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A British Accent as a Dispute Resolution Skill

“Cheeky” is defined by the Collins English Dictionary as “slightly rude or disrespectful but in a charming or amusing way [mainly British].”  At the risk of being called cheeky, I want to alert the community to new skill for mediators and disputing parties.  This skill came to mind after reading an article in The Guardian titled “Why are so many young Americans adopting fake British accents?” (May 15, 2023).

The article describes a trend among Gen Z (born roughly 1995-2012) to adopt fake British accents.  In my personal experience this trend extends to Gen Alpha (born after Gen Z).  Influenced by the British animated TV show Peppa Pig, my 5-year-old grandson has advised my daughter that sunscreen should be called “sun cream.”

The skill of faking British accents has implications for conflict resolution professionals.  According to the article, 21-year-old college student Asher Lieberman uses the accent as a conflict management tactic. “I asked my roommate, ‘Can you please take out the rubbish’” using an accent from a British TV show. “It’s the British part of me asking for something that needs to be done, not the real me.”

A Bay Area 30-year-old, Brinton Parker used a British accent when asking her manager for help when facing burnout at work: “It’s affecting me mental health, innit?”  She felt the accent added “levity to a vulnerable situation.  The tougher the conversation, the more Cockney I become.”

Psychotherapist Matt Lundquist provides a rationale for using the British accent. “If you like to think of yourself as somebody who’s easygoing, you might adopt a certain voice to express frustration, because you don’t feel totally comfortable with that part of yourself that complains.”

So the next time you feel knackered (Collins: extremely tired) during a difficult mediation, consider having a cuppa accompanied by a British accent.  This suggestion is pretty cheeky, innit?


George Siedel

George J. Siedel is the Williamson Family Professor Emeritus of Business Administration and Thurnau Professor Emeritus of Business Law at the University of Michigan.  He completed graduate studies at Cambridge University and the University of Michigan.  George has served as a visiting professor at Stanford University and Harvard University and as… MORE

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