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Conflict Resolution in a Cross-Cultural Environment

Updated: May 5, 2023

Part 1 of 3 Series

Series introduction: Beginning to explore two approaches to conflict resolution in intercultural contexts

Conflict resolution, particularly in intercultural environments, is too often clumped together with other “big topics” like negotiation and relationship management. And there really is a lot of material out there discussing how to pursue intercultural conflict resolution—but KnowledgeWorkx brings both the 12 Dimensions of Culture and Three Colors of Worldview to the table. Adding these insights and cultivated competencies into the equation demands and enables a brand new way of viewing conflict.

In this mini-series of articles regarding intercultural conflict, we address what is quickly becoming a massive concern (as it should be). Specifically, we will address the ways different people look at conflict, the different ways they experience it, and, if all parties are willing—the ways they might be willing to pursue resolution.

Think how dramatically people differ from one another, and in turn, how dramatically those differences might affect their perception and approaches to conflicts that arise!

We all hail from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, educational formation, experiences, and professional and personal development backgrounds. Of course each of us would be affected by those factors when it comes to viewing and handling conflicts with entirely different people!

Better understanding our own makeup and preferences (e.g., assessing ourselves in light of the Colors of Worldview and the Dimensions of Culture) will illuminate how broadly and deeply these social, mental, and relational differences affect conflict resolution.

We may be more or less willing to admit it, but we are all influenced by our cultural paradigms—which is one reason why intercultural conflict resolution is such a need, and which is also one reason why Inter-Cultural Intelligence can be such a pivotal help.

Identifying the Colors of Worldview is key to unlocking the complexities of resolving intercultural conflict. Each of us is predominately influenced by one of these three key cultural drivers. Some people are motivated toward “getting it right,” or “doing it right.” Others feel driven to pursue honor, to avoid shame. Some people feel more of a compulsion to pursue positional power (whether to increase what measure they have, or at least to maintain their current positions of power)—so our own predominant Colors of Worldview bear significantly on how we approach conflict.

Approaches to resolving conflict seem to fall into two main categories: Either a focus on the actual problem that instigated the conflict, or a focus on the relationship that was, is, or could be damaged as a result of the conflict.

So it is a fascinating study—when you consider the conflict resolution models and principles employed worldwide—to recognize that most of these approaches fall on what could be called the “problem-centric” side, or on the “relationship-centric” side. (Unfortunately, the two are rarely found in tandem.)

For people who favor a problem-centric approach to resolving conflict, it is critical that all parties would, as a first step, agree on exactly what the problem is and how it started in the first place. The problem is put at the center of the table. It is thoroughly examined from multiple angles. It is discussed in all its nuanced variations.

Then, next steps: Once the problem-centric conflict-resolvers agree that, “Yes, this is our problem, and here is how it came to be”—then from there, the next step is to examine and discuss solutions. “Okay, now what’re we going to do about the problem?”

This issue-focused, solution-focused approach to conflict is a tremendous one, and comes more naturally than not to about one-third of our world’s population.

The other two-thirds of the globe tend to look at conflict in a relationship-centric light. So they would say, “Yes, we definitely have this real conflict, but what’s even more important than solving the conflict itself is preserving the relationships among the affected parties." Any relationship that was at-risk, damaged, or broken needs to be mended and protected—and solving the problem is only a secondary priority to fixing the relationship issue.

These two different approaches to conflict resolution hold at least two things in common: A) They each have strengths, arguably, and B) they both have far-reaching ramifications.

One common denominator is clear: Inter-Cultural Intelligence is a crucial asset in assessing and aiding the effectiveness of approaches to conflict resolution. The impact of cultural differences cannot be overlooked—nor undervalued. So as we delve deeper into a study of intercultural conflict resolution with Part 2 of this series, the KnowledgeWorkx articles about 12 Dimensions of Culture and the Three Colors of Worldview are highly-recommended supplemental reading.


How do I find out my own Colors of Worldview?

For those who want to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the Innocence-Guilt cultural paradigm, KnowledgeWorkx will be publishing several articles over the next few weeks that will explore all three of the Colors of Worldview in-depth. In fact, if you would like to learn about your own color(s), check out this opportunity to discover your own Three Colors of Worldview profile, and get a personalized report:


This series : Part 1 Part 2 Part 3


Quickly becoming the global preferred choice for Inter-Cultural Intelligence development, KnowledgeWorkx promotes mutual understanding of other cultures and perspectives in the workplace, and helps teams to develop the intercultural capacity necessary to thrive in a globalized world.



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