[u01d2] Unit 1 Discussion 2 A MULTICULTURAL PERSPECTIVE

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[u01d2] Unit 1 Discussion 2 A MULTICULTURAL PERSPECTIVE


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Consider your own cultural background and how likely it is to influence your ability to work with a diverse range of people. Describe specific attitudes and beliefs that might enhance or interfere with your ability to understand and work with diversity. Reference Haycock’s 2001 article, “Closing the Achievement Gap,” and Okech, Pimpleton-Gray, Vannatta, and Champe’s 2016 article, “Intercultural Conflict in Groups,” noting key takeaways from the articles as you synthesize your post.


The Journal for Specialists in Group Work ISSN: 0193-3922 (Print) 1549-6295 (Online) Journal homepage: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/usgw20 Intercultural Conflict in Groups Jane E. Atieno Okech, Asher M. Pimpleton-Gray, Rachel Vannatta & Julia Champe To cite this article: Jane E. Atieno Okech, Asher M. Pimpleton-Gray, Rachel Vannatta & Julia Champe (2016) Intercultural Conflict in Groups, The Journal for Specialists in Group Work, 41:4, 350-369, DOI: 10.1080/01933922.2016.1232769 To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/01933922.2016.1232769 Published online: 12 Oct 2016. Submit your article to this journal Article views: 3011 View related articles View Crossmark data Citing articles: 5 View citing articles Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at https://www.tandfonline.com/action/journalInformation?journalCode=usgw20 PRACTICE Intercultural Conflict in Groups Jane E. Atieno Okech University of Vermont Asher M. Pimpleton-Gray Arkansas State University Rachel Vannatta Stevenson University Julia Champe Walden University This article provides a critical review of interdisciplinary literature on intercultural conflict management. The authors provide theoretical frameworks and evidence-based strategies to help group counselors more effectively identify and address potential sources of overt and covert intercultural conflict in groups. Using practical examples and integrated case studies, we examine the dynamics of intercultural conflict in groups, effective and ineffective group leader interventions, and implications for research and the practice of group work. Keywords: conflict; counseling group; cross-cultural; groups; intercultural conflict The perspective that conflict is healthy, inevitable and a desirable aspect of group development has long been held in the practice of group work (DeLucia-Waack & Donigian, 2004; Kline, 2003; Yalom, 1995; Yalom & Leszcz, 2005). In a description of conflict in groups, Yalom stated, Manuscript submitted May 19, 2016; final revision accepted September 1, 2016. Jane E. Atieno Okech, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Department of Leadership & Developmental Sciences at the University of Vermont. Asher M. Pimpleton-Gray, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and Counseling at Arkansas State University. Rachel Vannatta, Ph.D., is a counselor at the Stevenson University Wellness Center. Julia Champe, Ph.D., is a contributing faculty in the School of Counseling at Walden University. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Jane E. Atieno Okech, Department of Leadership & Developmental Sciences, University of Vermont, 201A Mann Hall, Trinity Campus, 208 Colchester Avenue, Burlington, VT 05405. E-mail: Jokech@uvm.edu THE JOURNAL FOR SPECIALISTS IN GROUP WORK, Vol. 41 No. 4, December 2016, 350–369 DOI: 10.1080/01933922.2016.1232769 © 2016 ASGW 350 Okech et al./INTERCULTURAL CONFLICT IN GROUPS 351 Conflict cannot be eliminated from human groups, whether dyads, small groups, macrogroups, or such megagroups as nations and blocs of nations. If overt conflict is denied or suppressed, invariably it will manifest itself in oblique, corrosive, and often ugly ways. (1995, p. 344) Associated perspectives in the literature conceptualize conflict as a reflection of increasing trust among group members (Kline, 2003), a reaction to explicit expressions of bias by group members (Helms & Cook, 1999) and a manifestation of “uncovered power relationships, bias, and feelings related to social identity” (Rubel & Okech, 2010, p. 235). Conflict also has been connected to the presence of opposing cultural views, which often emerge in everything from language to organizational systems (DeLucia-Waack & Donigian, 2004; Kline, 2003; Rubel & Okech, 2010). For example, Kelsey and Plumb (2001) summarize the main sources of conflict in groups as “miscommunication and misinformation, real or perceived differences in needs and priorities, structural conditions, and real or perceived differences in values, perceptions, beliefs, attitudes and culture” (p. 120). These diverse perspectives suggest conflict is meaningful and an indication of dynamic issues emerging in the group that need to be acknowledged and addressed. There also is a general consensus in the literature that conflict can be destructive to group development if mishandled (Camacho, 2002; Kline, 2003; Rubel & Okech, 2010; Yalom & Leszcz, 2005). Conflict emerging out of cultural differences can have far reaching consequences for members if not accurately identified and effectively managed by group leaders (DeLucia-Waack & Donigian, 2004; Kline, 2003; Singh, Merchant, Skudrzyk, & Ingene, 2012). Rubel and Okech (2010) highlight the responsibility group leaders have to manage such conflict by encouraging members to address their differences and express their feelings, while simultaneously setting limits on appropriate behavior within the group. Identifying how conflict occurs and is managed is critically important for leaders facilitating any type of group, and particularly in groups with culturally and linguistically diverse membership (Okech, Pimpleton, Vannatta, & Champe, 2015). This is especially true for groups with both domestic and international membership and/or leadership. In the Association for Specialists in Group Work’s (ASGW) Multicultural and Social Justice Competence Principles for Group Workers (MSJCP) (Singh et al., 2012), the authors outline group leaders’ responsibility to address “covert and overt cultural conflicts,” as