Research Article: Collectivism, Individualism & Conflict Strategies

“Cultures differ in the extent to which cooperation, competition, or individualism are emphasized." -Harry Triandis, 1988



Collectivism “emphasizes family and work group goals above individual needs or desires” (PRCA, 2019). This can be opposed to individualistic cultures that “promote individual goals, initiative and achievement” and prioritize the rights of individuals (Today’s Weather, 2013). These two cultural approaches directly affect how conflict resolution may be practiced as strategies can be largely determined by collectivist and individualist framework. “Cross-cultural studies on conflict indicate that the competing style (i.e., high assertiveness, low cooperativeness) is more favored by members of individualistic cultures (e.g., the United States) than it is by members of collectivistic cultures (e.g., South Korea, China) and that the opposite pattern occurs for the avoiding (i.e., low assertiveness, low cooperativeness) and accommodating (i.e., low assertiveness, high cooperativeness) styles” (Pruitt, 2004).


Different conflict strategies are contingent upon each parties’ care factor. If neither party has high concern for the other, conflict resolution is less likely. Yielding stems from over concern towards the opposite party and little for oneself. Avoiding occurs when there is little care surrounding either side’s aspirations. In many of these cases, conflict isn’t completely resolved and issues can be exasperated or resurface at a later time. Problem solving is generally the ideal way conflict is settled, which means both parties have high concern for their own and other’s aspirations. In this case, collaborative solutions are sought that are acceptable to both sides. “Sometimes called a 'win/win' strategy, the collaborative style strives to make sure that both sides are satisfied.  It requires an open discussion of all the issues and concerns, exploration of alternative solutions, and honesty and commitment from all the parties. To be successful, the collaborating style participants need to be able to surface concerns in a non-threatening way and think imaginatively” (Mediating Conflict, 2019).


Overall, it is important that we keep in mind various cultural lenses when addressing conflict. The more we can be aware of other's experiences and perceptions, while also noting our own, we can begin to cultivate a dialogue and better understanding of conflict approaches.


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Dean G. Pruitt & Sung H. Kim, “Social Conflict: Escalation, Stalemate, and Settlement” (3rdEd.), McGraw-Hill, 2004


"Individualistic vs. Collectivist Cultures on Climate Change." Todaysweather. February 04, 2013. Accessed February 10, 2019. http://todaysweather.wordpress.com/2013/02/04/individualistic-vs-collectivist-cultures-on-climate-change/.


Mediating Conflict. Accessed February 10, 2019. http://mediatingconflict.com/.


PRCA - 24 Survey. Accessed February 10, 2019. http://acrossculturesweb.com/unit2/unit2_print.html.


Triandis, Harry C., Robert Bontempo, Marcelo J. Villareal, Masaaki Asai, and Nydia Lucca. 1988. “ Individualism and Collectivism: Cross-cultural Perspectives on Self-ingroup Relationships.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 54 (2).



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