Superheros in Cross-Cultural Conflict Management

An icebreaker activity I often use in training workshops is ‘Superhero’. I learned this activity via Thiagi. Here’s how it goes…

I divide participants into small subgroups of 3-4. I ask them to identify a superpower that would help them be more successful in the training topic. I give them a few minutes to share their desired superpowers within their subgroups. Then I ask a few volunteers to share their choices with the larger group.

Cross-cultural superheros

facesThe other day I facilitated a cross-cultural conflict management training workshop for my local Inter-Cultural Association.

I used the Superhero activity. The participants were all recent immigrants. They came from 10 different countries. Their responses gave me pause. Here are some of those (paraphrased) responses:

  • I would be a body switcher. I’d be able to put myself in another person’s body, and see the conflict from their body.
  • I would be able to travel back in time. That would let me do things differently, then I could prevent the conflict from starting, in the first place.
  • (Similarly) I would be able to anticipate the future, and would act accordingly, in the present. (reminds me of the foreknowledge ability in Minority Report, with Tom Cruise)
  • I would know other people’s language and culture just as well as they would.


It struck me that these are huge powers, they have an all-in,  total investment, quality to them. They are well beyond: be a great listener, see things from their side, not react to my hot buttons…

Yes, body switching relates to empathy and who couldn’t use a bit more of that. Yet switching bodies is all-in; all senses brought into play.

Control through intentional time travel, backwards or forwards – that’s all-in.

Fluidity in foreign language and culture is all-in.

Superheros – the flip side of powerlessness

I believe these all-in superpowers are the flip side to the powerlessness that new immigrants often feel, on finding themselves in a strange country, a different language, culture, and environment … How can one effectively communicate let alone resolve conflict with these factors at play?

The immigrant experience is different. It is diverse, speaks to vulnerability, and is powerful.

Giving social currency to those experiences is the right thing to do. Creating spaces for people of different cultures and backgrounds to effectively communicate, manage conflict, and collaborate is vital to our collective health, and wealth!

Back to superheros – who would you be and what superpower would you have, when it comes to conflict management?

(photo credit: Steve Snodgrass on Flickr)

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