well as “differences in communication styles across cultural groups, and negotiate differences or cultural conflicts when they emerge” (II.a.9., p. 5). Additionally, the MSJCP state, “Group leaders need 352 THE JOURNAL FOR SPECIALISTS IN GROUP WORK/December 2016 to address underlying cultural conflicts when appropriate and model ways to constructively address the issues” (II.b.5., p. 6). However, group leaders may struggle to address conflict in their groups due to their “ . . . fear of offending members, or their own discomfort with addressing diversity issues. Such avoidance will only serve to intensify group conflict and is detrimental to constructive group process” (II.b.5., p. 6). By clarifying the consequences of avoidance of cultural conflict to group process and member safety, the MSJCP provide support for group leaders in addressing overt and covert cultural conflicts in groups, and acknowledge the challenges of managing such conflict effectively. However, group leaders must be equipped with an ever increasing level of cultural knowledge, personal awareness, and intervention skills to be able to respond effectively to conflict (Sue, Arredondo, & McDavis, 1992). The Multicultural Counseling Competencies (MCCs), a foundational document in culturally competent counseling, includes the necessity for counselors to have multicultural capabilities in these areas in order to practice effectively and ethically (Sue et al., 1992). Though the MCCs were not written specifically for group work, the principles are appropriate to apply to the practice of group counseling. To respond effectively to intercultural conflict, group leaders need to increase their awareness of and sensitivity to the various ways culture influences the nature, expression, and management of conflict. It is difficult for group workers to increase their cultural competence without continued focus on increasing their own personal awareness regarding their beliefs, values, and practices. It is also critical for leaders to have self-awareness about how they typically approach conflict, as well as their self-efficacy in broaching conflict related to cultural differences. Group leaders must continually examine and identify their own cultural biases, and how these biases impede effective facilitation of intercultural group conflict. Group leaders who continually engage in this meaningful reflective practice are likely to be effective at guiding members to engage in similar reflective practices (Okech, 2008). Intervening effectively in intercultural conflict situations requires leaders to be confident in their intercultural knowledge (e.g., differences in meaning attributions, interactional patterns, etc.). Leaders must be able to recognize conflict that is overt, as well as conflict that is more covert. Because group members may have different ways of engaging in conflict, group leaders must be well versed in multiple conflict-management styles. Culture shapes how conflict is experienced, and therefore the ways in which conflict is navigated (Loode, 2011). Group leaders must sensitize themselves to ways in which accepted practices are culturally based, and may therefore be ineffective in addressing intercultural conflict. Group leaders must make a concerted effort to understand the Okech et al./INTERCULTURAL CONFLICT IN GROUPS 353 different ways in which group members typically go about resolving conflict based on their cultural background. A critical skill for group leaders is the ability to model effective responses when intercultural conflict emerges within the group. In order to model an effective response, the group leader must first recognize intercultural conflict whether covert or overt, during the group process. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to increase group workers’ understanding of intercultural conflict through a discussion on cultural perspectives, as well as sources and types of conflict. Selected multidisciplinary conflict management literature offers suggestions for conceptualizing and intervening with intercultural conflict. To help group workers develop strategies for addressing intercultural conflict, practical examples and case studies from our clinical and supervision experiences are analyzed with a focus on ethical and culturally competent practice. We also provide recommendations for effective group leader practices in the management of conflict and suggestions for future research. CONCEPTUALIZATION OF INTERCULTURAL CONFLICT Group work presents a plethora of opportunities for individuals to learn how to resolve intrapersonal and interpersonal conflict effectively. Yet conflict, like all other behavior, is bound by culture. Reid (1999) suggested “culture addresses the relationships between and among people and its adherent’s attitudes, beliefs, and behavior toward things found or made in the world. It is the basis for an individual’s view of self-in-the-world” (p. 59). Likening culture to a set of prisms or filters that color the individual’s language, beliefs, goals, and expectations, Reid noted that if the counselor and client have different prisms or filters, there is an opportunity for conflict. Pearce and Littlejohn (1997) asserted that intercultural conflict develops when individuals or groups identify fundamental differences in the way they see and experience the world, and when these differences are experienced as problems that need to be addressed. Ethnocentrism (Hammond & Axelrod, 2006), differences in attribution (Morris, Leung, & Iyengar, 2004), and at the most basic level, primary language differences (Georgakopoulos & Jaeckle, 2007; Okech et al., 2015), also have been identified as contributing to intercultural conflict. Furthermore, differing worldviews shape how participants define and interpret conflict, and approach resolution. In a group where each person in the room brings his/her/zer own cultural perspective, the opportunities for intercultural conflict are amplified. These opportunities can often emerge in various formats, such as microaggressions and differences in communication and 354 THE JOURNAL FOR SPECIALISTS IN GROUP WORK/December 2016 meaning attribution. We will illustrate this through discussion of the literature, case studies and subsequent