences (p 39). Some may see most issues as negotiable and differences not worth fighting about (Elmer, 1993, p 39). Those who are more apt to accommodate are most often willing to forfeit personal goals and values and can be taken advantage of since they are most likely unable to say no (Elmer, 1993,  p39). Contrary to the Western view of conflict resolution, our Asian counterparts are more likely to work to prevent conflicts or avoid them altogether (Fletcher, 2012).

References:

Fletcher, Juanita (2012).  Retrieved from her posting: Blackboard Dialogues for Doctorate in Strategic Leadership, Regent University, Virginia Beach, VA.

Elmer, Duane (1993). Cross-Cultural Conflict. Building Relationships for Effective Ministry. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

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Philip A Foster, MA is Founder/CEO of Maximum Change Inc. Elevating leaders and their organizations to the next level since 2005. Master Certified Coach, Philip A Foster, MA and his associates facilitate effective positive change by helping organizations, leaders and individuals in high demand — design and implement strategies that maximize focus and deliver results. Specializing in Organization and Strategic Leadership.

Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Skype: philip.a.foster | 615-216-5667

Leading Cross-Cultural Conflict Resolution

Interpretive misunderstanding is central to cross-cultural conflict resolution. When dealing with Asian culture, for example, Westerners often interpret their silence as consent (Lindo, 2012). However, the Asian culture employs an indirect method of handling conflict which is often misinterpreted as “(1) lack of courage to confront the person (2) unwillingness to deal with the issue, (3) lack of commitment to solve the problem or (4) refusal to take responsibility for one’s actions” (Elmer, 1993, p 52). Asian managers interpret Westerners as unreasonable and lack respect (Lindo, 2012) which is rooted in the Asian cultures shame based cultural mechanics. To interpret a culture we must begin to understand the very patterns of thought are culturally based and vary from culture to culture because they are culturally constructed (Zweifel, 2003, p 14-15). In the case of the Asian culture, honor and shame becomes an integral part of the cultural patterns of communication. These patterns serve to: preserve smooth interpersonal relationships, maintain harmony, minimize potential conflict, restore community solidarity and facilitate communication between the various levels of society (Elmer, 1993, p 54). The practical foundation to overcoming cultural conflict is rooted in the concept of developing friendships over issues of profit and politics. Westerns view relationships as less important than in other cultures (Zweifel, 2003, p 44), while Easterners pay more attention to relationships (Zweifel, 2003, p 15). Stagich (2001) argues “the fundamental values essential for effective collaboration include reciprocal benefit, mutual respect, appreciation of diverse contributions, and a shared understanding of how these values work in the collaborative group process (p 16).

Zweifel (2003) said we must learn to interact with people as individuals and not as culture” (p 36). Only when we connect with the person do we begin to understand and connect with their culture.

References

Lindo, Navon (2012). Retrieved from his posting: Blackboard Dialogues for Doctorate in Strategic Leadership, Regent University, Virginia Beach, VA.

Elmer, D. (1993). Cross-cultural conflict: Building relationships for effective ministry. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity.

Zweifel, Thomas D. (2003). Culture Clash. Merging the Global High-Performance Team. New York, NY: SelectBooks.

Stagich, Timothy (2001). Collaborative Leadership and Global Transformation. ISBN: 0-75965-148-5.

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Philip A Foster, MA is Founder/CEO of Maximum Change Inc. Elevating leaders and their organizations to the next level since 2005. Master Certified Coach, Philip A Foster, MA and his associates facilitate effective positive change by helping organizations, leaders and individuals in high demand — design and implement strategies that maximize focus and deliver results. Specializing in Organization and Strategic Leadership.

Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Skype: philip.a.foster | 615-216-5667

Sell with your story!

I have come to the conclusion that the best marketing tool a small business can use is their story. I’m not necessarily speaking of your personal story but it might be inclusive of such. What I am talking about is the story of HOW the product, service or even the company came into existence. I will illustrate this by telling you one of my stories. In early 2000 I was to be married and we were looking for party favors for the tables. We came across the idea of small glycerin soaps. The soaps would be adorned with ribbons and a label that had our names and the wedding date on them. We found a soap making kit in a hobby store and set out to try and make these favors. While making the samples we realized the ease of the product and I ended up saying… this is so easy, I wonder if we could make a business out of these. Soon we launched a small soap business out of a 900 square foot apartment. We had absolutely no customers and very little product. Our entire stock of completed merchandise and raw materials fit in a linen closet in our apartment and the production was done in our kitchen. Our first client was a Bed and Breakfast on the East coast. They became a long time customer of the company. Within 3 years the company grew from a small apartment to a 1000 SF manufacturing facility where product was shipped daily around the world. We were soon being featured on QVC, Redbook Magazine and in Newspapers around the world. We were even listed in the Fortune 500 “Up and Coming Franchise” edition. We produced natural products at a reasonable price and this catapult our business. We were on a fast track to take the business big when circumstances led us to sell the company. I often asked myself why did the product sell? For one we offered a desirable product at a competitive price. But what I discovered was that what people really bought into was our story. A story of starting a business from a true ground up enterprise. We amazed everyone we talked to about it. Now, before you think I am some kind of super hero let me tell you that owning your own business is tough work and can bee a strain on a relationship. While I would often wonder what the company would or could have been if we kept it, I shall never know. As far as I know, the person who purchased the company didn’t take it anywhere and at this moment the website is no longer in service.

