Bridging Cultural Gaps in Mediation - Chapter 38 - AAA Handbook on Mediation - Third Edition
Donna M. Stringer is Founder Emeritus of Executive Diversity Services, Inc., a cross-cultural consulting firm in Seattle, Washington. She is a Faculty Member at the Intercultural Communication Institute in Portland, Oregon. Dr. Stringer holds a Ph.D. and is a social psychologist with over thirty years of experience in cross-cultural issues.
Lonnie Lusardo is Owner, and Principal Consultant for The Diversity Collaborative in Seattle. He conducts cultural competency and other training for government agencies, corporations, and nonprofits. A certified mediator, he offers mediation skills as one technique to resolve cultural conflicts.
BRIDGING CULTURAL GAPS IN MEDIATION
Donna M. Stringer and Lonnie Lusardo
At its core, culture is little more than “the way we do things around here.” Most people are so programmed to respond to their environment that they tend to be oblivious to why and how they do what they do in relation to others. “It’s just common sense” is a standard phrase for confirming our cultural roots. Common sense, however, is generally common only when it conforms to the speaker’s experience.
At a time of conflict, especially when cultures collide, thoughtful, nonjudgmental questioning allows historical issues to surface and be reasonably compared with the ways others do things to address similar issues.
Cultural anthropologist Morris Massey theorizes that humans form their cultural norms and values by the time they are ten years old. Those core values, Massey says, remain intact throughout a lifetime unless one of two situations occurs. First, if an individual has a significant emotional experience that challenges them, such as a life-threatening illness, or significant financial losses. We have seen examples of this as people turn to more sustainable lifestyles after experiencing significant financial losses. A second situation Massey identifies is when an individual is required to exhibit behaviors over a long period of time that are in conflict with their values which can lead them to shift values to match their new behavior. An example of this would be people who currently support integrated school and work systems although they initially opposed legal changes mandating integration and affirmative action programs.