Intercultural Conflict

What is conflict? “an expressed struggle between at least two interdependent parties who perceive incompatible goals, scarce rewards, and interference from the other party in achieving their goals” (Adler, et al., 2008).

Both parties need to know or be aware of an issue for conflict to arise. Conflict is natural.

Intercultural conflict tends to be more AMBIGUOUS than Intra-cultural conflict. For example..

Martin & Nakayama (2007) report that intercultural conflict can be approached from several different perspectives.

The dialectical perspective provides the more opportunities for different interpretations of conflicts.

The perspective of Conflict as Opportunity

The perspective of conflict as destructive assumes that

Pacifism, or the avoidance of conflict is often part of the society

Intermediary as a third party who can intervene and assist in conflict resolution is used.

Dialectical approach

Cultural Differences in Conflict

dialectical tensions.... F9.1

High vs Low Conflict Cultures

Northern Ireland vs. Norway

Group and personal conflict low internal conflict (avoid)

Low Conflict Cultures tend to have:

Affective Conflict - when emotional assessments, states of account stand in contrast to one another.

Conflict of Interest - when interests on an issue, action or values judgment are at odds.

Value Conflict - When thoughts misalign on an issue

Cognitive conflict – Different perceptions of the same event. For example – friendship.

Goal Conflict - when goals of action or planning or vision are incongruent

Bradford “J” Hall (2005) defines several key grounds for where conflict can occur.


Direct / Indirect Approaches & Emotional Expressiveness / Restraint Approaches:
The combination of these two factors may result in Hammer’s (2005) four different conflict resolutions styles.

Potential problems in intercultural communication

Seeking similarities between or among cultural practices when there are none or few

Uncertainty reduction for those involved in the situation may interpret things differently

Withdrawal from the situation because it is too challenging or threatening

Stereotyping the thoughts and action of others in the intercultural situation


Strategies for dealing with conflict (Ting-Toomey & Oetzel, 2002)


Self Concern

Other Concern
















 F9.2.jpg Five Style Conflict Model  


Social Justice is goal for many who are concerned about unequal or unjust social relationships and power imbalances. Social movements strive for and lead to social change. These approaches emphasize the economic, political, and historical contexts that may be contributing to conflict.

Politics of everyday Encounters

Are found where power relationships are being negotiated and constantly reformed.

Martin & Nakayama (2007) discuss facework, saving face from shame within a society.

Recently some shaming has been done on the internet meeting place facebook, does that mean that we have facebook facework?

Social Movements : confrontation an opportunity for social change (non-violent and violent)

Managing Intercultural Conflict

Productive vs. Unproductive Conflict

Dealing with Conflict – the To Dos


Complications with Conflict Resolution

What is prejudice?
There are a large number of approaches to the explanation of prejudice.

What is Discrimination?

The exclusion / segregation and marginalization of others due to their appearance of group membership.

Targets of prejudice anyone for any reason commons groups are racial, religious, linguistic, gendered, sexual orientation, political ideological.

Biological Theories - like ethnocentrism - viewed as part of our evolutionary past; "red in tooth and claw" - aggression is a natural instinct, competition in genes,...

Universal colour bias - Some suggest there is a universal bias to ward lighter skinned people  (Duckett, 1992)

Social Theories
suggest that were learn to distinguish between types of people for political, economic and social reasons. Modelling others.

Psychological Theories
Projection - psychoanlaytically projecting one's failings or negative traits (Shadow) on to others

often mix elements from these other two, e.g.,

Hostility Displacement and Scape-goating is built on the Freudian model of "hydraulics" where aggression and hostility towards others is seen as a deflection of psychological energy (libido) from some frustration in one's life.
(i.e., Boss (father figure) yells at you, you yell at kids, kids yell at cat.) Someone becomes the victim or scapegoat of the action. The fundamental attribution error may be invovled too.

Cognitive - Use stereotypes as categories to organise the world, prejudice is the use of 'loose categories' that don't work very well. Perhaps need to teach people more accurate information so they can know the 'others' better.

-Need to change attitudes and then behaviour.
(cognitive dissonance) try to keep our actions and thoughts in line, otherwise it is more work to balance them.

Belief congruence- biased towards others who hold the same beliefs as us.

Social Identity Theory suggests that we have a need for distinctiveness of social identity. We favour our in-groups to the exclusion of others.

Tajfel - Social Identity Theory -
Positive feelings of value and emotional significance arise through group membership.

-Positive valuation in comparison with other groups is observed in Minimal Group Studies. Preference for paintings, give more money to "fictitious in-group'.

The problem of the Commons - social traps



How to combat prejudice and discrimination?

Education, information, sharing and contact (these are part of the multicultural policy and multicultural ideology). Teach people to become active witnesses (Ishiyama)

Identity theory of prejudice -
Through identifying with others you will experience them as yourself, you will no longer be prejudiced against them as others. Vedanta, Buddhism, Christianity -love thy enemy, Gandhi quoted Christ on this point in his non-violent stand against discrimination.

Contact Hypothesis Antecedents of Contact
They present the work of Brislin (1981) who gives four features:
1) Bring childhood experiences, 2) bring historical myths to interactions, 3) languages that people speak influence interactions, 4) people tend to be affected by recent vivid events

Contact Hypothesis As suggested above, the contact hypothesis is considered to be key in peacemaking, but also for establishing an ongoing relationship.

Early work was done here by Amir (1969) which will be examined as it relates to conflict and inter-group identities, the dynamics and contexts that allow adversaries to come together and form new understandings of themselves and each other.

Contact hypothesis suggests that having contact with people from other groups one will become less prejudiced and more accepting and tolerant of differences that were once perceived as incommensurate.

Tajfel (1978) indicates that simple categorization of people into groups will lead to an exaggeration of the differences between the groups and a minimization of the differences within the groups.

This effect of "minimal groups" and the social identity theory (Tajfel, 1978) may thus be combined with the contact hypothesis which leads to a complicated situation for understanding the effects of contact.

Amir (1986) provides reviews on the contact hypothesis, indicating that contact may or may not lead to a reduction in prejudiced attitudes, depending upon a number of variables.

Those variables pertinant in developing positive inter-relations between groups:
(1) The initial intergroup attitudes are not extremely negative;

(2) Contact of an intimate rather than casual nature which allows the interacting members to really get to know each other beyond the superficial level;

(3) An 'authority' and/or social climate slanted in favour of and promoting the pursuit of common goals;

(4) Equal-status contact between the members of the interacting groups. (p. 74)

It is not simply contact that the multicultural policy should be after, but a special kind of contact, as described above.

Peacemaking: Cooperation and finding superordinate goals (Sherif, 1966). The groups (survivors) need to cooperate to do better. Communication made simple and clear. Concilliation or winning over the favour of others is important for coming together on challenging issues.