Cultural Dimensions

Assignment: Cultural Dimensions

Conflict often occurs because people are different. They have different values, needs, and perspectives and are often from different cultures. In order to resolve a conflict, it is helpful for each party to understand the conflict from the other party’s point of view. Cultures are frequently classified by their geographic location in Western or non-Western parts of the world. They also are categorized by individualist and collectivist value systems. Chapter 16 in the online book, Peace, Conflict, and Violence: Peace Psychology for the 21st Century, explains the differences between Western and non-Western cultures as well as the distinction between individualist and collectivist value systems. Psychologist Geert Hofstede acknowledged individualism-collectivism as one potential difference between cultures. In his research, he identified a total of five cultural differences that he termed dimensions. The five dimensions are power/distance, individualism, masculinity, uncertainty/avoidance, and long-term orientation. Each dimension is described in detail in the assigned article, “Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions.” Comparing countries on the five dimensions is helpful in understanding conflict and conflict resolution between countries.

To prepare for this assignment:

  • Review the assigned pages from Chapter 16 of Peace, Conflict, and Violence: Peace Psychology for the 21st Century. Focus on Western and non-Western models of peacemaking.
  • Review the article, “Culture and Conflict.” Note the values in individualist and collectivist settings.
  • Review the article, “Culture-Based Negotiation Styles.” Pay attention to the way that different countries approach negotiation.
  • Review the article, “Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions: Understanding Workplace Values Around the World.” Notice the differences between each dimension of culture.
  • Select two countries that have been or currently are in conflict.
  • Compare the two countries using the cultural dimensions interactive index.
  • Consider the role of culture in the conflict that you selected and how dimensions of culture might influence the resolution of the conflict.

The assignment: (1–2 pages)

  • Briefly describe the two countries that you selected and the conflict in which they are engaged. Explain why you selected them.
  • Compare the two countries on the following dimensions: collectivism-individualism, masculinity-femininity, power distance, long-term orientation, and uncertainty avoidance.
  • Explain what insights you had or conclusions that you might now draw about the countries and/or the conflict between them based on your comparison.
  • Explain the role that culture plays in this conflict and how dimensions of culture might influence the resolution of the conflict.
  • Support your Application Assignment with specific references to all resources used in its preparation. You are asked to provide a reference list only for those resources not included in the Learning Resources for this course.


    Christie, D. J., Wagner, R. V., & Winter, D. A. (Eds.). (2001). Peace, Conflict, and Vio- lence: Peace Psychology for the 21st Century. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

    Note: Copyright reverted to editors (2007). Permission is granted for downloading and copying.

    CHAPTER 16


    Paul B. Pedersen

    Conflict is a natural aspect of any relationship. Conflict may be positive or negative, that is,

    functional or dysfunctional. Whereas negative conflict threatens to erode the growth and devel-

    opment of a relationship, positive conflict can actually strengthen relationships, especially when

    the parties in conflict share fundamental values.

    One of the major difficulties peacemakers confront in conflicts between groups from differ-

    ent cultures is the uncertainty about cultural values. Peaceful resolution of intercultural conflict

    often involves the parties acknowledging their shared values and mutually appreciating their cul-

    tural differences. However, in intercultural conflict resolution even when different cultural

    groups share the same values, their behavioral expression of these values may differ. Not only

    can different behaviors have the same meaning, the same behavior can have different meanings.

    Therefore, it is important to interpret each behavior in its cultural context. In order to intervene

    constructively in intercultural conflict, it is essential that a peacemaker understand both the basic

    values of the cultures and the behavioral expressions of these values. The peacemaker is then in a

    good position to help the parties empathize with one another and to gauge how best to approach




    them in the context of their own conflict resolution processes.

