Think of a person or group that is culturally different from you in some way, with whom you have experienced a conflict that you now realize may have had cultural differences at its root.
Being social beings, humans interact with one another and stay in a community. The interaction among people of the society is one of the key dynamics that holds the world population together. However, I have come to face quite a lot of conflict with my neighbor over some issues. The dislike and conflict has only got enhanced over time, and in retrospect, I have come to believe that the conflicts have their roots in the cultural difference that I have with the neighbor of ours. He is Mohammad Iqbal, a Muslim person who has been living in this country for over two decades now. It has become quite clear to me that the differences that we have in our opinion and the conflict rise from the fact that while I belong to the cultural milieu of the Christian community of the country, he is an Islamic person who has a totally different culture, and is the cultural minority of the country. According to Schubert (2015), differences are there in the world and they give rise to cultural conflicts.
Now, it goes beyond saying that there are vast differences between the Christian culture and the Islamic culture. There are huge differences in worldview, rituals, norms, ideals, and practices that shape the two cultural communities. Culture is shaped by the religious belief of the individual, and it is also influenced by the community’s characteristic practices and beliefs. Moreover, literature and upbringing also play their part in shaping the cultural mindset of a person. Culture plays a major role in shaping the identity of a person. It is intertwined with ethnicity, nationality, and religious belief. As such, it can be understood that although my neighbor has lived in the cultural ambiance of the country for so many years, he has held on to his cultural identity of being a Muslim.
I could zero in on a few specific issues of conflict that is there between me and him, and these conflicts rise from the cultural differences that is there between us. Since we live in the same locality, there are times when we have attended the same event or party at someone’s place. I have noticed that he does not like the fact that I am a huge lover of pork. While I used to find it quite strange in the beginning, thinking that the person was being too nosy on commenting or judging my choice of food. I believed that it was my personal choice. However, I could later realize that he has grown up in a culture where pig meat is prohibited from consumption. On the other hand, there was no such taboo or prohibition in my culture with regard to consumption of pork. This can be described as an example of secondary conflict as it involves less fundamental beliefs. While I was not doing anything wrong, he was seeing me from the perspective of his cultural values and propriety- something that gave rise to the conflict.
Then again, I found it to be extremely backward on his part to wish for Muslim women to wear specific types of non-western clothes, and the burqa as well at times. I have heard him speaking on the matter in such meetings as mentioned above. I took this to be too overpowering and patriarchal on his part. I just could not understand how he could wish his wife to dress like that. Later, I came to realize that he was trying to follow the cultural practice of Islam. This can be said to be a primary conflict between us as it involves clash of fundamental ideas. While he was endeavoring to comply with the cultural practice of Islamic tradition and was speaking on the matter from his own perspective of Islamic culture, I was viewing the same matter from the perspective of my culture. Thus, I was oblivious of the fact that there could be cultural differences in this regard that could shape the respective notions on the same issue.
However, it has to be taken into account that conflict management in matters of cultural differences is of primary importance as one needs to understand that cultural identity and practices for the respective person is of primary importance. According to Thomas (2006), at the time when people are in conflicts, the behaviors can be taken to be of independent dimensions that are assertiveness and cooperativeness. In our context, as per Thomas’ opinion, there has to be a mesh of assertiveness and cooperativeness in approach. This means that both of us would stick to our own cultural practice, but yet there would be an ambiance of cooperation with one another in matters of difference. One has to explore the ways in which the conflicts can be neutralized. It has to be taken into reckoning that one of the most important ways of resolving such conflict arising from cultural differences is to know about the normative practices and beliefs of the other culture. One has to be accommodating. According to Dontigney (2013), as per the accommodation strategy, the opposing side should be given what it wants. This way has been proven to be one of the most significant ones in the resolution of such conflicts among people or groups in the world population. It has to be comprehended that conflict management is the necessary step after identification of the cause of the conflict.
Moreover, acceptance of the other person or group’s practices, beliefs, and cultural roots can be another very effective way of resolving the situation of conflict between two entities or groups. Hence, compromising can be an option of resolving conflict. One has to take into consideration the fact that there are many communities and cultures that differ from one another in beliefs and ways of life. So, one might very well come across some practice that might seem alien to him or her since he or she has not been exposed to the action or belief previously as it is not within the boundary of the cultural identity and practice of the mentioned person in context. Apart from this, another way of dealing with such a conflict in context is to simply let go of the opinion of the other person who is not in compliance regarding the matter. Thus, avoiding can be a good option for resolving conflict. According to De Dreu et al. (2001), this would mean that there would be not mutual understanding of the issue at hand, there would be lesser friction between the persons or groups as either side would tend to avoid any situation of conflict and abide by their own practices and beliefs as usual. In cases of cultural differences, it becomes all the more necessary.
For the purpose of resolution of the cultural conflict that has been explicated, understanding the culture and beliefs of the other person, and thus reach a position of acceptance of the difference would be very essential and helpful. Thus, it would be a good idea to be accommodating of the other person’s beliefs. While as someone from the dominant culture, I could take initiative of comprehending the practices and norms of the Islamic culture, my neighbor could also put down his guard to consider that the ways of the American culture are different from his own. Neither of us should be judgmental about the other’s culture, and rather come to respect the differences that might be there. There is simply no point in being in clash with one another for reasons of cultural difference between us. Hence, compromise can be another effective option for resolution of conflict. However, there can be opposition from his part as he might think the attempt is made with the ambition of exercising the influence of the dominant culture of the American society on him and his beliefs. He might think that it is an attempt to hinder his cultural identity by making him exposed to the propriety of action in the dominant culture of the society in context. Thus, he might have a mental block to discussion and comprehension of the fact that it is fine to h e such cultural differences and they are no valid cause for giving rise to conflict between people or groups.
It has to be understood that different cultures and communities have existed in the world from past times, and we as people are simply born in a specific culture. As people come of age, they imbibe the cultural identity and the ways of life of that specific culture. Nonetheless, it is of primary importance to delve deep into the commonality of human race and propagate the message of human unity. Cultural differences would prevail, but they cannot be the cause of friction, and proper attention should be given to the matter so as to spread the word of harmony and mutual respect among the people of the society. Cultural barriers cannot impede the process of attaining human unity in this world.
De Dreu, Carsten K. W., & Arne Evers & Bianca Beersma & Esther S. Kluwer & Aukje
Nauta. (2001). A theory-based measure of conflict management strategies in the workplace. Journal of Organizational Behavior 22.6: 645-668.
Dontigney, Eric. (2013). 5 Conflict Management Strategies. Chron. Retrieved from
Schubert, Jessica. (2015). What Is Culture Conflict? - Definition, Theory & Example.
Study.com. Retrieved from http://study.com/academy/lesson/what-is-culture-conflict-definition-theory-example.html
Thomas, Kenneth. (2006). Making Conflict Management a Strategic Advantage. CCP
website. Retrieved from https://www.cpp.com/pdfs/conflict_whitepaper.pdf