I believe that anyone with an idea and a desire to work hard can make something of themselves. Create a story worth telling, worth hearing, and worth buying into. Go for it!

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Philip A Foster, MA is Founder/CEO of Maximum Change Inc. Elevating leaders and their organizations to the next level since 2005. Master Certified Coach, Philip A Foster, MA and his associates facilitate effective positive change by helping organizations, leaders and individuals in high demand — design and implement strategies that maximize focus and deliver results. Specializing in Organization and Strategic Leadership.

Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Skype: philip.a.foster | 615-216-5667

Interpreting culture and its impact on conflict resolution

To interpret the culture and its impact on conflict we must begin to understand inquisitiveness is at the core of effective global leadership (Black, Morrison, & Gregersen, 1999, p 27). To best bridge the gap of conflict it becomes important to consider one’s own cultural literacy. We must start with our own core values and beliefs and then be able to clearly communicate them to our followers (Rosen, 2000, p191). Yet, understanding one’s own core values is only the start. We must understand the culture from which we operate. Literature argues that Westerners will often misinterpret cultural responses specifically in the area of cultural indirectness. Such indirectness, such as found in high-context polychronic cultures, is seen as “(1) lack of courage to confront the person, (2) unwillingness to deal with the issue, (3) lack of communication to solve the problem or (4) refusal to take responsibility for one’s actions” (Elmer, 1993, p 53).

Literature argues that personal transformation is needed in doing business across cultures (McCall & Hollenbeck, 2002, p 215). Stanford (2009) argues transformation begins with leaders who are able to manage their mindset as it relates to: themselves (the reflective mindset); organizations (the analytical mindset); context (the worldly mindset); relationships (the collaborative mindset); change (the action mindset) (p 225).

Conflicts are inevitable. Understanding conflicts are most likely to occur when a person or a group feels that their social, psychological, emotional, physical, or other space is threatened (Stanford, 2009, p 235). We must transcend our own cultural defaults and look beyond the horizon to other ways of thinking to begin to understand cultural conflicts. The application of adaptation and an ability to separate the person from the problem (Lanier, 2012) is essential to a leaders overall effectiveness in cross-cultural communication and conflict resolution.

References

Black, J. Stewart, Morrison, Allen J., and Gregersen, Hal B. (1999). Global Explorers. New York, NY: Routledge

Rosen Robert (2000). Global Literacies. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster

McCall, Morgan W. and Hollenbeck, George P. (2002). Developing Global Executives. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Stanford, Naomi (2009). Guide to Organisation Design. London, England: Profile Books, Ltd.

Lanier, John (2012). Retrieved from his posting: Blackboard Dialogues for Doctorate in Strategic Leadership, Regent University, Virginia Beach, VA.

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Philip A Foster, MA is Founder/CEO of Maximum Change Inc. Elevating leaders and their organizations to the next level since 2005. Master Certified Coach, Philip A Foster, MA and his associates facilitate effective positive change by helping organizations, leaders and individuals in high demand — design and implement strategies that maximize focus and deliver results. Specializing in Organization and Strategic Leadership.

Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Skype: philip.a.foster | 615-216-5667

Considering high-context vs. low-context cultures and its impact on cross-cultural leadership communications.

The Global Communicator

Communicating in your own native language is difficult enough. Add to this the nuances of differing cultures and we have a rather complex matter. Such nuances create certain barriers to communicating in a cross-cultural setting. Today, more than ever, leaders must find ways to influence people in varying cultures. Further, leaders must begin to understand the implications of globalization and how the very patterns of thought are based on the individual’s culture of origin.

Edward Hall, considered one of the fathers of cross-cultural communication, wrote that human communication is non-verbal and always follows cultural and contextual patterns. In his book The Silent Language he introduced the concepts of high-context vs. low-context and polychronic vs. monochronic communication.

 

High-Context and Low-Context Cultures

Hall presented the argument that in high context cultures ideas are not spelled out nor defined in detail and that in low-context cultures require details. High-context cultures assume that the people we speak to understand the context of our message and that the implied ideas of our message are not spelled out in any detail. High-context cultures such as China and Japan receive information about the meaning of messages based on the setting in which the message is communicated. In high-context environments individuals who share common implied meanings prefer communicating in more indirect or covert ways through nonverbal communication and meanings. A low-context culture would consider high-context cultures to be somewhat passive aggressive in their communication styles.

Hall defined high-context cultures as: covert and implicit; messages are internalized; strong use of nonverbal coding; reserved reactions to messages; distinct in-groups and out-groups; strong interpersonal bonds amongst members; high commitment among members and time is open and flexible.