    A consistent weakness of many international peacemaking efforts derives from the cultural

    insularity of the practitioners, especially the insensitivity of Western peacemakers to the cultural

    context of non-Western groups in conflict. Lund, Morris, and LeBaron-Duryea (1994) suggest

    that culture-centered models which incorporate a culturally sensitive approach to conflict may be

    more appropriate than any universal (“one-size-fits-all”) model of intervention. It is the purpose

    of this chapter to explore, clarify, and propose methods of meeting the critical need to incorpo-

    rate cultural understanding into the peacemaking process. In the first section, I present a culture-

    centered perspective on conflict. Then, I compare Western and non-Western models of peace-

    making, contrasting the collectivist model invoked in the Asia-Pacific region with the individual-

    istic model of the West. In the third section, I describe in detail certain features of the Chinese

    and Hawaiian conflict resolution systems to exemplify some non-Western peacemaking proce-

    dures which could prove useful in the West. In the fourth section, I present the Cultural Grid, a

    model that helps identify the complexity of culture and guides the training of people to manage

    conflict in multicultural settings. Finally, I turn to prospects for the future, noting the growing

    importance of cultural understanding and certain cultural fictions that must be set aside if we are

    to promote peace effectively in the twenty-first century.


    The ways that conflicts between groups are managed reflect each group’s culturally acquired pat-

    terns of attitudes and beliefs. These patterns may involve punishing wrongdoers, repairing

    strained or broken relationships, depending on courts or legal systems or relying on informal so-

    cial pressure through teasing, gossip, exclusion, and supernatural forces. These typical ways of




    perceiving and responding to conflict are so natural to ingroup members of a culture that they

    assume their perspectives can be applied in other cultures (Fry & Bjorkqvist, 1997).

    The impact of culture on conflict has important implications. First, misunderstandings may

    occur as groups in conflict interpret the behavior of outsiders according to the cultural rules of

    insiders. Second, conflict may not be resolved when groups in conflict seek quick and easy an-

    swers by forcing their own cultural perspective on one another. Third, a better understanding of

    the impact of culture on conflict may allow us to adapt others’ peacemaking strategies to enlarge

    our own repertoire.

    Peacemaking requires that both parties to a conflict be able to accurately understand the con-

    flict from the other side’s point of view. In a failing conflictual process, two groups are frustrated

    in their efforts to achieve agreement by an inability (or unwillingness) to accurately interpret or

    understand each other’s perspective. In contrast, when conflicting groups adopt a culture-

    centered perspective, they actively seek meaning in the other’s actions and proactively try to

    make their own actions understandable to the other (Dubinskas, 1992). By jointly constructing

    cultural meaning, the cultural differences are not erased. Instead, the cultural integrity of all par-

    ties is preserved and a new basis for intercultural cooperation and coordination is constructed as

    a metaphoric bridge to an island of common ground for both sides of the dispute.


    Individualistic vs. Collectivistic Cultures

    Non-Western cultures have typically been associated with “collectivistic” perspectives, while

    Western cultures have typically been associated with “individualistic” value systems (Kim, Tri-




    andis, Kagitcibasi, Choi, & Yoon, 1994). One difference between the two value systems is that

    individualism describes societies where the connections between people are loose, and each per-

    son is expected to look after him or herself. Collectivism describes cultures where people are part

    of strong cohesive ingroups which protect them in exchange for unquestioned lifetime loyalty

    (Hofstede, 1991). Differences on the individualism-collectivism dimension can lead to problems.

    For instance, the concept of individual freedom is a reflection of an individualistic value and it

    would be improper to impose such a value on a collectivistic society.

    A second difference is that in non-Western collectivistic cultures, one of the ways to manage

    disagreement between people is through the use of quoted proverbs or stories that give guidance

    on how to manage power differentials, handle disputes, locate mediators or go-betweens, and

    how to achieve mutually satisfactory settlements (Augsburger, 1992). For example, Watson-

    Gegeo and White (1990) describe how Pacific Islanders prefer the term “disentangling” over the

    more individualistic notions of conflict resolution or dispute management. Disentangling is more

    a process than an outcome and the image of a tangled net or line blocking purposeful activity has

    a practical emphasis as well as implying the ideal state where the lines of people’s lives are

    “straight.” Katz (1993) likewise talks about “the straight path” as a healing tradition of Fiji with

    spiritual dimensions of health for the individual and for society.

