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COM 3700 Week 4 Cultural Differences and Conflict

COM3700 Week 4 Cultural Differences and Conflict

Cultural differences play a significant role in conflicts, often making them more challenging to compromise and resolve compared to political or economic conflicts. This is true not only for conflicts between people from different countries but also within diverse groups based on gender, age, ethnicity, religion, region, or profession. Culture strongly influences our perceptions, behaviors, and how we approach conflict resolution. Since culture is closely tied to our identities and shapes what we deem important and how we handle conflict, it always factors into the equation.

In the documentary “Mobile in Black & White,” we encounter the story of April Dupree Taylor, an African-American woman who was not invited to a Mardi Gras ball due to her race. When she learned of the reason, she immediately burst into tears, responding passively to the conflict. In a similar situation, a man, whether black or white, would likely engage in an aggressive argument. This highlights how individuals react differently based on their cultural background and the significance they attribute to certain events.

COM3700 Week 4 Cultural Differences and Conflict

One of the prominent causes of conflicts between individuals is the uniqueness of their cultural upbringing and education. The educational system, in particular, has contributed significantly to cultural differences, as evident in the underfunding and lack of resources in public schools.

Education is a crucial means for individuals to contribute to their communities, but the disparities within the educational system set children up for failure and send the message that their well-being is not a priority. Mobile, Alabama, for example, has the lowest property taxes in the country, resulting in insufficient investment in education and the children of Mobile.

Furthermore, these educational disparities mirror ethnic and racial inequalities in economic status and healthcare. According to the Coleman text, cultural diversity in perceptions and beliefs regarding conflict is undeniable. Cross-cultural conflicts are especially vulnerable to issues of intercultural miscommunication and misunderstanding. 

COM3700 Week 4 Cultural Differences and Conflict

Cultural differences often lie at the root of communication challenges and conflicts, as people’s communication styles vary across cultures, including both verbal and nonverbal cues. For instance, a simple smile can have different meanings in different cultures, with Americans freely smiling, but it is perceived as rude in Russia. 

In Asian cultures, a smile may not necessarily convey happiness and friendliness but could be used to convey pain and humiliation. Scandinavians, on the other hand, may avoid outwardly expressing emotions as it is considered a weakness.

In terms of institutional conflict resulting from cultural differences, our education system serves as a prime example. Education in our society perpetuates social inequality through variations in funding and learning environments among schools. This inequality leads to learning gaps that reinforce social disparities. 

COM3700 Week 4 Cultural Differences and Conflict

A child’s access to quality education is more influenced by their geographical location than their abilities. The perception that minority children underachieve or do not value education further reinforces existing patterns of inequality instead of providing an opportunity for all children to receive a solid education.

Shifting a conflict from a win-lose to a win-win situation involves transforming it from a hostile attack to a collaborative effort. Achieving a win-win solution requires mutual understanding and problem-solving. Different cultures may approach conflicts in various ways, some directly addressing them, while others prefer to avoid conflicts altogether. 

The possibility of reaching win-win resolutions arises because different cultures value things differently. Understanding how the other party perceives the outcomes in relation to their position in the conflict can facilitate this transformation.


Coleman, P., Deutsch, M., & Marcus, E. (2014). The Handbook of Conflict Resolution

(3rd ed.). New York, NY: Jossey-Bass.

Gray, R. (2012). Mobile in Black & White [Video podcast].

Morrison, T., & Conaway, W. (2006). Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands (2nd ed.). Avon, MA: Adams Media

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