Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt
International Tourism Management


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ITM Master 3. Sem.
8103: International Management III


 Do's and Don'ts vs. What's and Why's






 Many intercultural trainings concentrate on the "Do's and Don'ts" of different cultures:

 - Give and receive a namecard to a Chinese persons always with both hands

 - Avoid the number 13 in western countries

 - Do not give knifes or scissors as a present in China

 - Do not slap a German person on the shoulder as a greeting

 - Do not give money as a gift in Bulgaria ... etc.







Two arguments:

a) For an internationally active manager, it is impossible to know the "Do's and Don'ts" of all cultures and sub-cultures (always use a 100 US$ bill when snorting cocaine at a Manhattan party...) in the world.


b) Reducing the cultural differences to "above the sea-level" features will not help you to understand the underlying differences and will not help you to understand the relativeness of your own cultural behaviour.





 Let us try to understand the "Why?" behind some different behaviours and customs for some typical occurences:


 - telling the truth / being polite

 - punctuality / flexibility

 - quoting sources / following mainstream

 - learning from theories / learning from examples



Please form four groups and develop a list of 5 Do's and 5 Don't for Germany and for another country of your choice. Try to analyse the cultural reasons behind the behaviour using your background knowledge (including Hofstede).

After 20 minutes each group should present the list and the explanations.






 Conflict management


 Possible reasons for conflicts:

 Personal: Lack of conflict experiences, mistrust, jealousy, bad mood, etc.

 Situational: Lack of communication, feeling of unfair treatment, loss of face, etc.

 Structural: Dependence, power struggle, struggle for resources, etc.

 Societal: Group antagonisms, class struggle


  Conflicts are necessary and unavoidable. They can create new ideas and better solutions but only if managed in a proper and constructive way.


 Forms of conflicts:

 Distribution conflict

 Role conflict

 Value conflict

 Methods conflict

 Goal conflict



Intercultural Conflict Management


Intercultural miscommunication and misattributions often underscore intercultural conflict. Individuals coming from two contrastive cultural communities bring with them different value assumptions, expectations, verbal and nonverbal habits, and interaction scripts that influence the conflict process. 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. While everyday intercultural conflicts are often based on cultural ignorance or misunderstanding, it is obvious that not all intercultural conflicts are based on miscommunication or lack of understanding. Some intercultural conflicts are based on deep-seated hatred, and centuries-old antagonism often arising from long-standing historical grievances. However, a majority of everyday conflicts that we encounter can be traced to cultural miscommunication or ignorance.

Conflict is an intense disagreement process between two interdependent parties over incompatible goals and the interference each perceives from the other in her or his effort to achieve those goals. The major characteristics of intercultural conflict are the following:
(1) conflict involves intercultural perceptions--perceptions are filtered through our lenses of ethnocentrism and stereotypes, and perceptions color our conflict attribution process;
(2) conflict involves interaction--conflict is sustained and managed via verbal and nonverbal behaviors, and verbal and nonverbal behaviors are culture-bound concepts;
(3) conflict involves interdependence--for a conflict to arise, the behavior of one or both parties must have consequences for the other, for otherwise the conflict parties can walk away from each other easily;
(4) conflict involves both self-interest and mutual-interest goals--conflict is a mixed-up and incomplete jigsaw puzzle, both parties needing something from each other in order to complete the entire picture; and
(5) conflict involves the protection of intergroup images--in an intercultural or intergroup conflict situation, conflict parties have to worry about protecting both individual and group-based images.


Intercultural Conflict: Contributing Factors

There are many factors that affect the escalation or deescalation of intercultural conflict negotiation, some of which are: different conflict norms, different conflict styles, and different conflict rhythms. In order to explain these factors, we need a perspective to organize and relate ideas in a coherent fashion. We use a cultural variability perspective to illustrate how some of the factors stem from our conceptions of cultural, personal, and communication self-images. A cultural variability perspective emphasizes the four dimensions of: individualism-collectivism, power distance, construal of self, and low or high-context communication. These four dimensions influence the values we hold in approaching or avoiding conflict, the way we attribute meanings to conflict events, and the way we communicate in specific conflict episodes. This section is organized in two parts: first, we look at conflict from a cultural variability perspective with examples, and then we consider some of the specific factors contributing to intercultural conflicts.