    A third difference is the notion of self. In Western societies, the self is grounded intrapsychi-

    cally in self-love, self-definition, and self-direction. In the solidarity of a collectivistic setting,

    the self is not free. It is bound by mutual role obligations and duties, structured and nurtured in

    an ongoing process of give-and-take in facework negotiations. In the West, there must be high

    consistency between public face and private self-image. In the East, the self is not an individual




    but a relational construct” (Augsburger, 1992, p. 86).

    High and Low Context Cultures

    Another way of distinguishing cultures is the degree to which context matters.

    Low context cultures generally refer to groups characterized by individualism,

    overt communication and heterogeneity. The United States, Canada and Central

    and Northern Europe are described as areas where low context cultural practices

    are most in evidence. High context cultures feature collective identity-focus, cov-

    ert communication and homogeneity. This approach prevails in Asian countries

    including Japan, China and Korea as well as Latin American countries. (Hall,

    1976, p. 39)

    Gudykunst and Ting-Toomey (1988) have made similar distinctions: Low-context cultures

    are likely to emphasize the individual rather than the group, be concerned about autonomy rather

    than inclusion, be direct rather than indirect, take a controlling style of confrontation rather than

    an obliging style, and be competitive rather than collaborative. To illustrate, Hall (1976) con-

    trasts the American (low-context) with the Japanese (high-context) perspective regarding justice.

    In a Japanese trial, the accused, the court, the public, and the injured parties come together in a

    collaborative effort to settle the dispute. In the United States, the function of a trial is to focus on

    the crime, confront the perpetrator, and affix blame in a way that the criminal and society see the


    Gudykunst and Ting-Toomey associate high-and low-context with collectivism and individu-

    alism, respectively. While low-context persons view indirect conflict management as weak, cow-




    ardly, or evasive, members of high-context cultures view direct conflict management as impolite

    and clumsy. While low-context persons separate the conflict issue from the person, high-context

    cultures see the issue and person as interrelated. While low-context persons seek to manage con-

    flict toward an objective and fair solution, high-context cultures focus on the affective, relational,

    personal, and subjective aspects which preclude open conflict. While low-context cultures have a

    linear and logical worldview which is problem-oriented and sensitive to individuals, high-context

    cultures see the conflict, event, and all actors in a unified, holistic context. While low-context

    cultures value independence focused on autonomy, freedom, and personal rights, high-context

    cultures value inclusion, approval, and association.

    Table 16.1 Differences between Low-and High-context Cultures

    Low Context High Context Individual participants must first accept and

    acknowledge that there is a conflict before

    resolution/mediation can begin.

    Traditional groups must first accept and acknowl-

    edge that there is a conflict before resolution/

    mediation can begin. Conflict and resolution/mediation process

    must often be kept private.

    Conflict is not private and must be made public

    before the resolution/mediation process can begin. Conflict management trains an individual to

    negotiate/mediate or resolve conflict reac-


    Social conflict management emphasizes monitor

    ing or mediating stress in a proactive manner.

    Resolution and mediation are individually de-

    fined by the individuals involved in the con-


    Conflict and its resolution/mediation are defined

    by the group or culture.

    Settlements are usually devoid of ritual and


    Settlements are most often accompanied by ritual

    and spirituality.




    Negotiations are face-to-face and confidential. Negotiations are indirect (through intermediaries)

    and public. Preference for court settlements. Relying on courts to resolve/mediate conflict is

    regarded as a failure.

    Using data from a 1994 conference on “Conflict resolution in the Asia Pacific Region,” Ped-

    ersen and Jandt (1996) developed some hypotheses about how high-and low-context cultures ex-

    perience conflict differently. These hypotheses are presented in Table 16.1.

