Cultural and Linguistic diverse disputants: The impact of cultural norms on the rules of negotiation and settlement.

At Mediator Hub we convene many discussions in contention involving parties who are culturally and linguistically diverse. Where a party’s first language is not English in Australia, they are encouraged to seek the assistance of an interpreter during intake and mediation.

An interpreter’s role is limited though, so who translates the cultural norms or inherent rules of engagement of the disputants during negotiations? What does this even mean?

There is no easy explanation about the influential factors of cultural differences in the course of negotiation and we acknowledge at Mediator Hub that there are many triggers which may impact upon party interactions with each other. That’s why we champion and include intake sessions in our services to prepare parties and mediators for the negotiation processes during mediation. One of the factors our mediators assess during intake sessions is cultural diversity so they can plan the right approach to inclusive practices and evaluate the potential for cultural barriers. 

At Mediator Hub we term cultural norms as hidden rules of engagement during negotiations.  Unless cultural norms are identified and accepted as a form of non-verbal communication, negotiations can de-rail the same way language barriers can make it difficult to understand each other.

Cultural norms are inherent and we learn them from early childhood, it’s what forms our identity in the community in which we develop and connect with others.  In disputes they can lead to different expectations that escalate opposing views, because of an uncommon hierarchy of values from another culture.  A great example of this is where one culture reveres monetary riches and ideological power of size and protects that reputation or perception of this at all costs versus a culture that champions the respect of community tradition, elders moral ethics & pride. If there is little to no understanding and acceptance of cultural rules of engagement, the potential for agreement can narrow significantly.

Enter the role of an experienced and qualified mediator with significant experience working with culturally and linguistically diverse parties to navigate across the borders of fundamental beliefs that shape the way in which individuals negotiate with each other.

You could say that a good mediator will step parties through a process of safe and balanced opportunity to communicate their grievances and find a middle ground. A great mediator however will translate and reframe entrenched cultural normality to provide parties with a conversant space to explore their interests and reach mutually agreeable terms. At Mediator Hub we honour and acknowledge that collective communication approaches are the key to shifting mindsets to reach an agreed solution. Visit us at today to find out more about our services and expertise in mediation.