Globalization is making our world smaller with cross-cultural situations at the core. Even though diversity can be a powerful source for creativity, adaptability and innovation, the potential for conflict increases, requiring even more attention to how we deal with differences and how people work together. People’s actions reflect people’s thinking. One challenge we all face is the way we think about the parties involved in any conflicting situation. When interacting with others, people assume and attribute intentions to others. An “all-or-nothing” thinking and a right/wrong mindset lead people to play blame games and get stuck judging others instead of looking forward to resolve the matter at hand. Can we get “unstuck”? Read, Listen, Share »
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On March 31st, the U.S. Army rolled out Army Regulation 670-1, which addresses unauthorized hairstyles; many of which are popular among African American women for example cornrows, twists, and braids. As a woman with chemical free hair, also known as “natural” hair, I was shocked when this news came across my iPhone timeline. Many believe the new grooming guidelines are insensitive to women with natural hair and pin points the African American community. The U.S. Army can be depicted as having a lack of cultural sensitivity, offensive, or biased. Michelle LeBaron (2003) suggests, “Culture is an essential part of conflict and conflict resolution. Cultures are like underground rivers that run through our lives and relationships, giving us messages that shape our perceptions, attributions, judgments, and ideas of self and other. Though cultures are powerful, they are often unconscious, influencing conflict and attempts to resolve conflict in imperceptible ways”. The conflict between the U.S. Army and African American women in the army is just one of many cultural mishaps occurring in today’s world. As a society with an abundance presence of diversity how does one become culturally aware so not to offend?
Culture awareness is being thoughtful and mindful of one another’s cultural values, beliefs, perceptions, body image (clothing, hair, and jewelry), religion, race, language, etc. As a stepping stone to become more culturally aware I would suggest first understanding the definition of culture. Second, be conscious of the assumptions you make about another. Misconceptions do not allow you to see the person for who they are, but for what you assume they are. These false assumptions can perhaps create conflict. For example, my husband told me about a time where he entered the school office and said “good morning” to everyone and noticed one of the young lady’s did not speak back. The second and third day he did the same thing; still no response from the young lady. As a result, he felt disrespected and perceived the young lady as rude and ill-mannered. In speaking with a friend, he learned her culture did not allow for speaking to the opposite sex. This was an eye opener for my husband and me as neither of us had been aware of such.
As a result of the previous cultural misunderstanding, I have come up with three ways to better ourselves and become more culturally aware – (1) be open to learning about other cultures (2) establish a diverse networking group; and (3) ask questions to gain more understanding. All in all, in a multicultural society it is important to have cultural awareness. Not doing so will only contribute to cultural ignorance. Furthermore, if one is not willing to understand or gain knowledge about another’s culture then there will always be misunderstanding, perceived notions or false assumptions.
“I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.” Mahatma Gandhi
By Yvette Watson Jenkins
Graduate Student, University of Baltimore – Negotiation and Conflict Management Program
Communication can be challenging regardless of whether you are communicating with your friends, family members, co-workers or boss. But why do we appear to have such a difficult time communicating with the opposite sex? Regardless of a person’s ethnicity, race, or sex, people converse using verbal and nonverbal communication.
What is the communication challenge?
Verbal communication can be heard by another. It involves communicating a message using words. When you are communicating orally or verbally you are sending your message by speaking to the other person. On several occasions during conversations I have had with my brothers, male friends, or significant other, they have checked-out. Their eye’s glaze over and they are no longer listening to a word I am saying. Several of my female friends have also had similar complaints. If the incident happens repeatedly, it can cause conflict within those relationships. The main complaints I’ve heard and experienced from other women is that they feel ignored by the male and wonder if what they have to say is unimportant.
Why does this happen?
This happens because women and men have different goals and expectations and therefore communicate differently. Women see communication as a way to express themselves and their emotions, and share their experiences with others as a way to build rapport. Men see communication as a way to problem-solve, which may then lead to an action.
What is Nonverbal Communication?
Nonverbal Communication uses body language to send a message without the use of words. These actions can be:
o Facial Expressions
Women are often expressive with their use of nonverbal communication. Women tend to use physical contact, such as a hug, or the squeeze of an arm or shoulder. Women also use their hands to emphasize what they are conveying in their message. Men, however, tend to be less skilled in using subtle body language such as leaning forward, nodding, or titling their head to show they are engaged in the conversation. A key to men’s non-verbal communication is found in their posture.
Two examples of posture are:
o Standing straight with arms parallel to torso – Shows openness and willingness to talk.
o Hands behind the back with palms on hips – Displays a desire for something to end or be finished.
