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Lessons from Cross-Cultural Disputes

Lessons from Cross-Cultural Disputes

What do mediators learn from cross-cultural disputes?



Full Transcript

So what do mediators learn cross-culturally? They learn that in some cultures what is said is not the end of the matter it is merely the words of the matter. That what that means is informed by who said it, where and what, sitting where, looking how, after what sort of time frame, and in what social setting? And if you don’t know that, you assume as we do in the English speaking world, that the words are everything. So the first cross-cultural principal is quite literally that the words are only part of the message.


Now we’ve all been to communication workshops where they say non-verbal blah, blah, blah. Yes, that’s absolutely right, but beyond the non-verbal is the cultural. So if I believe you, Aled, but if the same thing was said by your ten your old son, I’d take it with a grain of salt, you know what I’m talking about. If you said, our family home is full of argument, I would think wow, it would be an exciting dinner table with dad and the boys and mum all going at it hammer and tongs. No I don’t. Yes, I agree with that. No, we don’t agree with that. That’s wonderful. But if you’re son said to me, my family dining table is full of conflict. I might call the authorities. Because he might be saying, I can’t bear it and it’s affecting how I work at school. So who does it? We know that stuff. We do this. We know that if a child says it, it’s different than if an adult says it. But if in some cultures people say one thing, they might mean another.

About the mediator

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Joanna has been working with groups as a mediator for over 20years in highly sensitive inter-racial and political settings all over the world. In 2001 she became chairman of LEADR, Australia’s largest non for profit dispute resolution organisation and in 2006 became a visiting fellow at LEADR. She was a member of the administrative appeals tribunal for 10 years and later a member of the National Native Title Tribunal where she mediated land cla... View Mediator