The approach to mediation described in this book is a European American model. Each cul­ ture brings assumptions to mediation. Most European Americans believe that a mediator should be an impartial and neutral stranger. They also expect that the other person in the conflict will be direct about what the problem is and that conversation should proceed in an orderly and rational process where one person speaks at a time. Other cultures may feel these behaviors are odd, rude, or improper. For example, some Native American tribes (as well as other cultures) would prefer someone known to both parties, who cares about each of them and understands their background and values. The use of intermediaries to negoti­ ate conflicts has a long tradition in Hawaii where an extended family member fulfills the mediator or haku role. In many cultures, neutrality is not as important as a familiar person who has a stake in making sure the family or community remains peaceful.

Although understanding culture and how it impacts mediation is an advanced topic, the pervasiveness of cultural issues justifies its introduction in this basic textbook. Culture theories describe some of the ways groups approach conflict. For example, Mitchell R. Hammer argues cultural groups differ in their preferences on how to express emotion during conflict and how directly to speak about issues. Most European Americans and Northern Europeans prefer direct speech and restrained expression of emotion (dis­ cussant cultural conflict style). Eastern Europeans and some Black Americans exhibit direct speech and more passionate expression of emotions (engagement cultural conflict style). Many Southeastern Asian and Native American groups learn to be more indirect in discussing issues (to maintain social harmony) and to be restrained in emotional expres­ sion (accommodation cultural conflict style). Arab culture suggests exuberant expression of emotion is appropriate while using more indirect communication about issues (dynamic cultural conflict style).

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