Edit Desk: Navigating My Conflict Style

I am very lucky and excited to be traveling to Jordan this summer for the Lehigh Iacocca International Internship Program (IIIP) in Counseling and Humanitarian Action. I look forward to working with refugees, meeting new people who share my interests, and deepening my cultural knowledge as I prepare for a career in counseling or developmental psychology one day.

However, I’m a little nervous about being the only Lehigh student on an internship. But fortunately, I will be accompanied by other students from various universities across the country.

Through the Office of International Affairs, I learned valuable information and received advice on how to be the best intern possible for the International Training School during my six weeks in the Middle East.

One of the most interesting things I learned during our cultural training sessions at the monthly IIIP meetings was the concept of cross-cultural conflict styles. The model works by labeling individuals with one of four ways people tend to resolve conflict, convey ideas, and solve problems. We discussed this while learning what styles will be seen in our host countries.

Cross-cultural conflict styles depend on two axes: a direct or indirect approach to communication and emotional expression or emotional restraint. The categories are listed as discussion (direct, emotional restraint), engagement (direct, emotional expression), accommodation (indirect, emotional restraint), and dynamic (indirect, emotional expression).

Personally, I have found that I am very emotionally restrained when navigating conflict, and prefer to be direct, putting myself in the first category of discussion. I wasn’t surprised by my interest in discussing ideas and perspectives openly, but I was alarmed to find that I was nearing the end of the emotional restraint scale. Not to mention that Jordan’s normative style of conflict is engagement, requiring more emotional expression than I normally exhibit.

It opened my eyes to a pattern of my personality: I’m the type to put the needs of others before my own.

Public speaking, whether it’s a class discussion, debate, or presentation, has helped me assert my opinion and see it as valuable as the ideas of others. I respect my own perspectives, but try to end past cycles in which I keep my thoughts to myself to avoid arguments and tension.

In my past friendships, I sought to keep the peace, at a cost to me.

I kept my thoughts and feelings to myself beforehand to avoid causing conflict, even if I disagreed with someone else’s opinion. Obviously, that wasn’t healthy for me. It made me lose respect from people I liked because they wanted me to say what I thought more often or admit when I had a different opinion from them.

Healthy communication allows for mutual respect, and that’s a work in progress for me. I am grateful that the cultural training session allowed me to reflect on my own personality on a deeper level than I expected.

Not only did the IIIP prepare me to be a good leader, team member and trainee, but it taught me what changes I need to make in my personal life to earn the respect of others.

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