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Equity & Identity
April 23, 2023
Where Do I Fit In? Your Guide to Managing Cultural Conflict

Mahnoor Zulfiqar

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Navigating a Divided World As a Multicultural Individual 

Cross-cultural conflict is common in today's diverse society. Multicultural individuals often find themselves struggling with cultural conflict, as they navigate a world that can feel divided by cultural differences. This internal conflict can arise due to differences in values, beliefs, communication styles, and customs among people from different cultural backgrounds.

Navigating cross-cultural conflict can be challenging, but through self-exploration and acceptance, it can also be an opportunity for growth and learning. In this blog, we will explore the main factors contributing to cross-cultural conflict and some effective strategies for managing it.

Navigating Opposing Values

Values are an essential aspect of culture and can play a significant role in cross-cultural conflict. As a multicultural individual, you may find yourself struggling to navigate opposing values from your different cultures. This can create confusion, conflict, and frustration, as you try to manage these differences within yourself. Oftentimes, multicultural individuals may feel guilty when doing something that fits one culture but goes against the other culture's values.

One way to navigate opposing values is to focus on the underlying goals and discover what you most resonate with. Understanding the reasoning behind different values allows you to find common ground and build bridges between cultures. Finding a balance between these values, where possible, can be helpful. The goal is to find what you are most comfortable with and what makes you happy.

Individualism vs collectivism

Individualism and collectivism are two of the most commonly contrasting cultural values. Individualistic, or Western, cultures prioritize personal goals, opinions/preferences, and achievements, while collectivistic, or Eastern, cultures prioritize group harmony and cooperation over personal goals. This can create internal tension for multicultural individuals. As an individualist, you may want to focus on personal goals and desires but may feel guilt from your collectivistic culture as you also feel a need to focus on group values.

To balance these values, it is important to find a middle ground that allows you to express your individuality while respecting your community's needs and values. Focus on whatever works best for you.

Embracing your identity

Multicultural individuals have different experiences and perspectives that shape their identities. Sometimes you may feel torn between different cultural identities, or struggle to define yourself outside of cultural labels; However, embracing your multicultural identity is a crucial aspect of personal development and can help you manage cross-cultural conflict.

To find your identity, embracing your unique experiences, perspectives, and background is essential. This can be achieved through self-discovery and by fully understanding both your cultures to feel confident in who you are. This then creates an environment that allows you to express your unique identity.

Fitting in and belonging

As a multicultural individual, you may be struggling with fitting in and finding where you belong in different cultural contexts. Feeling a sense of belonging is an essential psychological need for humans. You may feel pressure to conform to certain norms or expectations of your host currently, even if they do not align with your personal values or beliefs. This can be difficult for your psychological well-being.

To navigate this struggle, it can be helpful to create a sense of belonging by finding communities that share your cultural background and values and being open to new experiences and perspectives. Speaking to other multicultural individuals and sharing your experiences and concerns can help foster understanding and make you feel less alone in what you are going through.

Overall, managing cultural conflict as a multicultural individual requires understanding, empathy, and self-awareness. By navigating opposing values, balancing individualism vs collectivism, accepting and understanding your identity, and fostering a sense of belonging, you can effectively manage cultural conflict and embrace your unique cultural identity.

Remember that your multiculturalism is a strength that can bring value and diversity to the world. You have a unique perspective that you can use to your benefit. Try to see the different cultures as a scale/spectrum instead of black and white/dyadic. Draw on aspects from both cultures to find what suits and helps you best. 


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