analysis. Communication While cultural differences in and of themselves are not problematic, they can easily lead to conflict. This conflict, if left unaddressed, can inhibit group growth and development. As a result, the MSJCP (Singh et al., 2012) urge group leaders to address “covert and overt cultural conflicts,” as well as “differences in communication styles across cultural groups,” (II.a.9., p. 5) as they emerge in the group. In a group setting, both verbal and nonverbal communication reveal culture and conflict simultaneously. The influence of culture on communication transcends basic language difference to encompass cultural norms and values. These norms and values influence the choices people make about when to communicate, how to communicate, and which thoughts and emotions to express during interactions in the group. The literature elucidates several facets of culture that play a significant role in communication (Fall, Kelly, MacDonald, Primm, & Holmes, 2013; Liddicoat, 2009; Okech et al., 2015). Factors such as personal worldview, environment, context, and differences in meaning attribution heavily shape how messages are conveyed, received, and interpreted. The manner in which a person conveys, receives, and interprets messages to and from others reveals the personal biases, prejudices, experience of marginalization, privilege and areas of ignorance that are produced and reinforced by the surrounding culture. These factors can then play a crucial role in the narratives that people develop in an effort to understand the motives and intentions behind the behaviors of others. Group work offers a healthy and therapeutic environment in which those narratives and attributions can be explored. Attribution We make sense of other people’s behavior by attributing it to either the person’s personality, which is fixed, or to the situation, which is temporary (Morris et al., 2004). For example, those from Western cultures, where autonomy is emphasized, may be likely to attribute behavior to one’s personality. On the other hand, those from Eastern cultures or those who have a collectivist perspective where there is less focus on individual autonomy may be more likely to attribute behavior to the context or situation. A group leader, co-leaders and/or group members may have very different ways of attributing meaning Okech et al./INTERCULTURAL CONFLICT IN GROUPS 355 to the same interaction, which can result in confusion (Okech, 2008). In a study comparing causal attributions in difficult family interactions, when Samoan and American participants found the same person to blame for the conflict, the American participants were more likely to perceive the person’s reaction as a demonstration of their personality, while the Samoan participants were more likely to perceive the person as reacting to the pressure of the situation (Poasa, Mallinckrodt, & Suzuki, 2000). Differing attributions are to be expected in an intercultural interaction because the group participants are likely to have varying norms, roles, values, and expectations (Rubel & Okech, 2010). Consider a group scenario where one member reacts with anger and confronts another group member who provided accurate, but difficult feedback. Depending on individual members’ culturally-based attribution style, the anger could be interpreted as a personality trait (the member is a hostile person), or as a reaction to the situation (the member reacted to a stressful situation; in a less stressful situation, their reaction might be different). It follows that one’s response would be influenced by one’s culturally driven attribution style. Members who attribute an angry outburst to another member’s personality may be less likely to engage authentically with that person for fear of having the perceived hostility directed towards them. However, the inherent cultural aspects of conflict and meaning attribution do not always emerge in such overt ways. These concepts also arise in passive aggressive behaviors and often manifest in daily interactions. Microaggressions In contrast to intrapsychic, perceptual differences that may lead to intercultural conflict in a group, microaggressions are an observable source of conflict. Microaggressions occur when bias is demonstrated, overtly or covertly, by members of the dominant cultural group toward members of minority cultural groups (Balsam, Molina, Beadnell, Simoni, & Walters, 2011; Nadal, Griffin, Wong, Hamit, & Rasmus, 2014; Sue, 2010). Often unconscious demonstrations of bias, microaggressions are rooted in and serve to reaffirm stereotypes (Sue, 2010). Microaggressons are categorized into three groups, “microassaults,” “microinsults,” and “microinvalidations.” Microassaults include more direct forms of discrimination, such as a woman clutching her purse only when passing individuals from a specific cultural or racial group (Nadal et al., 2014). Microinsults are slights directed at an individual based on preconceived assumptions, such as expressing surprise that a non-White person is intelligent and “well-spoken.” Instances when the legitimacy of experiences described by ethnic minorities is denied or dismissed are examples of 356 THE JOURNAL FOR SPECIALISTS IN GROUP WORK/December 2016 microinvalidations (Nadal et al., 2014). The literature supports the premise that these types of aggressions permeate everyday interaction in various arenas of society. Factors like race and/or ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation have been linked to discriminatory bias in everything from health care, to housing and education (Hall & LaFrance, 2012; Lichter, Parisi, Grice, & Taquino, 2007). These experiences can contribute to lower levels of mental health or wellness as well as higher rates of depression and anxiety (Balsam et al., 2011; Nadal et al., 2014). Expressions of bias or discrimination hamper the counseling relationship, regardless of the format (e.g., individual, group, couples, family, etc.) or intention. However, group work is one of the rare environments where there is an opportunity to process these issues in a therapeutic atmosphere with a systems-oriented focus (Yalom, 1995). In short, microaggressions can add fuel to the fire of intercultural conflict. Moreover, one