Intercultural Communication and Competence

beth fisher yoshida

Intercultural Communication and Competence on ICERM Radio aired Saturday, August 6, 2016 @ 2 PM Eastern Time (New York).

2016 Summer Lecture Series

Theme: “Intercultural Communication and Competence”

Guest Lecturers:

beth fisher yoshida

Beth Fisher-Yoshida, Ph.D., (CCS), President and CEO of Fisher Yoshida International, LLC; Director and Faculty of the Master of Science in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution and Co-Executive Director of the Advanced Consortium for Cooperation, Conflict and Complexity (AC4) at the Earth Institute, both at Columbia University; and Director of the Youth Peace and Security Program at AC4.


Ria Yoshida, M.A., Director of Communications at Fisher Yoshida International.

Transcript of the Lecture

Ria: Hello! My name is Ria Yoshida.

Beth: And I am Beth Fisher-Yoshida and today we’d like to talk with you about the field of inter-cultural conflicts and we’ll use the experiences we have had either personally in our own work and living around the world, or in the workplace and our work with clients. And this can be on a couple of different levels, one could be on the individual level with clients where we work with them in a coaching scenario. Another can be on an organizational level in which we work with teams that are very diverse or multicultural. And a third area can be when we worked in communities where you have different groups of people who assign different meanings to being a member of that community.

So as we know, the world is getting smaller, there is more and more communication, there is more mobility. People are able to interface with difference or others on a more regular basis, much more frequently than ever before. And some of that is wonderful and rich and exciting and it brings about so much diversity, opportunities for creativity, joint problem solving, multiple perspectives, and so on. And on the flip side of that, it also is an opportunity for a lot of conflict to arise because maybe somebody’s perspective is not the same as yours and you disagree with it and you take issue with it. Or maybe somebody’s style of living is not the same as yours, and again you take issue with it and maybe you have different sets of values and so on.

So we’d like to explore with a couple of more realistic examples of what really has happened and then take a step back and use some of the tools and frameworks that we tend to use in our work and our lives to explore some of those situations more thoroughly. So maybe we could start off with Ria giving an example of you growing up both in the US and Japan, and maybe something that happened to you that was an example of an intercultural conflict.

Ria: Sure. I remember when I was 11 and I first moved to the US from Japan. It was in Sunday school, we were going around the classroom introducing ourselves and it came to be my turn and I said “Hi, my name is Ria and I’m not very smart.” It was an autopilot 11-year-old response in an introduction and now, reflecting back on it, I realize that the values in Japan are to have humility and a sense of humbleness which was what I was trying to go after. But instead, the response I got from my classmates was one of pity – “Aww, she doesn’t think she’s smart.” And there was a moment where I felt suspended in time and internalized “Oh, I am no longer in the same environment. There aren’t the same value systems or implications of it”, and I had to re-evaluate my situation and notice that there was a cultural difference.

Beth: Very good example there, it’s interesting. I’m wondering then, when you did experience that, you did not get the response that you had anticipated, you did not get the response that you would have gotten in Japan, and in Japan that would have been probably one of praise “Oh, look how humble she is, what a wonderful child;” instead you got pity. And then, what did you think about that in terms of how you felt and the responses from the other students.

Ria: So there was a moment where I felt a separation from myself and others. And I desperately wanted to connect with my fellow classmates. That beyond the cultural values of Japanese or American, there was this human need to want to connect to other people. And yet there was this internal dialogue that was happening for me, one of conflict where I felt “These people don’t understand me” as well as “What did I just do wrong?”

