Edit Desk: Navigating my conflict style


I am very fortunate and excited to travel to Jordan this summer for Lehigh’s Iacocca International Internship Program (IIIP) in counseling and humanitarian action. I am looking forward to working with refugees, meeting new people who share my interests and growing my cultural knowledge as I prepare for myself for a career in counseling or developmental psychology someday.

However, I am slightly nervous about being the sole Lehigh student in the internship. But luckily, I will be accompanied by other students from diverse universities across the country.

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

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

Intercultural conflict styles depend upon two axes: a direct or indirect approach to communicating 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 discovered that I am very emotionally restrained when navigating conflict, and I prefer to be direct, placing me in the first category of discussion. I was not surprised by my interest in discussing ideas and perspectives openly, but I was alarmed to notice that I was almost to the end of the scale of emotional restraint. Not to mention, Jordan’s normative conflict style is engagement, requiring more emotional expression than I normally show.

This opened my eyes to a pattern in my personality: I am one to put others’ needs before my own. 

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

In past friendships, I aimed to keep the peace, at a cost to myself. 

I have kept my thoughts and feelings to myself before to avoid causing conflict, even if I disagreed with someone else’s opinion. Evidently, this was not healthy for me. It caused me to lose respect from people I cared about because they wished I spoke my mind more often, or admit when I had a different opinion than them.

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

Not only has the IIIP prepared me to be a good leader, team member and intern, but it has taught me what changes I need to make in my personal life to garner a healthy amount of respect from others.

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