A Cultural Variability Perspective

A value-based dimension, such as individualism-collectivism, can provide us with a more in-depth understanding of why members of two contrastive cultures (e.g., those of Germany and Thailand) approach conflict differently. Power distance, as a value dimension, also influences our expectations of how we should be treated and how we treat others. In addition to these two value dimensions, the dimension of self-construal helps us to understand individual distinctions. While the construal of self dimension explains individual-level approaches to conflict, the difference between low and high-context communication explains conflict style differences between cultures and individuals.

Individualism-Collectivism Values. Basically, individualism refers to the broad value tendencies of people in a culture to emphasize the individual identity over group identity, and individual rights over group obligations. In contrast, collectivism refers to the broad value tendencies of people in a culture to emphasize the group identity over the individual identity, and ingroup-oriented concerns over individual wants and desires (Hofstede, 1980, 1991; Triandis, 1995).

Individualism is expressed in interpersonal conflict through the strong assertion of personal opinions, the display of personal emotions, and the importance of personal accountability for any conflict problem or mistake. Collectivism, on the other hand, is manifested in interpersonal conflict through the representation of collective opinions or ideas, the restraint of personal emotional expressions, and the protection of ingroup members, if possible, from being held accountable for the conflict problem. In intercultural communication research, British, French, German, Scandinavian, Swiss, Australian, Canadian, and the U.S. cultures have been identified consistently as cultures high in individualistic value tendencies (Hofstede 1991). IN constrast, strong empirical evidence has shown that many East Asian (e.g., China, Japan, and Korea), Southeast Asian (e.g., Thailand and Vietnam), Mediterranean (e.g., Greece and Italy), Latino (e.g., Brazil and Mexico), Middle Eastern (e.g., Iran and Saudi Arabia), and African (e.g., Ghana) cultures can be identified clearly as group-based cultures (Hofstede, 1991). Various degrees and forms of individualism and collectivism (see, for example, Triandis, 1995) exist in different cultures.

Nevertheless, we can also find both individualistic and collectivistic elements in all of these countries, in different combinations (Triandis, 1995). Additionally, considerable within-culture differences have also been uncovered in many of the pluralistic societies. For example, within a pluralistic society (such as Canada or the United States), different ethnic communities can also display distinctive individualistic and group-oriented value tendencies. For example, ethnic groups that follow their ethnic traditions such as African Americans, Asian Americans, Latino/a Americans, and Native Americans tend to subscribe to some forms of collectivistic values more than do many European Americans. Cultural and ethnic miscommunication and conflicts often arise because of our ignorance of different value priorities in different ethnic communities and cultures. In addition to individualism-collectivism, in order to mindfully manage intercultural conflicts, we should pay close attention to the value dimension of power distance.

Power Distance Values. The Philippines, together with Malaysia, Korea, Japan, Guatemala, Panama, Mexico, and many Arab countries have been identified as large power distance cultures (Hofstede, 1991) whose members give priority treatment and asymmetrical respect to people who are in high-status positions. Subordinates know their "humble" roles, whereas superiors and managers know their "superior" role scripts. In comparison, in small power distance cultures such as Denmark, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States (to a moderate degree), members in either high-status or low-status positions strive to foster informal, symmetrical interaction. Subordinates expect to be respected and valued based more on personal attributes than on their by position or titles. Supervisors tend to play consultative roles more than authoritarian roles.

Intercultural expectancy violations and miscommunications are commonplace when a supervisee subscribes to small power distance values and a supervisor subscribes to larger power distance values in an international corporation. The small power distance supervisee wants more personal respect from his or her supervisor, and the large power distance supervisor expects more deference and humility from the supervisee. Moving beyond the general discussion of culture-level differences, we next examine individual-level differences within and across cultures.