Beth: Interesting. So you said quite a few things that I would like to unpack a little bit as we go forward. So one is that you felt a separation from yourself as well as a separation from other people and as humans we are, as some people have said, social animals, social beings, that we have a need. One of the identified needs that different people have identified is a series of needs, universal in general and specific, that we have to connect, to belong, to be with others, and that means to be recognized, to be acknowledged, to be valued, to say the right thing. And it’s an interactive response where we say or do something, want to elicit a certain response from others that make us feel good about ourselves, about our relationships, about the world we’re in, and then that in turn elicits a subsequent response from us; but you weren’t getting that. Sometimes people, any of us, in situations such as that may be very quick to judge and to blame and that blame can come in different forms. One could be blaming the other – “What’s wrong with them? Don’t they know they’re supposed to respond a certain way? Don’t they know they’re supposed to recognize me and say ‘oh wow, how humble she is.’ Don’t they know that’s what’s supposed to happen?” You also said “Maybe there’s something wrong with me”, so then we sometimes turn that blame internally and we say “We’re not good enough. We’re not correct. We don’t know what’s going on.” It lowers our self-esteem and then there are different kinds of reactions from that. And of course, in many situations we have blame going both ways, we have blaming the other and blaming ourselves, not creating a very pleasant scenario in that situation.

Ria: Yes. There’s a level of conflict that happens on multiple levels – the internal as well as the external – and they are not mutually exclusive. Conflict has a way of entering a scenario and experience in many different ways.

Beth: True. And so when we say the word conflict, sometimes people have reactions to that because of our own level of discomfort in managing conflict. And I would say “How many people like conflict?” and basically nobody would raise their hand if I ever asked that question. And I think there are a couple of reasons why; one is that we don’t know how to manage conflict as an everyday tool. We have conflicts, everybody has conflicts, and then we don’t know how to manage them which means they don’t turn out well, which means we are destroying or damaging our relationships and so naturally want to have a couple of techniques, avoiding them, suppressing them, and just staying away from them completely. Or we could also think of a refrain of the conflict situation, say, “You know, something’s going on here. It doesn’t feel good and I’m going to figure out a way to feel better about the situation and take the surfacing of these conflicts as an opportunity to create good conflict or constructive conflict.” So this is where I think we have an opportunity for differentiation of constructive conflict, meaning constructive process of addressing the conflict leading to a constructive outcome. Or a destructive process of how we manage the conflict situation leading to a destructive outcome. And so maybe we can explore that a little bit too after we go through maybe a couple of more examples of situations.

So you gave an example of a personal situation. I’m going to give an example of an organizational situation. So in a lot of the work that Ria and I do, we work with multicultural teams inside of multinational, multicultural organizations. Sometimes it gets even more exacerbated when there are other levels of complexity added in such as face to face versus virtual teams. As we know, in the field of communication there are so much that happens non-verbally, facial expressions, gestures and so on, that gets lost when you’re virtual, and then really gets a whole new twist on it when it’s only in writing and you don’t even have the added dimensions of tone of voice in there. Of course, I didn’t even mention all of the language complications that happen as well, even if you are speaking the same ‘language’, you may use different words to express yourselves and that has a whole other way of going down.

So you want to think about an organization, we think about a multicultural team and now you have, let’s just say, 6 members on the team. You have 6 members who come from very different cultures, cultural orientations, which means they bring with them a whole other set of what does it mean to be in an organization, what does it mean to work, what does it mean to be on a team, and what do I expect from others on the teams as well. And so, very often in our experience, teams do not sit down at the beginning of coming together and say “You know what, let’s explore how we’re going to work together. How are we going to manage our communication? How are we going to manage if we have disagreements? What are we going to do? And how are we going to make decisions?” Because this is not explicitly stated and because these guidelines are not reviewed, there are many opportunities for conflict situations.

