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A conciliator is a peacemaker. She is called in to alleviate tension and help parties peacefully settle their dispute to mutual satisfaction. As a neutral third party, she fairly assesses the issues at hand, listens to possible solutions and ultimately negotiates a settlement that pleases both participants. These negotiations usually take place in a legal setting but can be conducted any place that provides privacy for each party as the conciliator conducts the interviews.
There is a difference between conciliators, arbitrators and mediators. While all three seek tactful and calm solutions to often volatile disagreements, there are differences in their roles. In legal proceedings, an arbitrator can procure evidence and witnesses and provide input on decisions and awards; a conciliator cannot. In mediation, both parties are present during the negotiations as mutual benefits are discussed and weighed. Conciliation normally involves seeking individual concessions, and each party is privately consulted.
When the conciliator confers with each party individually, her first priority is to create a sense of peace and tranquility. A calm atmosphere is conducive to communicating with a clear head. She cannot be successful if she fails to eliminate the tension between the two parties prior to proceeding with negotiations.
Once calmness is established, the conciliator requests each party make a list of what results they expect from the negotiation. Since the parties are counseled separately, each can be candid in their responses. Once the list is complete, the conciliator requests that each list be organized from most to least desirable outcomes.
She then asks each party to start eliminating what objectives are least important to them, starting at the bottom of the list. She goes back and forth to keep the lists even, all without either party knowing the desired outcome of the other. Rarely do the lists match, and if some objectives are the same, they are not commonly given the same priority.
As solutions become more clear, each person involved in the negotiation feels a sense of accomplishment in having their objectives given fair consideration. The conciliator normally achieves success as each participant feels valued and heard. This feeling of trust makes reaching mutually desirable goals easier, as each party becomes more amenable to accepting the other’s choices.
A successful conciliator must be a master negotiator, but a lot of creativity is also required for the position. She must do a lot of reading between the lines as she hears each client state their objectives and concerns. Leading individuals through the negotiation process with logic and calm requires patience. She must also have a highly-developed understanding of human nature and the need to have one’s requests recognized and addressed.
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