Business, Legal & Accounting Glossary

Definition: Conciliation

Quick Summary of Conciliation

Any of various forms of mediation whereby disputes may be settled short of arbitration.

What is the dictionary definition of Conciliation?

Dictionary Definition

  1. The action of bringing peace and harmony; the action of ending strife.
  2. legal A form of alternative dispute resolution, similar but less formal than mediation, in which the parties bring their dispute to a neutral third party, who helps lower tensions, improve communications and explore possible solutions.

Conciliation is another type of alternative dispute resolution. Similar to mediation, although it can be less formal, conciliation will allow a mediator or third party to explore a resolution to the dispute. Conciliation differs with mediation in that the mediators generally choose not to express their opinion while a conciliator will review each position and provide a case evaluation, advising the parties as to what a judge may decide after hearing the same issues presented in court.

Consider, however, unlike arbitration, which is another type of dispute resolution strategy, the conciliation does not provide the parties with a binding solution, only recommendations. The conciliator is basically trying to help each party understand their options and steps which may allow them to move towards a resolution and avoid a court date.

Experts suggest mediation may work best for couples who intend to agree or who are discussing their options and need advice on how the courts may handle certain issues but who do not have a high degree of conflict. Couples in a high conflict situation may benefit best from conciliation because the conciliator can provide encouragement on how to proceed.

Full Definition of Conciliation

Conciliation is an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) 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 practising 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.

Cite Term

To help you cite our definitions in your bibliography, here is the proper citation layout for the three major formatting styles, with all of the relevant information filled in.

Page URL
Modern Language Association (MLA):
Conciliation. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. September 26, 2021
Chicago Manual of Style (CMS):
Conciliation. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. (accessed: September 26, 2021).
American Psychological Association (APA):
Conciliation. Retrieved September 26, 2021, from website:

Definition Sources

Definitions for Conciliation are sourced/syndicated and enhanced from:

  • A Dictionary of Economics (Oxford Quick Reference)
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Accounting
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Business & Management

This glossary post was last updated: 18th April, 2020 | 47 Views.