could argue that group workers should expect microassaults, microinsults and microinvalidations to emerge during any phase of group development. Group members benefit from a leader’s accurate identification of and timely intervention with microaggressions in the group. See Case Study 1 for an illustration of the concepts of micoaggressions, a discussion of ineffective responses and suggestions for more effective responses by group leaders. CONFLICT MANAGEMENT MODELS An exploration of interdisciplinary literature provides suggestions for conceptualizing approaches to managing conflict that can be applied to the practice of group work. Further, it is critical to understand how one’s interpersonal style contributes to the way in which one engages in conflict. Conflict Management Style The Rahim Organizational Conflict Inventory-II is one of the most widely used assessments of conflict management styles in intercultural contexts (Boonsathorn, 2007), and identifies five conflict management styles based on two dimensions: concern for self and concern for others (Rahim, 2002). The integrating style focuses on collaboration, and demonstrates a high concern for self and others. The obliging style focuses on areas where both parties agree, and on overlooking differences by demonstrating a low concern for self and a high concern for others. A third approach is the dominating style, where one party attempts to force their own viewpoint at the expense of the other party. Okech et al./INTERCULTURAL CONFLICT IN GROUPS 357 This style is characterized by high concern for self and low concern for others. The avoiding style occurs when one party attempts to withdraw from the conflict, demonstrating low concern for self and the other party, while the compromising style is a give-and-take strategy, showing moderate concern for self and others. The relationship orientation of Rahim’s model, wherein the path to conflict management is determined by concern for self and other, provides a framework for conceptualizing and intervening effectively with group member interactions. Three additional conflict management styles include: “third party help,” “neglect,” and “emotional expression” (Ting-Toomey et al., 2000). Individuals using the third-party help style seek outside parties to mediate the conflict. Neglect is an assertive and direct style, akin to Rahim’s (2002) dominating style, but individuals using this style are intent upon overtly (and covertly) damaging their opponents’ public image. Those who use emotional expression display their feelings to manage conflict. When conceptualizing member interaction, it may be helpful for group workers to consider conflict management style in a cultural context. Social science research conducted over the past two decades has shown that conflict management styles are influenced by culture, gender, and age (Ghadamosi, Baghestan, & Al-Mabrouk, 2012; Havenga, 2008; Sogra, 2014). Research indicates that individuals from collectivistic cultures are more likely to prize compromising or integrative styles of conflict management, while those from more individualistic cultures may value a dominating style (Ting-Toomey & Oestzel, 2001). Research findings also indicate that age plays a role, with the dominating style of conflict management being evident in younger adults compared to older adults (Ghadamosi et al., 2012). However, practitioners are cautioned against considering conflict management styles in a vacuum given the intersection between culture, gender and age and their ultimate impact on the choices individuals make about how to respond to conflict (Sogra, 2014). It is the task of the group facilitator to not only be aware of the differences, but more importantly to be cognizant of the significant role that culture plays in these interactions both at the individual and group levels. Because multiple culturally based perspectives and expectations about conflict are bound to exist in a group with diverse membership, there is an added layer of complexity to managing conflicts that arise in diverse groups compared to when conflict occurs in same-culture groups (Ting-Toomey & Oetzel, 2001). The interactive orientations of Rahim’s (2002) and Ting-Toomey et al’s (2000) models, wherein the path to conflict management consists of varying degrees of concern for the relationship between self and 358 THE JOURNAL FOR SPECIALISTS IN GROUP WORK/December 2016 other, is helpful for conceptualizing and intervening effectively with group member interactions. However, both models are of limited utility for group workers, as conflict conceptualization remains at the individual level. Leaders who choose to use these models must intentionally pay attention to the impact that individual dynamics inherent in the aforementioned frameworks have on interpersonal and collective group dynamics. Additionally, when conceptualizing member interaction, it is critical for group workers to consider conflict management style in a cultural context. It is also possible that in an increasingly global culture people may seek a shift from their culturally bound response patterns to an adopted cultural response. For example, a person from a communal cultural context, who for a variety of possible reasons has struggled with their cultural patterns of handling conflict, may begin to experiment with a dominating style. The same could be said for a person from an individualistic culture, who has invested effort in developing an integrative style of conflict management. The fact that at any time group members are growing, changing, experimenting and recycling through familiar ways of being, makes conflict management complex. Leaders who make a habit of checking in with group members about their patterns of conflict, what works for them, what does not work, their ideal way of handling conflict, or cultural influences on how they respond to conflict may increasingly respond effectively to members as intercultural conflict emerges with their groups. It is the task of the group facilitator to not only be aware of the differences in member reactions to conflict, but more importantly to be cognizant of the important role that culture plays in group member interactions both at the individual, interpersonal and