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Leading Cross-Cultural Conflict Resolution

Interpretive misunderstanding is central to cross-cultural conflict resolution. When dealing with Asian culture, for example, Westerners often interpret their silence as consent (Lindo, 2012). However, the Asian culture employs an indirect method of handling conflict which is often misinterpreted as “(1) lack of courage to confront the person (2) unwillingness to deal with the issue, (3) lack of commitment to solve the problem or (4) refusal to take responsibility for one’s actions” (Elmer, 1993, p 52). Asian managers interpret Westerners as unreasonable and lack respect (Lindo, 2012) which is rooted in the Asian cultures shame based cultural mechanics. To interpret a culture we must begin to understand the very patterns of thought are culturally based and vary from culture to culture because they are culturally constructed (Zweifel, 2003, p 14-15). In the case of the Asian culture, honor and shame becomes an integral part of the cultural patterns of communication. These patterns serve to: preserve smooth interpersonal relationships, maintain harmony, minimize potential conflict, restore community solidarity and facilitate communication between the various levels of society (Elmer, 1993, p 54). The practical foundation to overcoming cultural conflict is rooted in the concept of developing friendships over issues of profit and politics. Westerns view relationships as less important than in other cultures (Zweifel, 2003, p 44), while Easterners pay more attention to relationships (Zweifel, 2003, p 15). Stagich (2001) argues “the fundamental values essential for effective collaboration include reciprocal benefit, mutual respect, appreciation of diverse contributions, and a shared understanding of how these values work in the collaborative group process (p 16).

Zweifel (2003) said we must learn to interact with people as individuals and not as culture” (p 36). Only when we connect with the person do we begin to understand and connect with their culture.


Lindo, Navon (2012). Retrieved from his posting: Blackboard Dialogues for Doctorate in Strategic Leadership, Regent University, Virginia Beach, VA.

Elmer, D. (1993). Cross-cultural conflict: Building relationships for effective ministry. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity.

Zweifel, Thomas D. (2003). Culture Clash. Merging the Global High-Performance Team. New York, NY: SelectBooks.

Stagich, Timothy (2001). Collaborative Leadership and Global Transformation. ISBN: 0-75965-148-5.


Philip A Foster, MA is Founder/CEO of Maximum Change Inc. Elevating leaders and their organizations to the next level since 2005. Master Certified Coach, Philip A Foster, MA and his associates facilitate effective positive change by helping organizations, leaders and individuals in high demand — design and implement strategies that maximize focus and deliver results. Specializing in Organization and Strategic Leadership.

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