Intercultural Communication: Conflicts - The beginning of destruction or a chance for a better relationship?

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2006

16 Pages, Grade: 1,5



1 Introduction

2 Definitions & explanation of terms concerning conflicts
2.1 Sources of conflicts
2.2 What does a conflict consist of?

3 Conflict styles

4 How to manage and communicate a conflict
4.1 Managing a conflict successfully
4.2. Communicating a conflict right

5 Conclusions

6 Reference list

1 Introduction

There is no day passing by, on which the daily news report about fights, terror attacks, political disagreements and religious struggles.

The heritage of all these incidents often derive from minor conflicts and misunderstandings but are able to lead to death, sufferings and wars.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

1. Illustration: Picture drawn from on 09.12.2006

This caricature was drawn by a Danish artist and caused a huge intercultural conflict. The picture was also published in newspaper all over Europe and caused protests in the Arabic world.

Although the newspaper “Jyllands-Posten” apologized for the insult, 80 000 women protested against the publication and mad students burned Danish flags. This was a typical intercultural conflict, because both sides didn’t know much about typical traditions, ideologies and habits of each country.

In the Moslem world its not allowed and a death-sin to portray Allah and his prophet Mohammed.

Although in non-Moslem countries it is ok to do so, most Moslems felt deep insulted by that action and demanded a punishment for the paper.

Another consequence was several bomb threats by anonymous callers.

This is just one example on how misunderstandings can lead to problems that involve different parts of the world.

The pope caused another case, where he quoted the emperor Manuel II Palaiologos saying that the prophet Mohammed just brought bad and inhuman things, by using the sword to spread his believe.

Once again the Moslem world was upset and protesting, even pope-dolls where burned.

The pope apologized and said that his uttering was misunderstood. This is just one more incident that caused conflict and harm between cultures and religions. Only one sentence said wrong in front of a specific audience has the power to cause protest and struggle.

But conflict could also be considered to be constructive and helping to create a better state of a relationship. Therefore conflicts are not only inevitable, they really are healthy and necessary.

Most of the times, the cause of conflicts are just little and almost invisible incidents during our daily communication with others.

Although these conflicts are inevitable in our everyday life, they easily can escalate and rise to huge problems.

The main explanation for this, are cultural and ethnic differences in how a situation is perceived and handled.

This paper is supposed to give a short overview of what a conflict is, which styles of conflicts there are and how to deal with them as well as a brief summary including our personal opinions.

Moreover this should be a guide through a healthy conflict conversation.

Since the course consists of students from all over the world it might be helpful to have conflict-guide in order to handle the next intercultural conflict more successful and easily.

(Wallensteen, P.; 2002, p. 15)

2 Definitions & explanation of terms concerning conflicts

In general, conflicts are some kind of disagreement, through which the parties, which are involved, perceive a threat to their very own needs, interests and concerns. We all have experienced several of these conflicts and perhaps each of them was unique and hard to define. If one searches for a precise definition of „conflict“ a great variety is offered.

The following useful definitions give an impression of what a conflict is:

„Conflict is a natural disagreement resulting from individuals or groups that differ in attitudes, beliefs, values or needs. It can also originate from past rivalries and personality differences.“ (Drawn from Watershed Partnerships homepage) „Conflict is a state of opposition, disagreement or incompatibility between two or more people or groups of people, which is sometimes characterized by physical violence. Military conflict between states may constitute war.“

Conflict can exist at a variety of kinds, for example: intrapersonal conflict, interpersonal conflict, group conflict, organizational conflict, community conflict, intra- state conflict (e.g.: civil wars, election campaigns) and international conflict. Referring to W. B. Gudykunst all conflicts have a polarized communication in common, which happens when people are just concerned about their own interests and don’t take other peoples interests into account.

A disagreement could be described as a difference that occurs between the parties involved in a conflict. But one has to be aware of what the true disagreement and what the perceived disagreement is, both might be quite different from one another. Actually, conflicts seem to be accompanied by misunderstandings that exaggerate the perceived disagreement considerably.

If we are able to understand the true areas of disagreement, this will help us solve the right problems and manage the true needs of the parties.

In this paper the term Individualistic and Collectivistic cultures will be mentioned. Both are important for the explanation of conflicts management, because people from different cultures see issues differently.

Therefore both should be defined here:

Individualistic cultures the individual is in the main focus. Members of these cultures are responsible for their own individual actions and they learn how to solve problems at an early age.

Western countries are considered to be individualistic cultures and they even have developed a kind of conflict-competition, in which the most successful conflictsolutions are rewarded.

In this kind of culture a conflict is perceived and accepted as a part of life and it’s a popular attitude that a relationship without a conflict is no relationship at all. On the other hand there are the collectivistic cultures in which problems or conflicts are not an individualistic issue.

The blame for something is not attributed to the individual, but usually generalized to the group. Which leads to a collectivistic solution of the problems, frankly speaking the group is solving the problem together.

In collectivistic cultures working on a problem together is as much important as solving the problem.

The cultures consider conflicts also as a part of their life, but in a different way. Conflict should stay in a group, when it is out in the open, it could be destructive in collectivistic cultures. The aim is to keep harmony in the group.

(Gudykunst, W.B.; 2003, p. 297 ff.)

2.1 Sources of conflicts

Our everyday conversations contain intolerances but we are not aware of them, which lead to conflicts with people we know as well as to conflicts with strangers. Alluding to Roloff there are three sources of clash situations:

1. Misinterpreting other peoples behaviors
2. Perceptions of incompatibility; become aware of that personalities or group characteristics don’t match
3. Disagreement on own or other peoples behavior


Excerpt out of 16 pages


Intercultural Communication: Conflicts - The beginning of destruction or a chance for a better relationship?
Lund University  (Psychologie)
Intercultural Communication
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
627 KB
Intercultural Communication;, Conflicts
Quote paper
Judith Zylla-Woellner (Author), 2006, Intercultural Communication: Conflicts - The beginning of destruction or a chance for a better relationship?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Look inside the ebook
Title: Intercultural Communication: Conflicts - The beginning of destruction or a chance for a better relationship?

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free