Construal of Self. An alternative way to understand individualism and collectivism and power distance focuses on how individuals within a culture conceptualize the sense of "self." Markus and Kitayama (1991) argue that our self-conception within our culture profoundly influences our communication with others: individuals with a strongly independent sense of self tend to see self as autonomous, self-reliant, unencumbered, and as rational choice-makers; individuals with a strongly interdependent sense of self tend to see themselves as ingroup-bound, obligatory agents, and as harmony seekers. Both types of self-construal exist within a culture. Overall, however, whereas independent concepts of self are more common in individualistic cultures, interdependent concepts of self are more common in collectivistic cultures.

Independent-self people tend to "make sense" of their environment through "autonomous self" lenses, interdependent-self people tend to "make sense" of their surrounding through "ingroup self" lenses. Independent-self individuals tend to worry about whether they present their "individualistic self" credibly and competently in front of others. Interdependent-self individuals tend to be more reflective of what others think of their projected "face image" in the context of ingroup/outgroup relations. Finally, while independent-self individuals tend to practice direct verbal communication in expressing thoughts and feelings, interdependent-self individuals tend to practice responsive communication in anticipating the thoughts and feelings of the other person. Direct, verbal communication reflects a low-context way of communicating, and responsive communication reflects a high-context way of communicating (Hall, 1976, 1983).

Parallel to the above self construal idea, we can examine power distance from a personal variation dimension. Individuals and their behaviors can be conceptualized as either moving toward the "horizontal self" spectrum or the "vertical self" spectrum. Individuals who endorse horizontal self- construal prefer informal, symmetrical interactions (i.e., equal treatment) regardless of people's status positions or the occasion. In comparison, individuals who emphasize vertical self-construal prefer formal, asymmetrical interactions (i.e., differential treatment) with due respect to people with high-status positions, titles, and the special occasion. While horizontal selves tend to be predominant in small power distance cultures, vertical selves tend to be predominant in large power distance cultures.

Low-Context and High-Context Communication. Low-context communication emphasizes how intention or meaning can be best expressed through the explicit verbal message. High-context communication emphasizes how intention or meaning can be best conveyed through the context (e.g., social roles, positions) and nonverbal channels (e.g., pauses, silence, tone of voice) of the verbal message (Hall, 1976). In general, low-context communication refers to communication patterns of direct verbal mode, straight talk, nonverbal immediacy, and sender-oriented value. In low-context communication, the speaker of the message is expected to be responsible for constructing a clear, persuasive message that the listener can decode easily. In contrast, high-context communication refers to communication patterns of indirect verbal mode, ambiguous talk, nonverbal subtleties, and interpreter-sensitive value (Ting-Toomey, 1985). In high-context communication, the listener or interpreter of the message is expected to read "between the lines," to accurately infer the implicit intent of the verbal message, and to observe the nonverbal nuances and subtleties that encircle or "wrap" the verbal message.

Low-context communication emphasizes the importance of explicit verbal messages to convey personal thoughts, opinions, and feelings. High-context communication emphasizes the importance of multilayered contexts (e.g., historical context, social norms, roles, situational and relational contexts) that frame the interaction encounter. While independent-self individualists engage in low-context styles of conflict management, interdependent-self collectivists engage in high-context styles of conflict negotiation. Overall, the cultural variability dimensions of individualism versus collectivism, small or large power distance, independent or interdependent self, horizontal or vertical self, and low- or high-context communication patterns help to guide us toward a general understanding of conflict process between members of individualistic and collectivistic cultures.

Cultural-Based Conflict: Different Lenses

Drawing from the key ideas of a cultural variability perspective, the following sub-sections identify the different lenses that create intercultural frictions and conflicts between individualists and collectivists. These lenses include: different conflict assumptions, conflict rhythms, conflict norms, conflict styles, and ethnocentric lenses. Culture-based lenses can distort our perceptions and interpretations of exchanged messages in conflict episodes.

