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  • Kirsten Johnson

Conflict is Cultural

Conflict is cultural.

It is an accumulation of the different lived experiences, worldviews, and cultural norms that have shaped us as complex human beings.

Conflict is never an isolated incident.

When we find ourselves in the midst of a conflict, we never start with a clean slate. Our past experiences have shaped our relationship to conflict, as well as the strategies we reach for in response.

  • Did you grow up in a family that that shut down or avoided conflict (*que We Don’t Talk About Bruno*)?

  • Or perhaps you had an auntie in the family who showed love by calling things out directly and insisted on leaning into conflict whenever it arose?

  • Maybe the conflicts in your life have been terrifying and divisive, transformative and redemptive, or a messy mix of both?

Whatever your lived experiences have been, they shape the cultural framework that you lean on when navigating conflict in our organizations.


Thus, self-awareness and reflection are crucial in building the skills needed to effectively navigate conflict.

  • What is my relationship with conflict?

  • How has it already shown up in my story?

  • How have I been taught to understand it explicitly and implicitly?

  • What strengths have I developed along the way?

  • What are my limiting beliefs about conflict and areas of growth?

Whatever this new conflict at work may be, it is another chapter in your ongoing story. And since we each have different stories and cultural frameworks, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, protocol, or practice for effectively navigating conflict. Our teams and organizations must cultivate the conditions for a diverse set of tools, resources, and approaches to support us as we navigate conflict.


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