    Western cultures have typically been associated with more individualistic perspectives with

    less emphasis on the importance of context. Non-Western cultures have typically been more col-

    lectivistic with more emphasis on the importance of context. Of course, neither of these two per-

    spectives is right or wrong or exclusively Western or non-Western. Nevertheless, in any conflict

    involving parties from different cultures, peacemakers need to be sensitive to the different rules

    that apply to peacemaking in each culture. An examination of conflict in a high-context culture

    located in the Asian-Pacific region of the world, can help illustrate many of the principles of

    peacemaking across cultures.


    The Asian-Pacific perspective is unique in several ways, as described by a Chinese mediator.

    “We who engage in mediation work should use our mouths, legs and eyes more often. This

    means we should constantly explain the importance of living in harmony and dispense legal edu-

    cation. We should also pay frequent visits to people’s houses and when we hear or see any symp-

    toms of disputes we should attempt to settle them before they become too serious” (Barnes,

    1991, p. 26).




    The Concept of “Face”

    Conflict management in the Asian context has been described as face maintenance, face saving,

    face restoration, or face loss (Duryea, 1992). The concept of “face” is Chinese in origin as a lit-

    eral translation of the Chinese term lian, representing the confidence of society in the integrity of

    moral character. Without moral character, individuals cannot function in their community (Hu,

    1945). One loses face when an individual or group or someone representing the group fails to

    meet the requirements of their socially defined role or position. Face can become more important

    than life itself as the evaluation of the self by the community is essential to identity. What one

    thinks of self is less important than what one thinks others think. Ting-Toomey (1994) defines

    the concept of face in conflict management as important in all communications.

    The traditional Chinese approach to conflict resolution is based on saving face for all parties

    by the choices each makes regarding personal goals and interpersonal harmony. This approach

    follows the Confucian tradition in which the choice between personal goals and interpersonal

    harmony depends on the particular nature of the relationship between conflicted parties (Hwang,

    1998). When a subordinate is in conflict with a superior he or she must protect the superior’s

    face to maintain interpersonal harmony. Opinions are expressed indirectly, and any personal goal

    must be achieved privately while pretending to obey the superior.

    When the conflict involves horizontal relationships among “ingroup” members, they may

    communicate directly, and to protect harmony they may give face to each other through com-

    promise. If, however, one insists on his or her personal goal in spite of the feelings of the other,

    the fight may continue for a long time. If both parties insist on their conflicting personal goals,

    they may treat the other as an “outgroup” member and confront that person directly, disregarding




    harmony and protecting their own face. A third party might be required to mediate this conflict

    and it may result in destroying the relationship.

    Hwang (1998) describes the Confucian relationships of father/son, husband/wife, senior/

    junior brother, and superior/subordinate in a vertical structure emphasizing the value of harmony.

    “When one is conflicting with someone else within his or her social network, the first thing one

    has to learn is forbearance…In its broadest sense, forbearance means to control and to suppress

    one’s emotion, desire and psychological impulse” (p. 28). Therefore a subordinate must obey and

    endure the superior’s demands, relying on indirect communication from some third party in their

    social network to communicate with the superior. Because Confucian rules of politeness require

    both sides to “care about the other’s face” at least superficially, conflict among ingroup members

    may not be evident to outsiders. In a family, for example, members take care of each other’s face

    in front of outsiders to maintain superficial harmony by obeying publicly and defying privately

    (Gao & Ting-Toomey, 1998)


    One Pacific Islands model for peacemaking and managing conflict is through ho’oponopono,

    which means “setting to right” in the Hawaiian language. The traditional Hawaiian cultural con-

    text emphasizes cooperation and harmony. The extended family, or ohana, is the foundation of

    traditional Hawaiian society, … [and] successful maturation of a person in the Hawaiian culture

    thus requires that an individual cultivate an accurate ability to perceive and attend to other peo-

    ple’s needs, often without being asked” (Shook, 1985, p. 6). Unregulated conflict disrupts bal-

    ance and harmony, requires self-scrutiny, admission of wrongdoing, asking forgiveness, and res-

    titution to restore harmony. Illness becomes a punishment that occurs when one ignores the so-




    cial pressure against taking negative actions or having negative feelings toward others.

