Wednesday, June 13, 2012
In the last installments of Urban Life, Urban Life #2, Urban Life #3, and Urban Life #4 we looked at some normative reasons for cross-cultural conflict and #4 started to deal with the solutions to these reasons for conflict. This post will look at some more of the solutions to these reasons of conflict. This is Part 5 of a 6 part series on Cross-Cultural Conflict.
How do we deal with the issues of language within our cross-cultural relationships in order to avoid conflict? I think there are several practical things. The first is the priority of the relationship. As Elmer alludes to in his book: relationships are foundational to conflict resolution; with the priority on relationships when someone says something off kilter, odd or rude (to the hearer) the person can know (because of a good relationship) the person probably didn’t mean what was said in the way it was interpreted. DeYmaz in his book: Building a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church he brings to light a simple language misinterpretation. He states: “For instance, a White woman recently asked an African American woman, “Is that your hair?” Fortunately, the two had developed a friendship over time—one that enabled the Black woman to view the inquiry more as a faux pas than anything else” (DeYmaz, 2007, pg. 85).
It was the relationship that secured the ability for the White woman to ask an offensive (to the Black woman) question and not result in conflict. We must become people who seek after relationships with others in order to be more understanding of others and going right away to understanding rather than anger when something might slip by that is offensive.
Most of Elmer’s book Cross-Cultural Conflict deals with several different ways in which to handle conflict resolution with people of different backgrounds. In essence it boils down to educating oneself on the world and understanding there are several different ways to go about this. The main thing a Westerner needs to understand is that two-thirds of the world does not do or handle face-to-face confrontation well. Elmer makes a good and bold statement about America in his assessment on its people’s ability to resolve conflict: “If the nation is to have a future that includes peace and prosperity, all of its peoples must not only coexist but learn to value, affirm and build upon each other’s diversity” (Elmer, 1993, pg. 34). Again, here comes the key to relationships, we must be able to learn how to speak each others conflict resolution language. In his book, Elmer lays out several ways to go about conflict resolution with non face-to-face people: Mediation and Mediator, a One-down position of vulnerability, telling stories and proverbs, inaction, misdirection, silence and indefinite persons. There are chapters dedicated to each idea but the ideas are solid and would work well with two thirds of the world.
Understanding of God
This one may be the easiest to rectify within ourselves, because we have interacted with folks who love Jesus but who see God a bit differently than we ourselves do. Here, we need to hold to sensitivity, love and the dedication to the relationship as pinnacle ideas. God sometimes needs to be described different ways in order for Him to be correctly understood. This ties into the ideas that go with language and how nuances in verbage can change an entire sentence and cause it to mean something completely different than what was originally intended. Understanding God can happen in much the same way. Matriarchal societies maybe need to hear of God as Mother before anything else and Patriarchal societies need to hear of God as Father before everything else. We need to be aware of different (not inherently wrong or bad) understandings of God and seek to speak to the understanding of the people we are speaking to.