group-as-a-whole levels. Interpersonal Dynamics Each person’s interpersonal style also contributes to how they respond to conflict (Rahim, 2002). Understanding individual styles is critical for the group leader because individual styles may be reflective of norms bound by families or cultures of origin as well as those from adopted cultures. Group leaders need to facilitate effective conversations within the group about different ways members engage in conflict and sources of associated influences. Disagreement within the group may be categorized as being task or relationship conflict (Murayama, Ryan, Shimizu, Kurebayashi, & Miura, 2015). Task conflict occurs when there are differences in perspective related to the task-at-hand, while relationship conflict occurs when there is incompatibility between group members based on personality styles or values. Task conflict is more likely to lead to positive Okech et al./INTERCULTURAL CONFLICT IN GROUPS 359 outcomes, while relationship conflict is more often associated with negative outcomes. However, how these tasks and relationships are experienced, as well as any resulting conflict are still mitigated by culture. In other words, how information is exchanged, processed and responded to are all dictated by the cultural “prisms” of the individuals involved in the interaction (Reid, 1999). This leaves the group experience ripe for factors such as miscommunication, privilege, and oppression to emerge naturally through intergroup conflict. Discriminatory attitudes are not only demonstrated by some members of the dominant cultural group, but internalized oppression also has caused these behaviors to be accepted and perpetuated by minority cultural groups against other minority cultural groups (Lichter et al., 2007). This only adds layers of oppression to those negatively affected by well-established bias and provides yet another obstacle for individuals to overcome in order to be heard, respected and recognized—particularly, within the context of conflict within a group. See Case Study 2 for an illustration of ineffective conflict management styles and suggestions for more effective responses by group leaders. Case Study 1: After an introductory dyad exercise, Sarah, a group leader in training, asks the undergraduate group members to introduce their partners. When she calls on Drew, a White, college senior, to introduce his partner, an African American freshman, Drew says, “Uh, yeah, this is Jaquon or something; I don’t know how to say his name.” Sarah smiles at the first-year student and prompts him, “Would you repeat your name, please?,” “My name is Jaleel.” Sarah turns back to Drew, who huffs, “Seriously, I don’t know how to say that. I can’t even pronounce it.” Jaleel looks perplexed as several group members laugh nervously. Sarah continues the go-around, asking the next pair to introduce themselves. As Akinyi, an international student from Kenya, introduces herself, Drew snorts and says, “Don’t even ask me to repeat that name! With that thick accent, I can’t understand a word she says.” Sarah says, “Please let the others introduce themselves,” and continues the group introductions. Drew’s comments are microaggressions; brief “everyday” exchanges that send denigrating messages about social group membership (Sue, 2010), in this case about the proper names and speech patterns of minority individuals. Detecting microaggressions requires a higher level of awareness than typically found in beginning group leaders. Such exchanges are easily dismissed as evidence of an individual’s ignorance, impoliteness, or more generously, poor listening skills. During supervision, Sarah’s description of Drew’s behavior was in line with a Western perspective on attribution: “I think he’s just that kind of guy—he just says whatever is on his mind.” Western attribution 360 THE JOURNAL FOR SPECIALISTS IN GROUP WORK/December 2016 perspectives, with their focus on individuality, may provide effective camouflage for, and impede leaders’ awareness of microaggression, blatant racism and other toxic sources of intercultural conflict. Ineffective Interventions The scenario above may appear to exemplify simple and benign slights during group interactions. However, the repercussions for the group can be far reaching. The leader responded to both interactions ineffectively, by demonstrating an avoiding style of conflict management and making an awkward transitional statement to move on to the next dyad for introductions (Rahim, 2002). It would also be ineffective for the group leader to align with Drew, for example saying “Yes, I can see how you would struggle with Jaleel’s name- that’s a tough one!” or “I hear what you are saying, Drew, we are all going to have to work hard to understand Akinyi because of her accent.” It would also be inappropriate for the group leader to join members in their awkward laughter, to make a joke about Drew’s comments, or to make a sarcastic comment. Because sarcasm or jokes are culturally bound, sometimes what appears to be understandable and humorous in one culture may be considered rude, dismissive or offensive in another. Sarcasm can be extremely off-putting even when the leader and group members share the same cultural background (Camacho, 2002). Another ineffective response is blaming group members who identify as cultural minorities. A leader may do so by making statements that suggest that the group’s diverse membership is the source of its challenges. In addition, it is ineffective to suggest to a member for whom English is not their first language that the conflict is a result of their limited English language skills, that if they spoke English a little better, or with an “American accent” there might not be a problem (Okech et al., 2015). It is erroneous to assume that group members for whom English is not a first language may not be struggling with the accents of the native speakers of English. A leader who believes group challenges are exacerbated by the presence of members who identify as cultural minorities may choose not to intervene when the group is scapegoating such members. Through participating in supervision, the leader Sarah recognized that she was struggling with regulating her emotions at the time of this interaction