We have a couple of different dimensions that we’ve used and there’s a wonderful reference, The SAGE Encyclopedia of Intercultural Competence, and Ria and I were fortunate enough to be invited to make a couple of submissions to that. In one of our articles we looked over a couple of different dimensions that we gathered from a variety of sources and we came up with about 12 of them. I’m not going to go over all of them, but there are couple that might be relevant to examining some of these situations. For example, uncertainty avoidance – there are some cultural orientations which are more comfortable with ambiguity than others. In the Coordinated Management of Meaning called CMM, there’s a concept of one of the principles of mystery, and all of us have different levels individually and culturally about how much ambiguity or how much mystery we’re comfortable dealing with. And after that, we sort of go over the edge and it’s “No more. I can’t deal with this anymore.” So for some people who have very low uncertainty avoidance, then they may want to have a very carefully crafted plan and an agenda and a schedule and have everything really defined up ahead before the meeting. For other of high uncertainty avoidance, “You know, let’s just go with the flow. We know we have to deal with certain topics, we’ll just see what emerges in that situation.” Well, can you imagine you’re sitting in a room and there’s somebody who really wants a very tight agenda and somebody else who actually resists a tight agenda and wants to be more in the flow and be more emerging. What happens there if they don’t have that kind of conversation about how we are going to set agendas, how we are going to make decisions, and so on.

Ria: Yes! I think these are really great points that we are multifaceted individually and collectively, and it’s sometimes a paradox that the opposite can exist and coincide. And what this does is, as you mentioned, it has an opportunity for more creativity, more diversity, and it also create more opportunities for there to be some conflict. And to look at that as an opportunity for change, as an opportunity for expansion. One of the things I’d love to highlight is when we’re managing levels of intolerance within ourselves, and levels of anxiety, and that often we are quick to react, quick to respond because the anxiety we experience is intolerable. And especially if we don’t have a lot language around these topics, they can happen within seconds between people. And there is a level of surface conversation and there’s meta conversation. There’s constantly communication happening between people non-verbally in the meta world, we won’t get too much into the philosophies of it because we want to address more of the tool and how to manage these situations.

Beth: Right. So I’m also thinking that if we want to really complicate things a little bit, what if we add in the whole dimension of power distance? Who has the right to decide what we do? Do we have an agenda? Or do we go with the emergence and flow of what happens in the moment? And depending on what cultural orientation you have towards power distance, you may think that “Okay, if it’s a high power distance it really does not matter what I think or care about because I have to differ it to the higher authority in the room.” If you are from a low power distance orientation, then it’s like “We’re all in this together and we all have the opportunity to make decisions together.” And then again, when you have that clash, when you have the person who is of higher authority or power thinking he or she is going to be making those decisions but then gets challenged, or they perceive it’s a challenge, by somebody else when they did not anticipate getting somebody else to express their opinion about things, then we have other situations.

I also wanted to bring in a third context of where these intercultural conflicts can occur, and that is in communities. And one of things that’s happening in the world, and it doesn’t mean it’s happening in every part of the world, but in general, and I know from my own experience of growing up in the same neighborhood for many years until I went to college compared to now when you have an increased level of mobility for a variety of reasons. It could be because we have refugee situations, we have mobility within a culture, and so on. There are more and more incidents of different types of people from different backgrounds, different ethnic groups, different orientations, living inside of the same community. And so it could be something as subtle as different cooking odors that could really insight neighbors to really get into conflict situations because they don’t like, and they’re not accustomed to and they judge, the cooking odors coming from a neighbor’s apartment. Or we can have a neighborhood where there is a publicly shared space such as a park or a community center or just the streets themselves, and people have different orientations as to what it means to share that space, and who has the rights to that space, and how do we take care of that space, and who’s responsibility is it? I remember now, I grew up in New York City and you took care of your own apartment and you had somebody taking care of the building and the streets and so on, basically the streets were nobody’s territory really. And then when I lived in Japan, it was so interesting to me how people would come together – I think it once a month or twice a month – to volunteer to go and clean the local neighborhood park. And I remember being very struck by that because I thought “Wow. First of all, how do they get people to do that?” and everybody did that so I wondered “Do I have to do that also, am I also part of this community or can I use the excuse of not being from this culture?” And I think on some occasions I did clean, and some occasions I used my cultural difference not to do that. So there are lots of different ways of looking at the context, there are different frames of how we can understand. If we have the mindset that it is our responsibility to take a step back and understand.

