Dealing with intercultural conflict

Living in a country that is so multicultural has taught me a lot. It has taught me patience, even when people think that we use elephants to farm in Africa.

Or if we all have Zebras and giraffes grazing at our backyards. I now know when and how to respond to such things. I have learnt that one way to deal with such a conflict should it arise is to let the other person know how what he or she does is different with your value or idea of etiquette.

Please see some guidelines I outlined below:

Be conscious of your values
When you tell someone how you are feeling, be aware that these are your values you are expressing, predicted by your culture. There are no universal rules of politeness, or any other values, that could be considered the ‘correct’ ways.

Give precise feedback
It’s best to start your feedback by saying, “I feel…” and to stick to your observation. In other words, describe what you heard or saw the other person do and describe how that made you feel.

Be specific: the other person may not know your cultural background well and is probably not aware of the depth of your feelings.

Stay calm
Make sure to cool down before you start such a conversation. Only then will you be able to educate the other person about your feelings and values, while at the same time staying away from either moral judgement or an attempt to persuade the other person to agree with your values.

Agree to disagree

Having this conversation is not to enable you to change the other person’s values, because as the above diagram shows, values don’t change easily, and often not at all. What you will achieve by having this conversation is that you’ll be able to agree to disagree in a way that does not leave you feeling hurt or frustrated.

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  1. Hi Cate,
    I really, really like what you say about staying away from moral judgement and from trying to persuade. You know, if I make you uncomfortable by lack of knowledge about your values, then I’ll be interested in knowing what went wrong. And in order to make it possible for us to communicate, I’ll be curious to know whatever conditions there are for that to happen. You’re right! Persuasion is not what is needed. More like exploration?
    Best wishes
    David

    • Hey, it’s really nice to hear from you. I believe you are right. Exploration is one could be one of the solutions. But, exploration would involve travelling for starters….affordability?