in the group, which was part of the challenge in her ability to intervene effectively. She described observing the nervous laughter by members and sensing the heightened tension in the group, and stated she knew Drew’s comments were the source of the tension, but she felt too anxious to address them. The group leader’s heightened anxiety and fears impeded her ability to address the microagression Okech et al./INTERCULTURAL CONFLICT IN GROUPS 361 and resulting covert conflict in the moment. As a result, the group leader inadvertently conveyed that she was either incapable of handling this kind of intercultural conflict or that she did not recognize the harmful nature of Drew’s words and behavior. It is easy to assume that both Jaleel and Akinyi would not have confidence in the group leader’s ability to address issues of race or racism, linguistics, or national diversity in the group, and as a result that they would be unlikely to take the risk to share their unique experiences in the group in the future. This case example highlights how pervasive and insidious the nature of bias, privilege and oppression are in our society. The conflict described in this case would require the leader to focus on her own emotion regulation and containment in order to explicitly address this cultural conflict (Singh et al., 2012) and help group members navigate this interaction in a helpful and meaningful way. The leader’s ability to both sense the increased tension in the room and identify the cause indicates that she did have a level of cultural knowledge and awareness. However, her inability to effectively intervene and process this with the group in a therapeutic way illustrates a lack of skill with which to helpfully apply her knowledge and awareness. Effective Interventions An effective response by the leader would have been to use the integrating style, in which collaboration and communication between all parties is encouraged and strong concern for everyone involved is demonstrated (Rahim, 2002). There are several possible effective interventions the leader could execute, including addressing Drew’s comments directly, as well as interventions that would encourage other group members to participate in the conversation. The skill of inviting group member participation is valuable in itself, since it communicates a shared responsibility in addressing group concerns. It is also one way neophyte group leaders can “buy time” to regulate their emotions when activated by a group member’s remarks. To address Drew’s comments directly, the leader might say “I am struggling to understand what makes it difficult for you to say Jaleel’s name. What might this really be about for you?” Or, “Are you assuming that Akinyi will have no trouble with your accent?” The leader could also address Jaleel by asking him to articulate the thoughts and feelings behind his facial expression. In addition to addressing Drew or Jaleel directly, the group leader would also have the option of facilitating a conversation with the group, focusing on the group members’ reactions to Drew’s comments. The leader might encourage group discussion about what was happening by using immediacy, describing the tension in the group, and asking group members to share their perceptions of why Drew’s 362 THE JOURNAL FOR SPECIALISTS IN GROUP WORK/December 2016 statements seemed to have heightened the tension in the room. Finally, the leader could challenge Drew and any silent group members by saying, “Let’s discuss the folly of assuming that others have accents and you have none, or that your accent is understandable while others’ are incomprehensible.” If the group members were to join with Drew in his statements about not being able to understand Akinyi’s accent, the leader could effectively intervene by using a protective confrontation, where the purpose is to maintain a safe environment for the group (Burton & Furr, 2014). This would involve protecting Akinyi as the lone member being attacked, and shutting down any aggressive dialogue. This could be done by saying, “Let’s discuss the effort we all need to make to understand each other in this group when the influences of the multiple languages we speak, or the geographical regions of the state/world in which we grew up influence our speech, intonation and pronunciations,” or “lets consider the fact that accents go both ways, chances are that if you hear someone with an accent, they also hear you with one. It is erroneous to assume that others’ accents are difficult to comprehend, while yours is easy for them to understand. Let’s discuss come ways in which we can clarify communication in case of misunderstanding.” Case Study 2: In an experiential growth group for counselors-intraining, members discussed racial and ethnic discrimination. As the African American group members shared experiences of racial profiling, Janice, a White group member, responded to an account saying, “But you don’t really know why the clerk followed you around the store; you’re just assuming it’s a racial thing. Just because it’s a White clerk doesn’t mean she’s racist. That kind of thing does not happen anymore— you are making really unfair assumptions about the clerk.” After a few members challenged Janice’s invalidation of her peers’ experiences, she stated she has worked retail before and she “knows people who work in stores don’t just follow someone around because they are not White.” When several group members told Janice she was unable to understand their experiences because of her White privilege, Janice argued she did not have White privilege. She further explained that growing up poor and overweight meant not only did she not have privilege, but that she also experienced frequent teasing for her weight and thrift store clothing. At this point, the group leader anxiously said “Janice it sounds like you have also experienced some hardships . . . maybe we should talk about how all of us have been treated unfairly at one time or another and, how we have all had advantages at other times.” Looking frustrated and sounding exasperated, Janice responded, “Fine, but, I know what I’ve experienced and nothing you say is going to convince me I Okech et al./INTERCULTURAL CONFLICT IN GROUPS 363 have any kind of