Ria: So based on your knowledge of different intercultural factors such as values and other dimensions, why do you think it happened that way? How did Japanese people come together in a group and how come the cultural differences in America or your experience in New York City manifested the way it has?

Beth: So a couple of reasons and I think that it doesn’t just happen that all of a sudden this is a norm. It’s part of our educational system, it’s part of what you learn in school about what does it mean to be a good contributing member of society. It also is what you are taught in your family, what the values are. It’s what you are taught in your neighborhood, and it’s not only what you’re intentionally taught but it’s also what you observe. So if you observe somebody opening up a candy wrapper and throwing it on the floor, or you observe that candy wrapper ending up in a waste basket, or if there is no waste basket around, you observe somebody putting that wrapper in his/her pocket to be thrown away in a waste basket later on, then you are learning. You’re learning about what the societal norms are, of what should and should not be. You’re learning the moral code, your behavioral ethical codes of that situation. So it happens from when you are very young, it’s just part of your fabric, I think, of who you are. And so in Japan for example, more collectivist, oriental society, there is more of a belief that the shared space is communal space, and so on, so then I think people do come forward. Now, I’m not saying that it’s an idealistic world because there are also shared spaces that nobody claims and that I’ve seen a lot of garbage on such as when we used to go hiking to the mountainside and I remember finding in myself a big contradiction of what is taking place because I thought why is it that in this space, nobody is cleaning, that this is there space and they clean up the garbage; whereas in other spaces people think everybody plays a role. So it is something I notice and because of that, when I returned to the US, when I returned to the US to live and when I returned to the US to visit, I became more aware of those kinds of behaviors, I became more aware of shared space that I wasn’t beforehand.

Ria: That’s really interesting. So there is a huge systemic base to a lot of the things that we experience on a day to day basis. Now, for a lot of our listeners this can be a bit overwhelming. What are some tools that we can address right now to help our listeners understand in a conflict situation that they might face, in their work space, in their personal lives, or in their community?

Beth: So a couple of things. Thank you for asking that question. So one idea is to think about what I mentioned earlier, CMM – Coordinated Management of Meaning, one of the basic principles here is that we create our worlds, we create our social worlds. So if we’ve done something to create an unpleasant situation that means we also have the ability to turn that situation around and make it a good situation. So there’s a sense of agency that we have, of course there are circumstances as other people and the context we’re in the community and so on, that influence how much agency or control we really have over making a difference; but we do have that.

So I mentioned one of the three principles of mystery earlier, which is around the ambiguity and the uncertainty which we can turn around and say, you know what, it’s also something to approach with curiosity, we can say “Wow, why is it that this happens the way it does?” or “Hmm, interesting I wonder why we expected this to happen but instead that happened.” That’s a whole orientation of curiosity rather than judgement and feelings through uncertainty.

A second principle is coherence. Each of us as humans try to understand, we try to make meaning of our situations, we want to know is it safe, is it not safe, we want to understand what does this mean to me? How does this affect me? How does it affect my life? How does it affect the choices that I need to be making? We don’t like dissonance, we don’t like when we don’t have coherence, so we’re always striving to make sense of things and our situations, always striving to make sense of our interactions with others; which leads to the third principle of coordination. People, as we mentioned earlier, are social beings and need to be in relation with one another; relationships are critical. And that means that we have to dance to the same tune, we don’t want to step on each other’s toes, we want to be in coordination, in sync with others so that we create shared meaning together. And that when I communicate something to somebody different from me, I want them to understand what I said in the way I want to be understood. When we don’t have coordination, maybe there’s too much mystery in the relationship, then we don’t have coherence. So all three of these principles interact with one another.

Ria: Yes, that’s great. What I’m picking up a lot about this is how we can have enough self-awareness to feel congruent within ourselves. And we can also experience dissonance within our individual selves between how we feel, what we think, and what we hope the outcome will be. So when we are interacting in relationships with other people, whether it’s one other person or in a team or in a group organization, the more people, the more complex it becomes. So how can we manage our internal dialogue in a meaningful way to bring congruence within ourselves in hopes to have our intention match the impact we have on our interactions.