Low-context cultures such as Great Britain and Germany use their words to embed greater meaning and their messages are more direct when speaking. Hall defined low-context cultures as: overt and explicit; messages are plainly coded; message detail is direct and verbalized; message receivers reactions are on the surface; flexible in-groups and out-groups; interpersonal relationships are more fragile; commitment is low; and time is highly organized.

Polychronic vs. Monochronic communication

In a polychronic culture we find individuals more likely to engage in multiple activities at the same time. They are more likely to become restless in the absence of differing stimuli. Typically Latin, African and Asian cultures are seen as polychronic. According to Hall, polychronic cultures are evident by: fixed appointments at short notice; individuals allow for plenty of time between appointment; agendas are determined at the start of a meeting; participants avoid rushing meetings; and they do not restrict themselves or impose self-imposed deadlines.

Conversely, a monochronic culture will most likely have specific precisions related to time, agendas, and dealing with one thing at a time. The United States, Canada, Australia, UK and any other Anglo-Saxon countries are considered monochronic. Hall’s monochronic cultures include: fixed appointments weeks in advance; agendas are sent in advance of meetings; individuals arrive on time; meetings begin at the agreed and appointed time; meeting participants keep to given schedules, deadlines and agendas; and it is common for individuals to interrupt in order to obtain clarity and understanding of something.

When leaders fail to understand the communication styles as presented through the high-context and low-context cultures, serious difficulties can arise for them when dealing with individuals from differing cultures. Global leaders must begin to find ways to understand and improve their communication skills.

 

Improving Communication Skills

To improve communication skills we must first understand the mechanics of communications. In 1967, the now famous research by Mehrabian and Ferris noted that communication is typically 7 percent verbal (words), 38 percent vocal (Para verbal) and 55 percent facial (body language).

When considering both high- and low-context cultures, they each hold different delivery and receptions of verbal and non-verbal messages. Considering the Mehrabian and Ferris research, high-context cultures rely heavily on facial/body language to interpret messages while low-context cultures are more likely to utilize all coefficients of the communications process. Add to these mechanics the polychronic and monochronic communication processes and you’ve added an additional layer of complexity to the messages being communicated.

For example: in a monochronic culture would presume that a polychronic culture was disinterested in the message being sent because they are multitasking while the message is presented. Likewise a polychronic culture might believe a monochronic culture to be strict in their approach to communication. Additional considerations would be in how the culture approaches appointments and time. While some may find chronic lateness to be on time, other cultures might receive this as rude. Understanding these deeper nuances as the sum of the communication process is important to interpreting the messages being presented.

Given these complexities, we cannot simply define communication as the act of conveying information through the combined effect of simultaneous verbal, vocal, and facial attitude communications. Listening skills are essential to good communication, but we must consider how the interpretations of such conveyed information is achieved. When we consider the nonverbal dimensions of intercultural communication we much confront the differing cultural behaviors. These cultural nuances become essential to the overall success of the leader from within the culture they operate.

 

Conclusion

How we view and interpret culture is based predominantly on how we see the culture through our own cultural lenses. Cultures are defined by the very filters and lenses by which we base our decisions. Considering the lenses by which we view the world we can begin to consider the worldview of others. It becomes essential for global leaders to adjust their filters and lenses to include other cultural attributes. Because thought is understood to be culturally based, we begin to view members of the culture differently and notice that they do not think the same way we do. When global leaders begin to adjust these filters they find that language is not just about communicating with individuals but becomes the very reflection of the culture from which they operate.

At its most basic level, becoming a cultural leader is about human relationships and less about economics, finance and productivity. To best integrate into a given culture, global leaders must apply certain competencies to their approach to global expansion. Becoming a competent global leader requires vigilant study and understanding of culture and its many attributes. These complexities of geography, language, customs, values, traditions, laws, ethics and national psychology are interpreted through varying lenses of cultural bias and the leader’s ability to understand and connect with the cultures in which they operate.

The secret formula appears to begin and end with the leader’s ability to connect and build trust with those in which they may have need to influence. Building trust, while a complex matter, is achievable in most all instances. Trust begins with an understanding of power distances and the defining of the culture as either high- or low-context.

 

When we begin to develop our intellectual and emotional competencies for cultures we open endless possibilities for connection and expansion into markets and cultures otherwise not possible decades ago. It becomes clear that understanding cultural nuance is essential to success in any culture. The greater challenge is in understanding what those nuances are and how to effectively utilize them.

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Philip A Foster, MA is Founder/CEO of Maximum Change Inc. Elevating leaders and their organizations to the next level since 2005. Master Certified Coach, Philip A Foster, MA and his associates facilitate effective positive change by helping organizations, leaders and individuals in high demand — design and implement strategies that maximize focus and deliver results. Specializing in Organization and Strategic Leadership.

Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Skype: philip.a.foster | 615-216-5667