Reading 1: Conflict Management

Multiple-Choice Exercise

Read the text below. For questions 1-10, choose the answer (A, B, C or D) which you think fits best according to the text.

Conflict Management

An underlying principle of cultural behaviour, which is closely reflected in the language, is the need to avoid face-to-face conflict. Even though the British may appear unpleasantly blunt when compared with some Asian cultures, they are on the whole concerned to offer a way out whenever a potential conflict between individuals occurs.

This may be compared with public confrontations in large committees or the Parliament where much more confrontation goes on. Some cultures are, by way of contrast to the British, much less concerned to avoid conflict private or personal encounters.

Perhaps there is a principle in "aggression management" here: every culture has developed some ways of letting off steam, has some areas in which people are allowed to express their true feelings.

The immediate linguistic consequence of open conflict - avoidance is that you need to know what to do and what to say, for example, when someone takes a position in a queue in front of you, accidentally stands on your toe in a bus or disagrees with you in a public gathering. In the public gathering, depending on the nature of the meeting, the British reaction may be to confront disagreement openly and respond vigorously. In the other more personal situations, the same individual may work hard at taking a middle route between doing nothing and engaging in open conflict. In doing so, he or she will expect a similar cooperative response from the other person, such as an apology like, "Oh, sorry, I didn't realise...". In other cultures, behaviour might well be the opposite - a great effort to reduce conflict in a public meeting and robust responses in the private situations. Within our own cultures, we understand the conventions and know when people are being normally polite or normally outspoken. The difficulties come when we make errors in an unfamiliar environment.

(From "British Shibboleths, One language, different cultures", edited by Eddie Ronowicz and Colin Yallop, The Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd.)