Different Conflict Assumptions. The values of individualism versus collectivism, and how these are linked to individual self-construals and low-context and high-context interaction, affect our assumptions about conflict. Cultural assumptions about conflict color our attitudes, expectations, and behaviors in a conflict episode. Different cultural assumptions toward conflict serve as the first set of factors that contribute to intercultural miscommunication and antagonism.

For individualists, interpersonal conflict resolution follows an "outcome-oriented" model. However, for collectivists, interpersonal conflict management follows a "process-oriented" model. An outcome-oriented model emphasizes the importance of asserting I-identity interests in the conflict situation and moving rapidly toward the phase of reaching tangible outcomes or goals. A process-oriented model, in contrast, emphasizes the importance of the management of "mutual or group face" interests in the conflict process before any tangible outcomes or goals can be discussed. As earlier, "face," in this context, refers to the orientation of upholding a claimed sense of positive public image in any social interactive situations (Ting-Toomey, 1994c). From the collectivistic perspective, face is not about what one thinks of oneself but about what others think of one's worth, especially within the context of one's ingroup and outgroup. For individualists, effective conflict negotiation means settling the conflict problem openly and working out a set of functional conflict solutions conjointly. Effective conflict resolution behavior (e.g., emphasizing the importance of addressing incompatible goals/outcomes) is relatively more important for individualists than is appropriate facework behavior. For collectivists, on the other hand, appropriate conflict management means the subtle negotiation of ingroup/outgroup face-related issues--pride, honor, dignity, insult, shame, disgrace, humility, trust, mistrust, respect, and prestige--in a given conflict episode. Appropriate facework moves and countermoves are critical for collectivists before tangible conflict outcomes or goals can be addressed.


To summarize, independent-self individualists tend to operate from the following "outcome-oriented" model of conflict assumptions:

(1) Conflict is perceived as closely related to the goals or outcomes that are salient to the respective individual conflict parties in a given conflict situation;

(2) Communication in the conflict process is viewed as dissatisfying when the conflict parties are not willing to deal with the conflict openly and honestly;

(3) Conversely, communication in the conflict process is viewed as satisfying when the conflict parties are willing to confront the conflict issues openly and share their feelings honestly (i.e., assertively but not aggressively);

(4) The conflict outcome is perceived as unproductive when no tangible outcomes are reached or no plan of action is developed;

(5) The conflict outcome is perceived as productive when tangible solutions are reached and objective criteria are met;

(6) Effective and appropriate management of conflict means individual goals are addressed and differences are being dealt with openly, honestly, and properly in relation to timing and the situational context.


Interdependent-self collectivists follow the conflict assumptions of a "process-oriented" model:

(1) Conflict is weighed against the face-threat incurred in the conflict negotiation process; it is also being interpreted in the webs of ingroup/outgroup relationships;

(2) Communication in the conflict process is perceived as threatening when the conflict parties push for substantive issue discussion before proper facework management;

(3) Communication in the conflict interaction is viewed as satisfying when the conflict parties engage in mutual face-saving and face-giving behavior and attend to both verbal and nonverbal signals;

(4) The conflict process oroutcome is perceived as unproductive when face issues are not addressed and relational/group feelings are not attended to properly;

(5) The conflict process or outcome is defined as productive when both conflict parties can claim win-win results on the facework fronts in addition to substantive agreement;

(6) Appropriate and effective management of conflict means that the mutual "faces" of the conflict parties are saved or even upgraded in the interaction and they have dealt with the conflict episode strategically in conjunction with substantive gains or losses.

Thus, whereas individualists are concerned with conflict problem-solution closure, collectivists are concerned with ingroup/outgroup face dynamic issues. These implicit conflict assumptions are, in turn, superimposed on the rhythms and pacing of intercultural conflict resolution.

