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Gender, Ethnicity and Conflict

Our gender and ethnicity may influence how we handle conflict. Men and women in the United States seem to have different communication styles. These different ways of communicating sometime lead to conflict and can influence how men and women handle conflict. The problem area involves what is known as “trouble talk”. For example, women typically make sympathetic noises in response to what a friend says, whereas men may say nothing, which women interpret as indifference. Or women commiserate by talking about a similar situation they experienced, whereas men follow rules for conversational dominance and interpret this as stealing the stage. And in telling stories, men tend to be more linear, whereas women tend to give more details and offer information, which men interpret as an inability to get to the point.Men and women also talk about relationships in different ways. Women may express more interest in the relationship process and may feel better simply discussing it. But men are more oriented toward problem solving and may see little point in discussing something if nothing is identified as needing fixing.How does ethnic background affect the way males and females deal with conflict? In one study, when African Americans, Asian Americans, White Americans, and Mexican Americans were asked to describe how they dealt with conflicts they had had with a close friend, they gave different kinds of answers. African American males and females generally said they used a problem-solving approach (integration style). One respondent said: “I told him to stay in school and that I would help him study”. Another explained: “We decided together how to solve the problem and deal with our friend”.White males and females generally seemed to focus on the importance of taking responsibility for their own behavior. Males mentioned the importance of being direct, using expressions like “getting things in the open” and “say right up front”. Females talked about the importance of showing concern for the other person and the relationship and of maintaining situational flexibility. One woman explained: “She showed respect for my position and I showed respect for hers”. By contrast, Asian Americans generally used more conflict-avoiding strategies than did White Americans.Mexican American males and females tended to differ in that males described the importance of talking to reach a mutual understanding. One man wanted to “make a better effort to explain”; another said that he and his partner “stuck to the problem until we solved it together”. Females described several kinds of reinforcement of the relationship that were appropriate. In general, males and females in all groups described females as more compassionate and concerned for feelings, and males as more concerned with winning the conflict and being “right”.In any case, it is important to remember that, while ethnicity and gender may be related to ways of dealing with conflict, it is inappropriate and inaccurate to assume that any person will behave in a particular way because of his or her ethnicity or gender.


Date: 2015-01-02; view: 2036

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