Resolution Institute conference

Spotlight on practice

16–17 October 2019, Wellington NZ

Reading between the lines of culture: developing intercultural empathy

with Jennifer Mahony and Dr Michael Ligaliga

The world becomes smaller by the moment while our need to understand the interplay of culture, collaboration and cohesion grows. As dispute resolution professionals, understanding our own cultural biases and how to develop intercultural empathy is key to assisting parties in navigating their way through conflict.

Intercultural empathy consists of:

  • Cognitive empathy;
  • Emotional empathy; and
  • Behavioural empathy

All three aspects of empathy are needed. This highly interactive workshop will break down each aspect of intercultural empathy, provide opportunities for participants to practice, and opportunities for discussion.

The workshop will also explore common cultural behaviours (which forms the basis of cognitive empathy) and give participants opportunities to examine their own cultural experiences and cultural and racial biases.


Jennifer Mahony is passionate about empowering people with the skills and tools they need to resolve conflict, and to rebuild relationships, particularly at work. Her experience includes managing workplace investigations, developing tailored complaints processes, building conflict resiliency and intervening as a neutral party to help resolve workplace conflict.

Jennifer is the Client Director of FairWay Resolution’s Workplace Conflict services.

She has almost 20 years’ experience as a dispute resolution practitioner and is a frequent presenter and trainer on dispute resolution and workplace relationship topics.

She is a Fellow in Arbitration of the Arbitrators’ and Mediators’ Institute of New Zealand (AMINZ), a mediation panel member, and has a Juris Doctor from Emory University School of Law. She is a member of the International Ombudsman Association.

Dr Michael Ligaliga was raised in Upolu, Samoa, and attended school in both Samoa and Auckland. He then moved to Hawai’i to pursue undergraduate study at Brigham Young University in Hawai’i, graduating in Political Science and International Peace Building.

Michael is a Ph.D. graduate from the National Centre of Peace and Conflict Studies at Otago University. His research focus applied Peace and Conflict theories towards understanding social issues such as domestic and family violence, substance abuse, alcoholism, suicide, and crime rates among Pacific Island communities. Michael’s Ph.D. thesis examined whether there were aspects of Faa Samoa that influence or contribute to family/domestic violence in Samoa. Galtung's Typology of Violence, Dugan's Nested Theory of Conflict and Lederach's Nested Time Paradigm are the peace and conflict theories used in the study to understand cultural, structural and direct violence. Dr Ligaliga is the first Pacific Islands doctoral student to graduate from the National Centre for Peace and Conflict studies.

Currently Michael is lecturing at Te Tumu (Otago University Research into Māori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies) on Pacific Leadership and Peace and Conflict in the Pacific, which he continues to pursue and publish. Michael Ligaliga is also an accredited mediator with Resolution Institute and he is interested to use his mediation skills to assist Samoan communities in New Zealand and Samoa.