Cultural differences in dealing with conflict

grey birds fighting

In the last lesson we looked at one of the primary fundamental cultural differences: individual vs collective orientation, otherwise known as “me vs we”.

Most people in the world live in cultures that are collectivist. They grow up in an extended family that can include parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins, grandparents, household help, or other housemates. This “in” group is at the core of the person’s sense of belonging, and the welfare of the group is more important than an individual person’s welfare. Children learn to think in terms of “we”.

Other people grow up in cultures that are individualist, where the family typically consists of parents and one or more children. The family is important, but more important is the welfare and success of the individual. Children learn to think in terms of “I”.

In “we” cultures, it is important to maintain harmony and avoid conflict. Criticism should not be given directly.

In “me” cultures, saying what one really thinks is seen as being honest, which is a desirable quality. Criticism should be given directly.

You can see how these two very different attitudes towards conflict can cause misunderstanding and even greater conflict when they come together.

Next week we’ll look at ways to prevent these kinds of misunderstandings.

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