Conflict across cultures is complicated

I love looking at our current line-up of the Australian Cabinet. It’s full of diversity. Diverse cultural backgrounds, religions, sexualities, genders and all shapes n sizes. It looks like the diversity that exists within Australia. We even have a Minister for Women’s Affairs that is actually a woman. Who would have thunk?

With diversity comes different thinking, opposite perspectives and passionate disagreement. Well, I hope so anyway. We don’t want ‘echo chambers’ as this does not promote new ways of thinking, or new and better ways to do life and work. It means we either stay the same or don’t discuss the things we really need to.

Whether it’s debating in the Senate or discussions that happen within the workplace, we all come up against disagreement. So, it begs the question, where does our relationship to conflict come from?

At a simplistic level it’s nature and nurture. Our Mummy and Daddy issues, our experiences with people, our schooling and the company we keep start to affect our nurturing. I tell my kids my role is to do my best but I will pay for the counselling as a result of the best I had, at the time. Which was far from flawless. Our experiences influence how we do conflict. We may have experienced some conflict as a child and therefore we are used to it, or even way too much. And we react accordingly. To survive, to self-protect. 

We are born with the DNA of both our parents. Yep depending on which fishy swam the fastest (insert how babies are made content here) we have our personalities. This is why one sibling could have the self-belief of a lion and the other the fear of a mouse. One could be gifted in the physical abilities and the other unable to hit a ball with a bat. Our nature is different.

Our cultural heritage plays a large role too. Where you grew up and your parents cultural background will have a profound impact. Erin Meyer, in The Culture Map, says there are invisible boundaries that are at play when it comes to how we connect and communicate. They can conquer or divide us. 

Parts of Asia teach that disagreeing with your superior will cause them to ‘lose face’. So they avoid. Many Germans will find a lack of agreement to be weak. They face it head on. If you are from Japan, Australians can be direct which is seen as blunt and rude when you are on the receiving end. Although this won’t be mentioned, as that would be rude. Cultural backgrounds are significant and we need to understand their impact on conflict at work. 

If you’re not having these conversations and creating awareness for individual differences then maybe conflict is not as healthy as it could be in your workplace. Or even your home.

If you lead teams, or businesses, and want to know what it looks like to create sustainable healthy conflict, then come to my free online event October 17th. Register here.