In dealing with intercultural conflict situations mindfully, we must first recognize just what our ethnocentric lenses we look through to evaluate a conflict situation. In perceiving unfamiliar conflict behaviors, we use our culture-based scripts to evaluate whether the behavior is "proper" or "improper," "nonthreatening" or "threatening." Ethnocentrism colors our perceptions and attitudes in any intergroup-based conflict situation. Acknowledging our own ethnocentric biases and suspending our reactive evaluations are critical in managing the intercultural misattribution process. By withholding our gut-level negative judgments concerning unfamiliar behavior, we are giving ourselves and others a chance to understand the cultural nuances that exist in a problematic situation.


Intercultural Conflict Management Skills

Constructive and destructive intercultural conflict management depends on many factors. One of the key factors is the ability to apply flexible communication skills in managing both culture-based and individual-based differences. Constructive intercultural conflict management is defined as the use of culture-sensitive communication skills to manage the process of conflict productively and reach important goals of all parties amicably. By contrast, destructive conflict means the parties are engaging in inflexible thinking and inflexible conflict patterns that lock them into prolonged cycles of defensiveness and mutual dissatisfaction leading to escalation or total impasse.

In constructive conflict resolution, the parties are mindful of culture-based factors that contribute to the different approaches to the dispute. They are mindful of the different goals that underlie the issue between them. They are also willing to experiment with different constructive conflict management skills and to draw on cultural resources to reach a synergistic common ground. This section is divided into two parts: first constructive conflict operational skills and then suggestions for how individualists and collectivists can deal with conflicts productively.

Operational Skills Needed for Constructive Conflict Management

Skills refer to the actual abilities to perform those behaviors that are considered effective and appropriate in a given situation. Operational skills enable us to put our culture-based knowledge into practice. Such skills also depend heavily on our motivation or commitment to working out the conflict peacefully and productively together with our opponents.

A major problem exists, however, when individualists and collectivists hold different notions of what constitute effective and appropriate practices in conflict resolution. For individualists a conflict is effectively resolved when personal opinions are voiced and acknowledged, interests are defined and clarified, each side’s goals are either reached or compromised, and action plans are drawn up for avoiding trouble in the future. In addition, individualists perceive themselves to have acted appropriately when they display sensitivity to the background and causes of the conflict. Conversely, for collectivists a conflict is effectively resolved when both parties help to attain mutual face-saving while reaching a consensus on substantive issue between them. In addition, a conflict is appropriately managed when both sides acknowledge the expectations of the relevant ingroups, and give honor and attention to the ingroups’ needs. To collectivists, a conflict solution has group-based and long-term implications. It entails fulfilling mutual face needs during disagreement and repaying any incurred "face" debts and obligations from a long-term, historical perspective.

Overall, the individualistic, outcome-oriented model promotes the criterion of effectiveness over that of appropriateness. Conversely, the collectivistic, process-oriented model emphasizes the criterion of appropriateness over that of effectiveness. Moreover, achieving one criterion may help achieve the other. For individualists, by effectively resolving the substantive issues in conflict, appropriate and cordial interaction between the parties can follow naturally. However, from a collectivist point of view, acting appropriately (in accordance to one's status and position) in the conflict situation and inducing facework cooperation can ultimately bring about effective outcomes. For collectivists, making strategic face moves and incurring face debts from the other party are often much more important than "winning" or "losing" a conflict. From a collectivist perspective, "losing" a given conflict in the moment can be interpreted as "winning" key advantages in the long-term facework obligatory process. Of course, the facework negotiation sequence would vary according to individualistic and collectivistic value tendencies. To manage intercultural conflict constructively, we must take other people's cultural perspectives and personality factors into consideration. If others are interdependent-self collectivists, we may want to pay extra attention to their "process-oriented" assumptions as to the negotiation. If others are independent-self individualists, we may want to be sensitive to their "outcome-oriented" assumptions as to the negotiation. The following are some skills that both individualists and collectivists can practice during their conflict negotiation process.

