The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Ellie Cliff ’22 RGLP Reflection: “Conflict Resolution Adaptation”

Ellie Cliff ’22 reflects on the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program. 

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Each fall, winter, and spring, the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program (RGLP) brings together student leaders to increase their understanding of global leadership and intercultural competency. Through weekly sessions with speakers and a culminating experience to either Boston or Montreal, the students are able to learn about themselves and cross-cultural leadership. 

Fall 2019 participants were asked to write a blog post, reflecting on the topics and lessons learned throughout the program. Below are reflections from the Fall 2019 cohort who spent a weekend in Montreal as part of their culminating experience.

To be adaptable is to be able to change your actions depending on the situation. This could be in a business setting, a tourist setting, or just a casual conversation. When interacting with people from different cultural backgrounds, it is important to be able to understand and anticipate possible miscommunications. For instance, what you may think is an appropriate length greeting, another may think of as far too long, and another as far too short. It is important to understand that most often the intent is not to be offensive but is rather a result of different cultural norms. 

In a business setting, it is necessary to be able to adapt to many different situations, in particular within the context of conflict resolution. As we learned with the Rockefeller Center’s Deputy Director Sadhana Hall, everyone prefers to resolve conflict in slightly different ways, though there are often some underlying similarities among people of the same culture.  For instance, many European Americans tend to prefer the discussion style of conflict resolution, while many people from the Arab Middle East prefer a more dynamic style. 

It is important to be able to acknowledge your own method of conflict resolution and be able to adapt based on the conflict resolution style of others. If your approach is more aligned with the “discussion” style, and you are resolving a conflict with someone who has more of a “dynamic” style, it is critical to think about what possible issues could arise and how they could best be avoided. In this instance, you may want to have a calm, logical argument, while the other person wants to have a more emotional argument. Here, you have to think about how your behavior comes across—what signals could you possibly be sending without meaning to? The other person may take you to be unfeeling, while you simply see it as being logical.

You may need to change your conflict resolution style a little bit to accommodate the other “dynamic” style. If instead you are resolving a conflict with someone who tends to have a more “engagement” style, you would need to change your style again, but in a different way. This ability to change your own tendencies based on who you are with, and what their personal tendencies are, is tremendously important in all situations, whether business or personal.

-Written by Ellie Cliff ’22, Fall 2019 RGLP Participant 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Rockefeller Center or constitute an endorsement by the Center.

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