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

Elliot Montroll '23 RGLP Reflection: Intercultural Conflict Styles in China

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Being a global leader means that you are comfortable with being in uncomfortable and new cultural situations. It also means that you consider and understand how your culture, however normal it feels, may also be confusing to those of a different culture. Each culture has its own subtle differences including individualism versus collectivism, different amounts of directiveness in communication, types of leadership styles, among others. I have learned to see these differences and thus adjust my leadership and communication methods depending on the situation. 

The RGLP lessons helped me to understand the differences between the culture of the United States and abroad. In the session “Evaluating Your Intercultural Conflict Style”, Sadhana Hall had us take a test to find our own communication and conflict resolution approach based on our reactions to hypothetical situations. I found that my communication style is the “Discussion” style. We then learned that typically, certain regional groups had particular communication styles. The United States’ communication style is the “Discussion” style and therefore, when communicating with Americans, it can be helpful to understand the intricacies of what other cultures might perceive the negative qualities of Americans to be. 

A cultural experience I had that took me out of my comfort zone was when I went to China in 10th grade through the Governor’s Institute of Vermont. I was thrust into a homestay with a Beijing family for a few days and immediately realized that despite two years of Chinese classes, I was deep over my head. I struggled with the culture especially around mealtimes. There was a large emphasis on the importance of elders and I had to try very hard not to accidentally say something disrespectful. Also, they asked me very personal questions about my family, relationships, and economic class. I now know it was likely just a cultural difference at play and neither side was trying to make the other uncomfortable. China’s cultural style is the “Accommodation” style which aligns with the situation I experienced. 

I plan to return to China in the Fall for the LSA+ Beijing. I am excited to be able to use my new intercultural conflict knowledge to help me navigate uncertain situations and make sure I am getting the most out of my program.

Written by Elliot Montroll, a member of the Winter 2021 Cohort of the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program


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