Intercultural mediation

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Intercultural mediation consists to develop links of sociability between people from different cultures who reside in the same territory.

Transnational mediation has the same approach, except that it is taken into account the fact that people do not reside in the same territory.

Intercultural competence is defined by the ability to communicate successfully with people from other cultures. This skill may be present from an early age or, according to the disposition and will, can be methodologically developed. The basis for a successful intercultural communication lies in the emotional competence and intercultural sensitivity. This concept is mainly used in the area of industry and finance.


[edit] Intercultural Mediation and Sociology

Mediation is not a subject of sociologic research linked with social exclusion or urban segregation issues. It is seen as a technique of democratization in the field of territory management and as an educational resource for learning rules in social interactions. In the field of management of differences, it accesses to a normative registry supposed to enable to live "better" together.

[edit] Basis

Intercultural competence is a social skill, thus which mostly lies around sociology, but that must be approached in an interdisciplinary way, especially with psychology.

These abilities mean that a person is able to perceive and understand the cultural differences that affect thoughts, emotional feelings and acts. These experiments are considered free from bias, i.e. with an open mind and a willingness to learn.

According to current developments in politics, religions or economics (mergers, etc...), intercultural competence has become a more and more important emerging term, taught in various areas including academics and being part of the selection process of executives (especially: international companies, international negotiations processes...).

[edit] Typical Examples of Cultural Differences

A different perception, often selective:

  • Perception of objects and colors: the Inuit possess 16 different expressions for "snow", and the Zulus have 39 different expressions for "green". In Arabic countries the smells of spices are often perceived with more differentiation than in the USA.
  • The perception of time in China and Japan is rather oriented towards the past (ancestors, values); in the Mediterranean countries and South America the orientation is more directed toward the present while the United States as Europe give more importance to the future (the degree of industrialization often determine orientation for the future).

The same behaviors can have very different meanings:

  • In India a nod from right to left means an affirmation ("yes"), while a movement of head from up to down means a refusal ("no");
  • A thumb up means "everything is alright" in America while in Central Europe it has more the meaning of the number "one". In Iran, it is an impolite gesture, equivalent to the dirty finger in most other cultures;
  • Another gesture for "everything is alright" is, for certain professions such as pilots and plunger, the thumb and point finger shaping a "O". This same gesture means for the Japanese "now we can talk about money" while in the south of France it means on the contrary: "Not a penny". In Spain and in several South American countries, in Eastern Europe and Russia, it is a vulgar expression;
  • In Japan, the smile / laugh can be a sign of embarrassment and confusion. During meetings, they like having silent breaks of several minutes. In Europe and America, these behaviors cause more uncertainty.
  • The word "compromise" in England has a positive connotation (like an agreement, something good that happens to the both parties). On the contrary in the United States, this word means more a solution in which both parties lose.
  • When someone is invited and leaves right after the dinner, this means in China that the guests have loved the meal (still waiting would lead the hosts to believe that the guests have not eaten enough). However, in Canada, the United States and various European countries, the hosts expect the guests to stay and discuss, otherwise the hosts could think, if they left right away, they would have come just to eat.

[edit] Cultural Differences

In the analysis of cultural attributes, different dimensions can be distinguished, including:

  • Individualism vs. collectivism;
  • Femininity (everyone has the same value, quality of life) vs. masculinity (referral to the competition);
  • Security (need more or less important rules, structure);
  • Distance between powers (real or felt difference between hierarchical levels)
  • "Multi-tasking" approach (several things at once, in parallel) vs. "mono-tasking" approach (tasks defined through time, things one after the other, planning...);
  • structural attributes: values orientation, understanding of time (orientation toward the past or future) and space (for example furniture in the center of the room or against the walls, breaks or not during a speech), selective perception (to see everything or only what we want to see), non-verbal communication, behavior in response to a particular situation.

According to these or other criteria, it is possible to analyze countries, regions, companies, social groups, but also individuals, and to determine degrees of compatibility.

[edit] Evaluation of Skills

For an assessment of intercultural competence as a skill which is already possessed and/or whose potential can be developed (by considering the needs and involved time-limits), the following characteristics are tested and observed: management of complex situations, opening mind, flexible attitude, emotional stability, commitment and motivation, empathy, skills of meta-communication and polycentric capacity.

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