Mindful Listening. Acquiring new information in conflict negotiation means both parties have to learn to listen mindfully to each other even when they are disagreeing. In an intercultural conflict situation, disagreeing parties have to learn to listen attentively to the cultural assumptions that are being expressed in the interaction. They have to learn to listen responsively or ting (the Chinese word for "listening" means attending closely with our "ears, eyes, and a focused heart") to the sounds, tones, gestures, movements, nonverbal nuances, pauses, and silence in a given situation.

They parties have to learn to mindfully notice the verbal, nonverbal, and meta-nonverbal contexts that are being conveyed in the conflict negotiation process. It is also important to create new categories or contexts in "minding" our listening process. Creating new categories in conflicts means learning to create or apply culturally-sensitive concepts such as low or high-context communication styles in making sense of conflict variation behaviors. Finally, being aware that multiple perspectives exist means individuals can apply different frameworks (such as both individualistic and collectivistic perspectives) in analyzing and interpreting a conflict situation and come up with a creative, synergistic solution.

Mindful Reframing. Mindful reframing means that both individualists and collectivists need to learn how to "translate" the other's verbal and nonverbal messages from the context of the other's cultural viewpoint. Reframing also means conflict parties need to reprioritize their goals after mindfully observing and listening to the viewpoints and expectations of their conflict opponents. For example, after listening to the complaint from a collectivist, an individualist may realize that the friction lies not in content goal issues but in identity respect/disrespect issues. Conversely, after understanding the complaint from an individualist, a collectivist may realize that an individualist really wants solution closure and is in no way trying to "slight" the face-image of the collectivist. Both parties should also remember that many of these conflicts are based on out-of-awareness cultural habits and scripts.

Face-Management Skills. Intercultural conflict parties should learn to cultivate face-management skills in dealing with intergroup negotiations competently. Face-management skills basically address the fundamental core issue of social self-esteem. All human beings like to be respected and be approved of in their daily interactions. However, how they behaviorally show such self-respect needs and concerns as well as how others accord them respect and dignity very likely differ from one culture to the next.

Individualists may want to learn to "give face" to the collectivists in the conflict negotiation process. Giving face means not humiliating others, especially one’s opponents, in public. It also means acknowledging collectivists' ingroup concerns and obligations. Collectivists, on the other hand, may want to reorient facework concerns and learn to pay more attention to the substantive issues at stake. Collectivists may also want to recognize that individualists often separate substantive issues from socioemotional issues in conflict. Conversely, individualists may want to pay more attention to the interlink between substantive issues and facework/relational issues when negotiating disagreements with collectivists. Thus, although the concern for face maintenance is universal, how we manage face issues is a cultural-specific phenomenon.

Trust-Building Skills. Another skill that is critical in intercultural conflict competence is that of trust-building. If conflict parties do not trust each other, they tend to move away (cognitively, affectively, and physically) from each other rather than struggle side-by-side with each other in the negotiations. Trust is often viewed as the single most important element of a good working relationship (Fisher & Brown, 1988). When we do not trust someone's words or actions, we also tend to automatically turn off our listening devices. We may hear the words, but we are not taking them in. Trust-building is both a mindset and a communication skill. Especially in intercultural conflict situations, when we are experiencing high anxieties with unfamiliar behavior (e.g., accents, nonverbal gestures), we may automatically withhold our trust. Well-founded trust is critical in any effective and appropriate management of intercultural conflicts.

To develop trust, we have to understand the cultural meanings behind the words "trust" and "trustworthiness." Trust means to rely on the consistency of someone's credibility, words, behaviors, actions, or network support. Trustworthiness means to make our own behaviors or actions worthy of the trust of others. In small power distance cultures, trust is often based on charismatic personality traits, personal credibility, reliability, persuasive words, and decisive actions. In comparison, in large power distance cultures, trust is usually based on credible roles in a reputable organization, dependable family and kinship networks, and consistency between words and actions from a long-term perspective.