How can Nonverbal Communication be helpful?
Nonverbal communication can be helpful during a conversation by:
• Providing feedback to the person speaking that you are listening. For example, nodding your head in understanding.
• Providing a window into their emotions. Is the listener smiling, frowning, or perhaps shrugging their shoulders?
Scenario: I am sharing my experience about how my job interview went and twenty minutes into sharing, my brother’s eyes glaze over. What do I do now?
- Observe the facial expressions and then acknowledge it has been 20 minutes. Check-in with him to see if he has more time to listen. Remember KISS (Keep it short and simple)
- Verbally communicate what you need from him before you share your experience with the job interview. For example, “I really need to talk to you about my job interview and get your feedback.” Remember, men are action-oriented in their goal of communication. Give them something to do as they listen to your story.
- Consider these questions:
- Has your attention started to drift?
- Is there something distracting you from listening?
- Why have you checked out?
- Remind yourself why you are listening by asking her what she needs from you while you are listening
- Acknowledge or validate her by simply saying “I hear how excited you are about the interview.”
Women and men communicate differently both verbally and nonverbally. But if you go into your next conversation aware of what the differences are, potential conflicts can be avoided. To further understand the differences in male/female communication and to learn further tools and strategies, tune in to Gregg Catalano’s podcast That’s Not What I Meant! on the Texas Conflict Coach® website.
By Tracy Culbreath
Graduate Student, University of Baltimore – Negotiation and Conflict Management Program
Twenty Twinkling Stars: (A Children’s book) Celebrating the Children of Sandy Hook Elementary School
It has been two years since the tragic event on December 14, 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School that claimed the lives of 20 children and 6 educators. With school starting for most children in the upcoming weeks how does a parent prepare their children to handle conflict, disagreements and fighting on the playground and classroom? Even at the preschool and early elementary school age, modeling and sharing proactive and positive values and ways to resolve conflict can be very valuable. Having this kind of difficult conversation with your child could potentially be one of the hardest things you will have to do. Each parent will need to assess the situation for yourself and use your best judgment.
As a way to ease into the conversation, I suggest reading a book to your little ones entitled Twenty Twinkling Stars written by Laurie Schloff, Director of Executive Training with The Speech Improvement Company, Inc. and illustrated by Lena Warnke, a New York University student. The book is an intergenerational project where two minds have come together to share the beauty and joy of childhood. According to Laurie Schloff, the book can be used as a tool for “character building” and exhibits the “beauty of children through entertaining stars”. I had the privilege of speaking with Laurie to discuss the book. Her inspiration in writing the book was to “contribute to creating a more peaceful world through communication”.
It was my pleasure speaking with Laurie to gain a little insight into her project, Twenty Twinkling Stars. Here is a reflection of our phone interview:
• What do you want the readers to know about the book -Twenty Twinkling Stars?
The book was written to celebrate the spirit, joy, and passion of the twenty children of Sandy Hook Elementary School. I wrote Twenty Twinkling Stars to contribute to creating a more peaceful world through communication. The characters in the book are stars that have personalities – Caring Star, Courage Star, Love Bug Star, Sporty Star, Artist, Star, Music Star, Birthday Star, etc. Whimsical rhymes and the beautiful illustration are designed to appeal to young children between the ages of three and seven.
• What challenges did you incur while writing the book?
Pain and heartbreak at first. Then joy emerged as we celebrated the lives of the lost children as well as the energy joy and passions of children everywhere.
• Do you have a favorite star? If so, which star and why?
Sleepy Star is my favorite because he sleeps on the moon and dreams. Also, my last name Schloff, means “sleep “in German. Reading about sleepy star me just help your little ones go to dreamland!
• How can one purchase the book and learn more information?
To purchase the book, visit National SAVE or Amazon.com. Additional details can be found on the Twenty Twinkling Stars website or our Facebook.
• Why did you partner with SAVE?
We wanted to contribute to an organization which uses communication as a tool to solve conflict. All the proceeds of the book will go to the organization SAVE (The National Associations of Students Against Violence Everywhere) a non-profit organization dedicated to decreasing potential for violence in school and communities with a focus on using communication as a tool to help youth resolve conflict through nonviolence.
Laurie and Lena were special guests on The Texas Conflict Blog Talk Radio program. Tune in to hear about how they partnered together and their thoughts on the book. In addition, Laurie provides five techniques for communicating in a peaceful, proactive way.
“We miss your exuberant endless joy. Take flight my boy, know you have the wings you wanted” – Twenty Twinkling Stars