    The traditional ho’oponopono approach to problem solving and conflict management begins

    with prayer, asking God for assistance and placing the process in a cosmic or spiritual context.

    This is followed by identification, which means sharing strength to solve the family’s problems

    by reaching out to the persons causing disruption to establish a favorable climate. The problem is

    then described in a way that ties the person who was wronged and the wrongdoer together in an

    entanglement. Then the many different dimensions of the entanglement problem are explored

    and clarified, one by one. As each aspect is identified through discussion, the layers or tangles of

    the problem are reorganized until family relationships are again in harmony. Individuals who

    have been wronged are encouraged to share their feelings and perceptions and to engage in hon-

    est, open self-scrutiny. If the group discussion is disrupted by emotional outbursts, the leader

    may declare a period of silence for family members to regain harmony in their discussion. Fol-

    lowing this is the sincere confession of wrongdoing, where the wrongdoer seeks forgiveness and

    agrees to restitution. Untangling the negative then joins both the wronged and the wrongdoer in a

    mutual release and restores their cosmic and spiritual harmony. A closing spiritual ceremony re-

    affirms the family’s strength and bond.

    Attempts to adapt ho’oponopono to Westernized contexts have applied those aspects of (1)

    recognizing the importance of conflict management in a spiritual context, (2) channeling the dis-

    cussion with sanctions of silence should disruption occur, and (3) bringing the wrongdoer back

    into the community as a full member with complete restitution and forgiveness. Understanding a

    radically different dispute resolution system should help peacemakers become more sensitive to

    whatever cultural differences they encounter in their work.





    Hines and Pedersen (1980) introduced and developed The Cultural Grid to help identify and de-

    scribe the complexity of a cultural context in a way that would suggest research hypotheses and

    guide the training of people to manage conflict in multicultural settings. Table 16.2 presents the

    Within-Person Cultural Grid. The grid provides a conceptual framework that demonstrates how

    cultural and personal variables interact in a combined context, linking each behavior (what you

    did) to expectations, each expectation to values (why you did it), and each value to the social

    system (where you learned to do it). Each cultural context is complicated and dynamic so that

    each value is taught by many teachers, with different values becoming salient in different situa-

    tions. Multicultural self-awareness means being able to identify what you did (behavior), why

    you did it (expectation and value), and where you learned to do it (culture-teachers).

    The Within-Person Cultural Grid is intended to show the complex network of culturally

    learned patterns behind each behavior in a chain of logic from teachers to values and expecta-

    tions to the behavior. The dangers of interpreting behaviors “out of context” are apparent once

    the contextual linkage of behaviors to expectations, values, and social systems has been demon-

    strated. Cultural conflict can arise when the context of behavior is not interpreted appropriately.

    For example, our cultural teachers may have taught us the value of being fair and might have

    communicated that we should “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Someone

    from another culture might share the same value (i.e., being fair), but there may be differences in

    which behaviors are viewed as indications of fairness. If you focus only on the behavior out of

    context, a misunderstanding may occur.

    Table 16.2 Within-Person Cultural Grid




    Cultural Teachers

    Personal Variables Where you learned to do

    it (teachers)

    Why you did it (val-

    ues and expect.)

    What you did

    (behavior) 1. Family relationships


    fellow countrypersons

    ancestors shared beliefs 2. Power relationships

    social friends

    sponsors and mentors


    supervisors and

    superiors 3. Memberships



    gender and age


    workplace colleagues




    4. Non-family    rela-





    people like me

    In order to examine interpersonal processes, we now consider another cultural grid. The

    Between-Persons Cultural Grid is illustrated in Table 16.3. This grid describes the relationship

    between two people or groups by separating what was done (behaviors) from why it was done

    (expectations). The Between-Persons Cultural Grid includes four quadrants. Each quadrant ex-

    plains parts of a conflict between two individuals or groups, recognizing that the salience of each

    quadrant may change over time and across situations (Pedersen, 1993). In the first quadrant

    (same behavior, same expectation), two individuals have similar behaviors and similar positive

    expectations. The relationship is congruent and harmonious and there are positive shared expec-

    tations behind the behavior. Both persons are smiling (behavior) and both persons expect friend-

    ship (expectation). There is little conflict in this quadrant.