Understanding core metaphors, terms, and cultural premises and meanings behind these "linguistic categories" sensitize so we can glimpse part of the social reality from cultural insiders' standpoint. In fact, the Chinese word for "trust" or "xin" means "a person keeping his or her words consistently, in a dependable manner, and one who will deliver them properly in a functional context." In many high power distance cultures, the pledged of high-status individuals are their "face." When the words are spoken, the actions will be carried out and promises will be diligently kept. Thus, people in high power distance cultures tend to be verbally cautious in their conflict negotiations. They tend not to trust people who are too "wordy" or "verbally persuasive."


Collaborative Dialogue and Communication Adaptability

Collaborative Dialogue. In collaborative dialogue sessions with collectivists, individualists may want to:

(1) Practice patience and verbal restraint in articulating their personal interests, goals, and wants,

(2) use vocal segregates or back-channeling cues such as "uhm, uhm," or "uh-huh" to signal listening attentiveness,

(3) be open to the expressions of stories, proverbs, metaphors, analogies, and understatements,

(4) use self-effacing questions to encourage the others to coach you or show you the way,

(5) address the conflict problem to general team members rather than singling out one person,

(6) accept longer turn-taking pauses and reflective silences,

(7) use appropriate head nods to indicate identity affirmation, and

(8) listen to the identity and relational meanings that underscore the conflict content messages.

In collaborative dialogue sessions with individualists, collectivists may want to:

(1) Practice verbal assertiveness in articulating their personal interests, goals, and wants,

(2) use direct verbal responses to indicate agreements, negotiable points, and disagreements,

(3) articulate clearly the reasons behind the disagreement from either an inductive mode (i.e., from specific reasons to general conclusions when dealing with say ,U.S. Americans) or a deductive logical mode (i.e., from a general framework to specific reasons, for example, dealing with Western Europeans),

(4) use direct, specific questions to cross-check facts, interests, and unclear goals,

(5) target the questions to a specific individual,

(6) learn to engage in overlap talks and faster turn-taking verbal behavior,

(7) use verbal paraphrasing to summarize what you have heard in your own words to prevent misunderstanding,

(8) use perception check questions to clarify whether you have interpreted the nonverbal messages accurately, and

(9) listen to content messages and action plans, as well as identity and relational meanings that underlie content messages.

Collaborative dialogue is based on a culture-sensitive, respectful inquiry process in which conflict parties try to suspend their own assumptions regarding the conflict situation. Rather, they work on inviting the other conflict parties to tell their stories, expectations, and needs. In the inquiry stage, new dimensions of thinking, feeling, and seeing are explored. Cultural dimensions of inquiry can include the following questions:
(a) What are their cultural identity tendencies--individualistic-based or group-based?
(b) What are their power value tendencies--horizontal-based or vertical-based?
(c) What are their facework assumptions--"I-identity" or "we-identity" facework model?
(d) What are their preferred interaction styles--direct, low-context or indirect, high-context styles?

Personal dimensions of inquiry can include the following questions:
(a) What activates their personal motivations--independent-self or interdependent-self motivations--and what is the extent of discrepancy between the personal-self and the cultural-self motivations?
(b) How would they like to be respected--on an equal basis or a deferential basis?
(c) What would it take to satisfy their face needs--approval face (self vs. other) and/or boundary respect (personal privacy vs. group-based regulation) issues? and
(d) What are the most effective ways to practice appropriate facework interaction in this particular situation?

Collaborative dialogue, in a long-term negotiation session, aims to unfold common identity-need issues such as safety, honor/dignity, boundary, approval, competence, and meaning issues. The more we learn to display a genuine, inquiring attitude, the more we may uncover deep-level common interests and common ground. Collaborative dialogue also emphasizes inclusivity in terms of drawing from local cultural resources in mediating or managing the historical, intergroup conflict problem. To engage in genuine collaborative dialogue, the international community needs to adopt a paradigm shift : "that we move beyond a simple prescription of answers and modalities for dealing with conflict from outside the setting and focus at least as much attention on discovering and empowering the resources, modalities, and mechanisms for building peace that exist [within] the context" (Lederach, 1997, p. 95). any examples of cultural resources' inclusivity can be identified. From Somalia, we have the extraordinary example of "women functioning as forerunners in rebuilding interclan communication, which prepared the way for clan conferences--guided by elders and massaged by poets--that led to local and regional peace agreements.

