Conflict, according to Word Net, (2011) is "an open clash between two opposing groups (or individuals)" it also defines it further as "opposition between two simultaneous but incompatible feelings." This definition presupposes, and correctly so, that that two varying groups of people/individuals living, working or travelling together have the possibility, even if very remote, of conflicting.
Since man must co-exist, and in the process conflicts have to emerge, the purpose of this paper is to divulge the various ways through which individuals involved in conflict can attempt to solve the conflict as well as looking into the mediation process once the individual conflict resolution method has failed.
When exposing people to a cross cultural situation, there is a likelihood of conflict to occur, and having known this, it is significant to prepare both parties from the varying cultures for the eventualities that they face and how to handle the differences.
2.1 Characteristics of intercultural conflicts
There are various ways in which cultures do vary and in those variations lays the intercultural conflicts. Some of those major outstanding qualities that define the intercultural conflicts are as below:
(a). Societal norms; there is a wide difference between the ideas of what a normality and everyday way of doing things is between the two cultures at loggerheads. Each of the societies are bent o defending their view of what should be the normal way of doing things which may be opposite of what the other culture believe. For instance, in some communities mainly in the Middle East, there is no greeting between people from different genders unless the person is from a close relative circle. If an American goes to such a society and assumes the norms are as in America and tries to greet all the men/women s/he meets, then there can be a rejection of the greetings and consequently a culture clash. In a situation like this, there will then be need for an understanding to be brought about. There is a three fold manner by which this understanding can be brought about, and it is by understanding the facts, attitudes and behavior of the other party.
(b). Difference in facts and beliefs; there are some things that cannot change and will remain constant through ones life. They as well characterize a lot the intercultural conflicts in the contemporary world. Facts are indelible or unchangeable truths like origin, demography, historical background, religious beliefs, education, and economic facts and so on. The above will instill an attitude that may be common among the people from that region and eventually these attitudes will determine how they behave towards people from another culture. The same effect will be on the people from another culture hence the conflict in the intercultural standpoints. One should strive to understand what the other society's attitude towards social ideals like time, truth (and how to tell it), relationships, the human condition (risks and freedom of choice) and communication is (Pooley, R., (2005).
(c). Ethnic differences; this is another common cause of many intercultural conflicts especially in Africa and other developing countries. The people believe that for them to have an identity they must identify with their ethnic groupings. Any threat directed to ethnic orientation and values, the ethnic belongings and the ethnic group in general can solicit a violent intercultural response and clash.
(d). Race for Resources; this is another common cause of conflict that mostly runs across cultures. If it were within people with the same cultural orientation, then they can easily talk it out and get to share the resource (Learn Peace, 2011). However, when a resource is scarce and valuable like minerals and even rivers, then there is a likelihood that every ethnic group will want to keep the whole quantity hence resulting into cross-cultural tensions.
The above characteristics and many more will come into play in intercultural conflicts though it will be the misuse or deliberate abuse of them that will lead a group to violent conflict with the other or even a non-violent conflict that will sustain an intercultural conflict in interests and ideologies. Indeed in his book Intercultural Communication: A Layered Approach, Oetzel, J.G., (2008) argues that there cannot be animosity between two groups just because they are from different cultures, he refuses to subscribe to the idea that culture is a function of ethnicity. It is until the individual in those ethnic groupings manipulate the culture that it ends up in an intercultural conflict.
2.2 Models of conflict resolution
There are four major ways or means of conflict resolution that have been used over a long period of time. These are professional, bureaucratic, legal, and mediation models.
(a) Professional model; this model gives emphasis to the professional standpoints and skilled and educated people in the concerned fields are always involved in giving their direction on these matters. There is a tendency here to give up the set rules and adhere to the professional advice at the time of conflict for instance the judgment of the appropriate health service and the standards of care to be given in a hurricane catastrophe will entirely depend on the various professional involved in the conflict.
(b). Bureaucratic model; this is a conflict resolution model that acts based on the mutual understanding between the two parties. A good instance of bureaucratic model in use is between the state organs and the recipients of food stamps. In order to diffuse the conflict and tension between the two, the government through its organs will give food stamps, social security and even public assistance to the complainants.
(c). Legal Model; these are especially in legal fields and legal rulings. It is a model that is employed mainly in determination of the person with more rights and the state organs are involved in implementation of the decision of the court.
(d). Mediation; it is also called the alternative dispute resolution. It does not involve any adversary means which help the involved parties to engage in a joint venture towards problem solving and find alterative. It often results in a win-win situation unlike the legal model that leads to a win-lose result. Indeed Ting-Toomey in high highlight of face-honoring approach in conflict negotiation, he points out that it is important for both parties at crisis time to retreat to peaceful ground without losing face, i.e. each side comes out as a winner (Rosenberg S., 2004).
2.3 Barriers to Intercultural Communication
There are various hindrances to the peaceful and mutual intercultural communication that can be witnessed between two or more cultures that vary. These barriers are though not limited to the following:
(a). Stereotype/evaluation; this happens when one is prejudiced against another and feels he cannot talk or communicate in any way to the other due to their way of life or how they are. It could be that the individual feels the person is too low or too high for him to talk to. However, Barna L.M., (1994) says that there is no a universal to human or no "human nature" we should learn to live with each person we come across.
(b). Prejudice; this preconceived judgment, opinion or belief that is arrived at without ascertaining the facts behind the opinions. In most cases, there are some communication breakdowns between people of varying cultures since one takes it that the other group will not give attention to their concern. This happens a lot between the juniors and the seniors (Durovic J., 2008). The juniors are prejudiced (correctly or otherwise) against the seniors and they always take it that the seniors cannot listen to any of their concerns.
(c). Discrimination; is looking down upon someone due to his race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and so on. This attitude will mostly hinder communication between the two groups, with the person discriminating the…