privilege.” The African American group members were offended, Janice was indignant, the other White group members sat in uncomfortable silence and the group leader froze, uncertain of how to proceed. With the group now plunged into angry silence, the group leader finally stammered, “We might need to agree to disagree on this one,” and introduced a new topic. Janice appeared to be engaging in a dominant style of conflict management (Rahim, 2002); she was adamant her viewpoint was right and had little concern for others’ perspectives. Janice also displayed a microinvalidation towards her colleagues when she summarily dismissed the veracity and importance of their experiences. The other White group members used an avoiding style, avoiding eye contact and remaining silent. The White group members’ unwillingness to explicitly address this issue could be considered a microinsult towards the African American members who had challenged Janice’s perspective. The group leader appeared to be engaging in an obliging style of conflict management (Rahim, 2002), where she focused exclusively on areas where the two parties shared commonalities, and neglected to acknowledge that Janice’s experiences were in fact different than her African American peers’ experiences due to her racial identity and White privilege. Ineffective Interventions The group leader’s interventions here are clearly ineffective. In her first intervention, the group leader focused only on commonalities among group members without attending to the difference in privilege statuses of Janice as a White woman and the African American group members. When the leader avoided further engaging with the conflict and moved on to the next topic, she dismissed the source of the conflict all together. Avoiding or ignoring conflict ultimately does not work in groups, since the conflict will continue to reemerge in the group until it is addressed (Yalom & Leszcz, 2005). Not all group leaders are equipped to respond effectively to intercultural conflicts in groups. Some leaders may be lacking in intercultural knowledge, awareness of intercultural issues and how they might emerge in groups, and in the skills necessary to respond effectively to such conflicts within groups. Additionally, some leaders lack the level of cognitive complexity necessary to conceptualize and address intercultural conflicts as they emerge. Leaders may also lack the emotional regulation skills required to remain grounded and balanced while facilitating communication when members are emotionally dysregulated and potentially harmful to each other (Champe, Okech, & Rubel, 2013). As a result, anxiety may 364 THE JOURNAL FOR SPECIALISTS IN GROUP WORK/December 2016 cause the leader to cloud the process of communication with lengthy interventions or excessive chatter. The leader may also monopolize the group, act impatient, rude, or dismissive leaving little time for the members in conflict to engage with one another. In this case, the leader chose an ineffective approach, that of focusing on commonalities among group members and avoiding addressing the unique racial and socio-cultural experiences that resulted in the group’s intercultural conflict. Effective Interventions Group leaders’ ability to recognize and manage conflict effectively is a critical skill when running groups, particularly intercultural groups. Burton and Furr (2014) identify de-escalation, supportive confrontation, and protective confrontation as effective interventions for instructors of multicultural courses to use when conflict arises in their classes. These same interventions may also be a useful resource for group counselors facing intercultural conflict. The purpose of de-escalation is to reduce the intensity of the interaction. In the second case study, the group leader might use a de-escalation intervention, coupled with a supportive confrontation (Burton & Furr, 2014). Supportive confrontation de-escalates the intensity of the interaction and increase group members’ multicultural awareness, knowledge, and/or skills by critically examining members’ perspectives, which may not exemplify multicultural competence. The leader could demonstrate accurate listening and reflection of what the student said in order to de-escalate the situation, and then provide a cognitive challenge. For example, the leader might say “Janice, I am hearing you say that you have also experienced marginalization as an overweight woman. But I am wondering if you can consider the possibility that you have also benefited from White privilege?” The leader could ask Janice to consider the possibility that both her experience of marginalization and those of her fellow group members can be simultaneously true. It would also be effective for the leader to facilitate further conversation between group members. She could directly ask other group members who identify as White if they have had experience with White privilege and if they can see the difference between the oppression one might suffer due to one’s weight, which can occur irrespective of one’s racial background, and oppression based solely on race. Here, the leader can seize the moment to increase members’ social consciousness (Burnes & Ross, 2010). In acknowledging the conflict, and modeling openness to talking about race, privilege, and socioeconomic status the leader would be demonstrating the application of cultural knowledge, Okech et al./INTERCULTURAL CONFLICT IN GROUPS 365 awareness and skills. The leader might say, “Talking about discrimination, privilege and oppression can be challenging, particularly where different opinions and experiences of the issue exist in the group. Let us use this as an opportunity to acknowledge this conflict and to address it in a thoughtful way with each other.” The leader could solicit input from the group by asking for input on procedural resolution processes such as, “How might the group want to address similar conflicts as they arise in the group?”, or “What are we learning from this experience as being a productive way to engage with each other when our cultural experiences are so vastly different?” These types of interventions are examples of what the MSJCP principles look like in action (Singh et al., 2012). By clearly identifying the