    Table 16.3 Between-Persons Cultural Grid

    Why It Was Done(expectation) What Was Done? (behavior) Same action Different action

    Perceived same and positive reason

    Perceived different and negative





    In the second quadrant, two individuals or groups have different behaviors but share the same

    positive expectations. There is a high level of agreement in that both persons expect trust and

    friendliness. However, if behavior is interpreted out of context, it is likely to be incorrectly seen

    as different and possibly hostile. This quadrant is characteristic of cultural conflict in which each

    person or group is applying a self-reference criterion to interpret the other person’s or group’s

    behavior. Both expect respect but one shows respect by being very formal and the other by being

    very informal. In another example, two people may both expect harmony but one shows har-

    mony by smiling a lot and the other by being very serious. If the behaviors are not perceived as

    reflecting shared, positive, common-ground expectations, the conflict may escalate as each party

    perceives the other as hostile. The conditions described in the second quadrant are very unstable

    and, unless the shared positive expectations are quickly found and made explicit, the salience is

    likely to change toward the third quadrant.

    In the third quadrant, the two persons have the same behaviors but now they have different or

    negative expectations. The similarity of behaviors gives the appearance of harmony and agree-

    ment, but the hidden expectations are different or negative and are not likely to bode well for the

    relationship. While you may have cross-cultural conflict when the behaviors are the same and

    expectations are different, the salient feature here is no longer the shared cultural value, meaning,

    or expectation, but rather the similar behaviors outside their cultural context. When I interpret

    your behavior from my own cultural perspective, I impose my culture on you and interpret your

    behavior out of context. Although both persons are now in disagreement this may not be obvious

    or apparent to others. One person may continue to expect trust and friendliness while the other

    person is now distrustful and unfriendly, even though they are both behaving similarly, both




    smiling and glad-handing. If these two people can be guided to remember an earlier time when

    they shared positive expectations, they might be able to return to the second quadrant and reverse

    the escalating conflict between them. If the difference in expectations is ignored or undiscovered,

    the conflict may move to the fourth quadrant.

    In the fourth quadrant, two people have different and/or negative expectations and they stop

    pretending to be congruent. The two persons are at war with one another and may not want to

    increase the harmony in their relationship any longer. Their disagreement is now obvious and

    apparent, and they may just want to hurt one another. This condition would describe intimate

    violence, hate crimes, ethnopolitical violence, terrorism, and other extreme forms of conflict.

    It is very difficult to retrieve conflict from the fourth quadrant because one or both parties

    have stopped trying to find shared positive expectations. Unfortunately, many conflicts between

    people and groups remain undiscovered until reaching the fourth quadrant. An appropriate pre-

    vention strategy would be to identify the conflict in behaviors early in the process when those

    differences in behaviors are in a context of shared positive expectations, allowing both parties to

    build on the common ground they share without forcing either party to lose integrity.

    Therefore, two people may both share the positive expectation of trust but one may be loud

    and the other quiet; they may share respect but one may be open and the other closed; they may

    both believe in fairness but one may be direct and the other indirect; they may value efficiency

    but one may be formal and the other informal; they may seek effectiveness but one may be close

    and the other distant; or they may want safety but one may be task-oriented and the other

    relationship-oriented. Only when each behavior is assessed and understood in its own context

    does that behavior become meaningful. Only when positive shared expectations can be identified




    will two individuals or groups be able to find common ground without sacrificing cultural integ-




    There are many reasons for conflict across cultures. Different needs and wants, different beliefs,

    competing goals, different loyalties, values, ideologies, and geopolitical factors provide opportu-

    nities for conflict. Limited resources and wealth, the availability of technological solutions, dis-

    parities in power across social groups and classes all provide reasons for disagreement.

