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Conciliation

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{{SocPsy} Conciliation is an alternative dispute resolution process whereby the parties to a dispute (including future interest disputes) agree to utilize the services of a conciliator, who then meets with the parties separately in an attempt to resolve their differences. Conciliation differs from arbitration in that the conciliation process, in and of itself, has no legal standing, and the conciliator usually has no authority to seek evidence or call witnesses, usually writes no decision, and makes no award. Conciliation differs from mediation in that the main goal is to conciliate, most of the time by seeking concessions. In mediation, the mediator tries to guide the discussion in a way that optimizes parties needs, takes feelings into account and reframes representations.

In conciliation the parties seldom, if ever, actually face each other across the table in the presence of the conciliator. (This latter difference can be regarded as one of species to genus. Most practicing mediators refer to the practice of meeting with the parties separately as "caucusing" and would regard conciliation as a specific type or form of mediation practice -- "shuttle diplomacy" -- that relies exclusively on caucusing. All the other features of conciliation are found in mediation as well.)

If the conciliator is successful in negotiating an understanding between the parties, said understanding is almost always committed to writing (usually with the assistance of legal counsel) and signed by the parties, at which time it becomes a legally binding contract and falls under contract law.

Recent studies in the processes of negotiation have indicated the effectiveness of a technique that deserves mention here. A conciliator assists each of the parties to independently develop a list of all of their objectives (the outcomes which they desire to obtain from the conciliation). The conciliator then has each of the parties separately prioritize their own list from most to least important. She then goes back and forth between the parties and encourages them to "give" on the objectives one at a time, starting with the least important and working toward the most important for each party in turn. The parties rarely place the same priorities on all objectives, and usually have some objectives that are not on the list compiled by parties on the other side. Thus the conciliator can quickly build a string of successes and help the parties create an atmosphere of trust which the conciliator can continue to develop.

Most successful conciliators are highly skilled negotiators. Some conciliators operate under the auspices of any one of several non-governmental entities, and for governmental agencies such as the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

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