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What Is Cultural Mediation?

By Marlene Garcia
Updated May 16, 2024
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Cultural mediation describes a profession that studies the cultural differences between people, using the data in problem solving. A business might have global customers with different communication styles and cultural norms for dispute resolution. Cultural mediation attempts to bridge those differences based on the traditions of both parties.

Mediators are taught to be impartial and unbiased when facilitating a solution to a business misunderstanding. This style might appear foreign to people from certain cultures. For example, some countries adopt a style of communicating that takes a firm stand on a topic, and people are expected to defend their points of view. People from these regions might not trust a mediator who is totally impartial.

Nuances in communication styles also vary by country. For example, Latin Americans and Arabs tend to use emotion when dealing with others. African and Asian people might exhibit a more stoic demeanor. A mediator who sets typical ground rules that forbid interrupting or emotional responses might find it difficult to deal with people who find that style of negotiating foreign.

Cultural mediation is considered difficult because expectations vary by country and among classes of people within a county. Cultural norms might be flexible and may change based on gender, age, and religion. Societies of people within the same country might share diverse beliefs and ways of expressing themselves that fall outside basic assumptions about people in the region.

Some cultural mediation services use multicultural teams that match facilitators with the ethnicities of the parties involved. They might modify the usual standards of mediation to foster respect for traditional practices of one side or the other. With globalization in the business world, cultural mediation can prove challenging when trying to understand communication styles from many diverse cultures.

Cultural mediation might also prove useful in the workplace. Some European countries employ mediators to deal with conflicts that arise when immigrants are hired. In some regions, mediation is funded by the government and includes training, education, and counseling to improve relationships between people with different backgrounds. Cultural mediation is also used in social institutions, such as schools, hospitals, and prisons.

These mediators serve as spokespersons for immigrants to educate the majority populations about cultural differences of minorities in the workplace. Mediators try to promote understanding to resolve conflict. They typically explore perceptions that led to a problem, look for cultural reasons behind these views, and help devise solutions agreeable to all.

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