    The United States offers one example of the increasing importance of a culture-centered per-

    spective on conflict and the need to develop more adequate culture-sensitive tools for managing

    conflict. Demographic changes in the United States, with some minority groups growing more

    rapidly than others, will change the nature of community disputes so that issues of race, national

    origin, and ethnicity are more likely to be important considerations in the twenty-first century.

    The culture-based approach emphasizes that although cultures may embrace the same core val-

    ues, the expression of these values in observable behaviors may differ dramatically, thereby in-

    creasing the likelihood of misunderstanding. Those seeking to mediate or manage community

    disputes will need to know more about the cultural background of the people involved. Cultur-

    ally defined tools and strategies will become necessary not only to understand the disputes, but

    also to assist and resolve them (Kruger, 1992).

    Sunoo (1990) provides seven guidelines for mediators of intercultural disputes.

    1. Anticipate different expectations.




    2. Do not assume that what you say is being understood.

    3. Listen carefully.

    4. Seek ways of getting both parties to validate the concerns of the other.

    5. Be patient, be humble, and be willing to learn.

    6. Apply win-win negotiating principles to the negotiation rather than traditional adversarial

    bargaining techniques.

    7. Dare to do things differently.

    These recommendations parallel ten guidelines by Cohen (1991), who suggests that the nego-

    tiator study the opponent’s culture and history, try to establish a warm personal relationship, re-

    frain from assuming that others understand what you mean, be alert to indirect communication,

    be sensitive to face/status issues, adapt your strategy to your opponent’s cultural needs, be ap-

    propriately flexible and patient, and recognize that outward appearances are important.

    Lund, Morris, and LeBaron-Duryea (1994) note that culture is complicated and dynamic with

    considerable diversity within each cultural group. Culture provides a metaphor for respecting the

    complicated and dynamic diversity within and between cultural groups while also defining the

    common ground that connects the groups. Finding common ground without giving up integrity

    and without resorting to simplistic stereotypes or overgeneralizations is the primary challenge.

    Dominant-culture methods of conflict resolution are based on culture-bound assumptions and

    incorporate values and attitudes not shared by members of minority groups. These culture-bound

    assumptions are implicit or explicit in many of the models of mediation and negotiation originat-

    ing in the West. It is important to separate fact from fiction in these models and to make peace-




    makers aware of culturally bound assumptions.


    One fiction is that conflicts are merely communication problems and if effective communication

    can be facilitated, then the conflict will be solved. In fact, the cultural context mediates all com-

    munications between groups and must be attended to in all conflict management.

    A second fiction is that there is a middle ground which both parties must reach through com-

    promise to get some of what they want. In fact, the conflict may not fit a winlose model and

    compromising may be less effective than reframing the conflict so that both parties gain without

    losing integrity.

    A third fiction is that the optimal way to address conflict is to get both of the parties in the

    same room and facilitate an open, forthright discussion of the issues. In fact, direct contact in

    many cultural contexts may be destructive, especially in contexts where conflicts are managed


    A fourth fiction is that parties in conflict should emphasize their individual interests over col-

    lective values of family, community, or society. In fact, the collective interests may be more im-

    portant than individual interests in some cultures.

    A fifth fiction is that any third-party mediator must be a neutral person with no connections

    to any of the conflicting parties. In fact, neutrality may be impossible or even undesirable when it

    requires going outside the group to find a third party.

    A sixth fiction is that good procedures for conflict resolution should be standardized accord-

    ing to fair, reasonable, and rational formats and policies. In fact, the expectation of fairness, rea-




    sonableness, and rationality may be expressed quite differently by each culture.

    Peacemaking between ethnocultural groups has become an urgent need in recent times and

    promises to be a major priority of the twenty-first century. By better understanding the positive

    contribution that a culture-centered approach to peacemaking provides, we might be better pre-

    pared to promote the sustainable satisfaction of human needs for security and a high quality of

    life on a global scale for the twenty-first century.


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