Beth: So if we think about ourselves as, a phrase that some have used, ‘instruments of change’ then that means every situation we go into we are that opportunity for change and we are that instrument so to speak, that being that has a direct influence on everything around us. Which means we can be influenced for better or for worse and it’s up to us to make the decision, and it’s a choice because we do have those critical moments when we can make choices. We are not always aware that we have a choice, we think “I had no other choice, I had to do what I did”, but in actuality the more increased our self-awareness is, the more we understand ourselves, the more we understand our values and what’s really important to us. And then we align our communication and behavior with that knowledge and awareness, then the more agency and control we have about how we influence other situations.

Ria: Great. Remember Beth, you were talking about in CMM how to create space and the tempo and timing and how important this is.

Beth: Yes, so I often do say timing is everything because there is an element of readiness or rightness that has to happen for you, the context, the other party as well, about how and when you are going to engage. When we are in a very heated emotional state, we’re probably not our best selves, so it’s probably a good time to take a step back and not engage with the other because nothing constructive is going to come out of it. Now, some people do buy into venting, and that there’s need to be venting, and I’m not against that, I think that there are different ways of dealing with our emotional expressiveness and the level of emotionality that we have and what is constructive for that particular situation with that particular person about that particular issue. And then there is the tempo. Now, I do come from New York City and in New York City we have a very very quick pace, and if there’s a 3-second pause in a conversation it means it’s my turn and I can jump right in there. When we have a very quick tempo, and again quick is judgmental – what does quick mean? when we have a tempo that feels quick for the person in the situation, we’re also not giving ourselves or the other party time or space to manage their own emotions, to really think clearly about what’s going on and to put forward their best selves to lead towards constructive processes and constructive outcomes. So what I would say is that in conflict situations, it’s really good if we can have that awareness to slow down the tempo, take a step back and create that space. Now I sometimes, for myself, I visualize an actual physical space, a physical space in my chest area where my emotions are, my heart is, and I visualize a physical space between myself and the other person. And by doing that, that helps me take a step back, open my arms up, and really create that space instead of being very tight physically holding my arms and chest together because that keeps me very tight physically. I want to be open which means I have to trust and be vulnerable and allow myself to be vulnerable and trust what’s happening with the other.

Ria: Yes, that really resonates. I can feel the space between and what that says to me is that the priority is the relationship, that it’s not me against the other, me against the world, that I am in constant relationship with people. And sometimes I want to be ‘wrong’ because I want there to be an opportunity for someone else to speak their truth, for us to come to a creative outcome or goal or creation together. And of course, it’s not about right or wrong but sometimes that’s what the mind says. There is a sense of chatter that goes on and it’s not about rising above the chatter or ignoring it, but it’s to become aware of it and that’s part of the dynamic in our human day to days.

Beth: So I think that in some situations, they are very heated and they are dangerous. And they are dangerous because people feel threatened, people feel unsafe. We know that if we turn on the news any given day we hear lots of situations such as that where there really is, what I would say, is a lack of understanding, a lack of tolerance, and that space for understanding others and there isn’t that desire. So when I think about security and safety I think about it on a couple of different levels, one is that we have a desire and a need for physical safety. I need to know that when I open my door to leave my home that I will be safe physically. There’s emotional safety, I need to know that if I allow myself to be vulnerable to the other, that they will have compassion and take care of me and not want to hurt me. And I need to know that mentally, psychologically that I also have security and safety, that I’m taking risks because I feel safe to do so. And unfortunately sometimes we get to such a level of heatedness, for lack of a better term, that that safety is really very far and we don’t even see how it’s possible to get to that space of security. So I think that in some of those kinds of situations, and also this is a cultural orientation too, depending on the culture it’s not safe to be face to face with somebody else and try to resolve that intercultural conflict. We do need to have physical space and we need to have somebody or some group of people who are there as third party facilitators of that kind of dialogue. And dialogue is what we really need to have where it’s not necessarily that we’re coming to a decision about what to do, because we are not ready to do that. We need to really open up that space for understanding and having a third party facilitation process allows the sharing of information to deepen understanding, and the sharing of information through that third party facilitator so it’s palatable and understandable to other. Plus, typically, if we are heated and we are expressing ourselves, it’s usually not only in a constructive way about what I need but it’s also condemning the other. And the other side is not going to want to hear any condemnation of themselves because they feel potentially neutral towards the other side as well.