significant role that culture and worldview played during this exchange in the group, the group leader might be able to uncover and explore implicit and explicit differences in how the group chooses to communicate and engage in conflict GROUP LEADER RESPONSIBILITIES The two case study discussions presented above, illustrate how various factors play a role in how conflict is experienced and managed, making the position of group leaders even more critical—especially as it pertains to effectively navigating intercultural conflict. In his seminal article on an intergroup dialogue group for Arabs and Jews that took place in the United States, Norman (1991) describes a group tasked with reducing conflict and increasing understanding between communities with long-standing disputes. An experienced group worker, Norman drew on established approaches for handling international border and labor/management disputes to devise a group model and facilitator roles. He conceptualized the leader role as an assertive facilitator tasked with managing “an open process of communication that might lead to understanding, not necessarily agreement” (p.180), and a process observer, reflecting on group dynamics and the sociopolitical meanings of the group’s work. When heated exchanges among members occurred frequently in the group’s early stages, it was vital for the facilitator to use “even-handed” or impartial facilitator interventions. Without this, Norman notes, the leader risks losing both credibility with members and control of the process. Also fundamental to leader effectiveness is a willingness to raise uncomfortable topics, and to be willing to engage in uncomfortable topics when they emerge organically within the group, as was exemplified in both of the case discussions presented in this article. The leader’s broaching behavior, through which the leader demonstrates “a consistent and ongoing attitude of openness with a genuine commitment 366 THE JOURNAL FOR SPECIALISTS IN GROUP WORK/December 2016 . . . to continually invite the client to explore issues of diversity” (DayVines et al., 2007, p. 402), also establishes expectations for meaningful group conversation about how race, gender, and culture contribute to members’ experiences. It is important to consider that in a group where there is no underlying agreement by members that enhancing their cultural competence is a goal of participation, members may be resistant to engage with the leader or other members on conflict related to culture. In such a scenario, members may become frustrated or impatient with the conflict management process because it is unclear to them what the conflict has to do with the purpose of the group (Camacho, 2002; Yalom & Leszcz, 2005). Therefore, a critical task of the facilitator is to be able to help group members understand how the emergence of the intercultural conflict and engaging in the conflict’s management relates to the purpose and ultimate outcome of the group. Given that conflict can result in a heightened affective environment, the leader must develop the capacity for emotion regulation of self and the group as a whole (Champe et al., 2013). In practice, this means leaders are able to maintain emotional stability in the group, even if they are internally experiencing very strong emotional reactions. They are also able to recognize when the affective response of the group as a whole is heightened and possess skill in facilitating emotion regulation of the group. In doing so, it is critical for the leader to demonstrate recognition of and respect for individual differences and commonalities in human experience (Brinson, Kottler, & Fisher, 2004). The group leaders’ behavior during the period of conflict can either communicate and add value to the conflict in the group or minimize its importance in the process of cultural understanding and engagement among group members. Once a leader recognizes the conflict, they may follow up by naming the conflict, encouraging members to address the conflict, and teaching them how to process information cognitively. However, in the event that a group member becomes a target of unrelenting criticisms or attacks, a leader has an ethical responsibility to exercise protective confrontation with the objective of maintaining a safe group environment (Burton & Furr, 2014). Maintaining safety in the group may include the group leader shutting down the dialogue, protecting the lone group member who may either be the attacker or the one being attacked, and contextualizing the dialogue for group members and then guiding them through a more productive way of engaging with each other (see application to Akinyi in Case Study 1). All of these interventions require effective communication skills, which are critical if a group leader is going to be able to facilitate intercultural conflict in a therapeutic and helpful manner, while maintaining a safe Okech et al./INTERCULTURAL CONFLICT IN GROUPS 367 group environment. Effective communication skills can play a significant role in clarifying communication among members and providing an environment that allows for authentic, yet respectful engagement even in the midst of conflict. CONCLUSION With this article, we have provided a critical review of interdisciplinary literature on intercultural conflict management. By doing so, we have attempted to expand understanding of ASGW-MSJCP Principles II.a.9., and II.b.5 which provide guidelines for addressing intercultural conflicts in groups. We encourage group leaders to increase members’ critical consciousness by facilitating difficult dialogues (Watt, 2007), deliberate conversations addressing social justice issues such as racism, sexism, ableism, or heterosexism. We concur with Watt’s observation that the development of cultural competence often occurs by increasing one’s awareness of his/her/zer own privilege. We also encourage group leaders to participate in continuing education. Cultural competence is not a state of being, but instead a state of becoming. Finally, effective intercultural conflict management is a key ingredient in successful group development, an ethical imperative, and an indication of group work best practices in action. 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