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Mediation vs. Conciliation: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on November 26, 2023
Mediation is a process where a neutral third party assists in dispute resolution, whereas conciliation is a more informal process focusing on finding a mutually agreeable solution.

Key Differences

Mediation involves a mediator who facilitates dialogue between disputing parties to help them reach an agreement. The mediator does not impose a decision but helps parties communicate more effectively. Conciliation is similar but often involves a conciliator who plays a more active role in suggesting solutions and smoothing tensions, often engaging with parties separately.
In mediation, the mediator’s role is primarily that of a facilitator, creating a conducive environment for parties to discuss and negotiate terms. The mediator encourages understanding and compromise but doesn't offer their own solutions. In conciliation, the conciliator may offer suggestions and advice, and may even propose a settlement, playing a more interventionist role than a mediator.
The process of mediation is structured, with specific phases from introduction to negotiation and agreement. It is often used in legal disputes, family matters, and commercial conflicts. Conciliation is less formal and more flexible, often used in labor disputes and consumer issues, where maintaining relationships is key.
Mediation emphasizes the empowerment of parties to find their own solutions, often leading to durable and satisfactory outcomes as parties are directly involved in crafting the agreement. Conciliation, by encouraging a friendly settlement, also focuses on preserving relationships but can involve more direct suggestions from the conciliator.
Confidentiality is a crucial element in both mediation and conciliation. However, in mediation, the focus is more on allowing open and frank discussions within a structured framework, whereas conciliation may involve separate, confidential discussions with each party to better understand their positions and concerns.

Comparison Chart

Role of Third Party

Facilitator without imposing solutions
More active, offers suggestions and advice


Structured process
More informal and flexible

Common Usage

Legal disputes, family matters
Labor disputes, consumer issues


Empowering parties to reach their own agreement
Encouraging friendly settlement and preserving relationships


Encourages open discussion in a joint setting
May involve separate discussions with each party

Mediation and Conciliation Definitions


A process that aids in reaching a mutually acceptable agreement without imposing decisions.
The contract disagreement was resolved through mediation.


A method involving a conciliator who actively assists in resolving a conflict.
The consumer dispute was resolved quickly through conciliation.


A process where a neutral party facilitates negotiation and dispute resolution.
The couple chose mediation to resolve their divorce amicably.


A process where a third party helps disputing parties to reach a friendly agreement.
Conciliation helped the union and management avoid a strike.


A method to help disputing parties communicate and understand each other's perspectives.
Mediation helped the business partners understand each other's concerns.


A process where the conciliator may suggest solutions and advice.
Through conciliation, both parties reached a compromise on the contractual terms.


A conflict resolution technique emphasizing joint problem-solving.
Mediation was used to settle the workplace dispute.


A less formal approach to dispute resolution, focusing on mutual agreement.
The landlord and tenant opted for conciliation to settle their rent dispute.


A structured dialogue facilitated by a neutral third party.
Mediation sessions were scheduled to address the neighborhood conflict.


An approach aiming to preserve relationships and achieve a harmonious outcome.
Conciliation helped repair the relationship between the two departments.


To resolve or settle (differences) by working with all the conflicting parties
Mediate a labor-management dispute.


To overcome the distrust or animosity of; appease.


To bring about (a settlement, for example) by working with all the conflicting parties.


To regain or try to regain (friendship or goodwill) by pleasant behavior.


To effect or convey as an intermediate agent or mechanism
Chemicals that mediate inflammation.


To make or attempt to make compatible; reconcile
Tried to conciliate the conflicting theories.


To gain or try to gain someone's friendship or goodwill.


The process of bringing peace and harmony; the ending of strife.


(legal) A form of alternative dispute resolution, similar to 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.


The act or process of conciliating; the state of being conciliated.
The house has gone further; it has declared conciliation admissible previous to any submission on the part of America.


The state of manifesting goodwill and cooperation after being reconciled;
There was a brief period of conciliation but the fighting soon resumed


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


The act of placating and overcoming distrust and animosity


What is mediation?

Mediation is a facilitated process where a neutral third party helps disputing parties negotiate an agreement.

Is mediation legally binding?

The mediation process itself is not binding, but the agreement reached can be made legally binding.

Can conciliation result in a legally binding agreement?

Yes, if parties agree, the settlement reached through conciliation can be made legally binding.

In what scenarios is mediation preferred?

Mediation is preferred in complex disputes where parties seek a mutually agreeable solution, like in family or commercial disputes.

Is conciliation a confidential process?

Yes, conciliation is typically conducted confidentially to ensure open communication.

What is conciliation?

Conciliation is an informal process where a third party assists in resolving a dispute by encouraging a friendly settlement.

How does a mediator's role differ from a conciliator's?

A mediator facilitates discussion without proposing solutions, while a conciliator may offer advice and suggest solutions.

What happens during a conciliation session?

In conciliation, the conciliator meets with parties, either together or separately, to understand their issues and guide them towards a settlement.

When is conciliation typically used?

Conciliation is often used in labor disputes, consumer issues, and situations where maintaining relationships is important.

What is the main goal of mediation?

The main goal of mediation is to empower parties to collaboratively find a solution to their dispute.

Are mediators and conciliators decision-makers?

No, neither mediators nor conciliators impose decisions; they facilitate the resolution process.

What qualities should a conciliator have?

A conciliator should have empathy, problem-solving skills, and the ability to suggest practical solutions.

What is the primary focus of conciliation?

Conciliation focuses on reaching an amicable settlement and preserving relationships between parties.

Is confidentiality maintained in mediation?

Yes, confidentiality is a key component of the mediation process.

How does mediation begin?

Mediation begins with an introduction session where the mediator explains the process and establishes ground rules.

What skills does a good mediator possess?

A good mediator possesses skills in communication, negotiation, and conflict resolution.

Can mediation handle legal disputes?

Yes, mediation can be used to resolve legal disputes effectively.

Do parties need lawyers in mediation?

Parties may choose to have legal representation in mediation, but it's not mandatory.

Should parties have legal advice during conciliation?

Legal advice can be beneficial in conciliation, especially when formalizing agreements.

Is conciliation effective for workplace conflicts?

Yes, conciliation is effective in resolving workplace conflicts, especially where future cooperation is desired.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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