Ria: Yes. What’s resonating is this idea and practice of holding space, and I really love that phrase – how to hold space; how to hold space for ourselves, how to hold space for the other and how to hold space for the relationship and what’s happening. And I really want to highlight this sense of agency and self-awareness piece because it’s practice and it’s not about being perfect and it’s just about practicing what’s going on. When I reflect back to that moment when I was 11 in Sunday school during my introduction, now as an adult, I can reflect back and see the complexity of a few seconds and be able to unpack that in a meaningful way. So now I am building this muscle of self-reflection and introspection, and sometimes we are going to walk away from situations quite confused of what just happened. And being able to ask ourselves “What just happened? What’s happening?”, we’re practicing looking from different lenses, and perhaps when we can put on the table what our cultural lenses, what our perspectives are, what is socially acceptable and what have I defaulted to, we can start to internalize it and shift it in a meaningful way. And sometimes when we have sudden change, there can be push back. So to also hold space for that push back, to hold space for the conflict. And essentially what we are talking about here is to learn how to just be in that space where it’s uncomfortable. And that takes practice because it’s uncomfortable, it’s not going to feel safe necessarily, but it’s how do we hold ourselves when we’re experiencing discomfort.

Beth: So I’m thinking about right now in the US where a lot of issues taking place with racial divide, as some people would call it. And if we look globally around the world there are issues of terrorism and what’s happening, and there are some really difficult conversations that need to take place and right now there is a lot of reaction and reactiveness to it and people want to quickly blame. And they’re doing the blaming I think out of a sense of trying to figure out what’s going on and to figure out how to be safe. The blaming of course as we mentioned earlier, is not a constructive process because instead of blaming maybe we need to take a step back and try to understand. And so there need to be a lot more listening taking place, there need to be the space to have safety and trust as much as possible to have these difficult conversations. Now we’re not going to feel good in the process of having because we are going to feel physically, mentally, emotionally drained from doing that and maybe unsafe. So in those situations, I would say it’s really good for 2 things to happen. So for 1 is to definitely have skilled, train professionals who are facilitators to really be able to hold that space and provide as much safety as they can in the space. But then again, the people who are participating also need to take responsibility to want to be there and to hold that shared space. The second thing is, in the ideal world, which we can create – it’s not out of our reach, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all had some kind of foundational learning and development around these kinds of skills. What does it mean to really get to know ourselves? What does it mean to understand our values and what’s important to us? What does it mean to be really generous to understanding others and not jumping to blame, but taking a step back and holding the space and holding the idea that maybe they have something really good to offer? Maybe there’s something really good and valuable in who that person is and you getting to know that person. And actually, maybe once I get to know that person, maybe I resonate with that person and maybe we have a lot more in common than I thought we did. Because even though I may look different from you, I may still believe in a lot of the same basic principles and how I want to live my life, and how I want my family to live their lives as well in a very safe, loving environment.