After understanding the different angles on all issues (e.g., cultural premises toward conflicts, face/identity, relational, and process issues), the two cultural teams can then use the following substantive problem-solving sequence: differentiation, mutual problem description, and integration (Papa & Papa, 1997). The differentiation phase refers to the important stage of clarifying conflict positions, interests, and goals, and pursuing the underlying reasons that underscore the positional differences. The mutual problem description phase refers to the stage wherein the conflict problem is described in specific, mutually understandable terms. Each party tries to use neutral-toned language to describe the conflict situation and its related dilemmas. Individuals refrain from any evaluative comment or intrusive interruptions. Individuals also focus on peace-building outcomes rather than on assigning blames.

Lastly, the integration phase includes

(1) displaying cooperative, mutual-interest intentions via culture-sensitive verbal and nonverbal acknowledgment and supportive messages;

(2) generating creative solutions via a wide range of cultural approaches such as traditional dramas, storytelling, naming cultural metaphors, proverbs, visualization or sculpting techniques (i.e., using people as nonverbal living sculptures to role-play the solutions), and Western "brainstorming";

(3) evaluating the positive and negative aspects of each solution and making sure that all cultural members are committed and involved in the selection process;

(4) combining the best of different solutions that members of both teams help to blend together;

(5) selecting the best synergistic solutions that are applicable (i.e., desirable and feasible) to both cultural teams; and

(6) establishing a monitoring system (e.g., a timeline and criteria for successful implementation) to determine if the solution or action plan is culturally workable.

Communication Adaptability. All the skills already mentioned cannot be applied prescriptively. Depending on the context, the conflict issue, the people, relationship, resources, and timing--no conflict resolution relies primarily on collaborative dialogue or mindful reframing alone. Even in the best of negotiations, there will be a mixed pattern of competitive and collaborative exchanged messages. The key in any constructive conflict management is to be flexible and adaptable and not be locked into by one set of thinking patterns or behavioral patterns.

Communication adaptability is one of the key skills to constructive intercultural conflict negotiation. Communication adaptability refers to our ability to change our conflict goals and behaviors to meet the specific needs of the situation (Duran, 1985). It signals our mindful awareness of the other person's perspectives, interests, and/or goals, and our willingness to modify our own interests or goals to adapt to the conflict situation. It can also imply behavioral flexibility in dealing with the intercultural conflict episode. By mindfully observing what is going on in the intercultural conflict situation, both parties may modify their nonverbal and verbal behavior to achieve a more synchronized interaction process. In modifying or tailoring our behavioral styles, polarized views on the conflict content problem may also be depolarized or "softened."

In sum, constructive intercultural conflict management requires us to communicate effectively and appropriately in different intercultural situations, which necessitates adaptation. Constructive conflict management requires us to be knowledgeable and respectful of different worldviews and multiple approaches to dealing with a conflict situation. It requires us to be sensitive to the differences and similarities between individualistic and collectivistic cultures. It also demands that we be aware of our own ethnocentric biases and cultural-based attributions when making snapshot evaluations of other person's conflict management approaches.

Constructive conflict negotiation promotes flexible, adaptive behaviors in attuning to both the process and the outcome of an intercultural conflict episode. While the study of intercultural conflict is a complex phenomenon, understanding conflict along the individualism-collectivism continuum and the personal variation continuum (e.g., the independent and interdependent self across a spectrum) serves as the beginning step in understanding conflict variations among different clusters of cultures.

Source: Stella Ting-Toomey (1999), Communicating Across Cultures. New York: The Guilford Press.





Let us try a intercultural conflict management situation in role plays:

 The email game

The Jeep experience








  Contact: Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt FRGS
Bachelor and Master Program International Tourism Management, Office 2.018, Tel. 0481 8555-513
Consultation hours (during lecture period): Friday 10.00 - 11.00 h