Ria: Yes. So it’s about co-creating the container and co-creating the relationships, and that there is the light and shadow which are opposite sides of the same coin. That as constructive as we are, as brilliant as we can be as people, we can equally be as destructive and dangerous to ourselves and to our community. So here we are, in this world, I know that there are some trees that grow as tall as their roots go deep, and so how do we as people come together and be able to pay enough attention and to give enough of ourselves to hold these paradoxes and essentially to manage them. And listening is a really great start, it’s also very difficult and it’s worth it; there is something so valuable in just listening. And what we said earlier which I thought of is that I really believe in having a council, and I also believe in therapists, that there are professionals out there who are paid to listen and to really hear. And they go through all this training to really hold safe space in a container for each individual person so that when we are in an emotional crisis, when we are experiencing chaos and we need to move our own energies to be responsible in taking care of ourselves, to go to our council, to go to our individual safe space, to our intimate friends and families and colleagues, to paid professionals – whether it’s a life coach or a therapist or a way to console ourselves.

Beth: So you’re saying council and I’m thinking about if we look at different cultures around the world and different traditions from around the world. There is that kind of provision around the world, they’re just called different things in different places. In the US we tend to have a proclivity towards therapy and therapists, in some places they don’t because it’s a symbol or a sign of emotional weakness so they wouldn’t want to do that, and that’s certainly not what we are encouraging. What we are encouraging though is finding out where to get that council and that guidance that will help you be in that safe space. When I think about listening I think about so many different levels and what are we listening for, and one of the areas of development that we’ve learned in the field of conflict resolution is the idea of listening for needs and so we may say lots of different things and I take a step back through my training and I say “What’s really going on here? What are they really saying? What do they really need?” At the end of the day, if there’s one thing I could do to develop a good relationship with this person and show deep understanding, I need to understand what they need, I need to understand that and then figure out ways of meeting that need because some of us are very articulate in what we say, but typically we don’t speak on the level of needs because that means we are vulnerable, we’re opening up. Others, and especially in conflict situations, all of us can be in the situation where we are not articulate and we are just lathering and blaming and really just saying things that are not going to really get us where we want to go. So, so many times I can be myself or see other people in situations and in our heads we are saying “No, don’t go there”, but actually we go right there, because of our habits we just go right into that trap even though we know on one level it’s not going to get us where we want to be.

The other thing that we were talking about earlier, the whole idea about constructive and destructive and you gave a nice analogy of the trees having roots as deep as they are tall is beautiful and kind of frightening at the same time, because if we can be so good and so constructive, that means we have the potential of being so destructive and doing things that I think we would regret deeply. So really learning how to manage so that we don’t go there, we might go surface there but not deeply there because we may get to a point of almost no return and we’ll do things that we’ll regret our whole lives and ask why did we do that and why did we say that, when in actuality it wasn’t really our intention to do that or we didn’t really want to cause the kind of harm. We may have thought we did in the moment because we were so emotional, but in actuality if we really go down to the deep sense of who we are it’s not what we really wanted to create in the world.

Ria: Yes. It’s about a level of perhaps maturity to be able to come to a place where when we have these strong urges of an emotional reaction, it is about being able to create that space to be able to move it ourselves, to be responsible for it. And sometimes it’s a systemic issue, it can be a cultural issue where when we are projecting what’s happening for ourselves, and this often happens when we are blaming, the reason why we blame other people is because it’s too uncomfortable to hold it within ourselves, to say “Maybe I’m part of this problem.” And then it’s easier to push the problem onto someone else so that we can feel good because we are in a state of anxiety, and we are in a state of discomfort. And part of this is to learn that being uncomfortable and having discomfort and having conflict is normal and perhaps we can even step beyond this reactionary space into expected. It’s not if this happen, it’s when this happens how can I best manage it, how can I be my best self; and to come prepared.

Beth: I was also thinking about the paradox you mentioned before like blaming others but at the same time also wanting others to hold and embrace us back in a secure way. So we sometimes push away what we really want in those situations, including ourselves, that we deny ourselves or ridicule ourselves when in actuality we also want ourselves to be able to show up and show up well in that situation.

Ria: Yes. So there’s a lot that we have talked about here and I think it would be really good to open up the line soon and hear some questions that perhaps our listeners have.

Beth: Great idea. So I want to thank everybody for listening today and we hope to hear from you, and if not at the end of this radio call, then maybe some other time. Thank you very much.


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