“Not everyone can be all things to all people.”

A reminder that we each have our strengths and weaknesses. And although we do learn and we can expand our expertise in many areas, generally speaking, we excel in some ways and not so much in others.

I have found being conciliatory to be one of those personality traits that we either have or don’t. Conciliatory is also one of those concepts that most of us know what it means, but we have a hard time putting it into words.

Go ahead, what does being conciliatory mean to you?

An old English professor of mine had a list of words that she referred to as “understandable but undefinable.” She would bring out her list every Friday and the class would fumble and stumble around trying to agree on a definition. Conciliatory was on her list.

Conciliatory comes from the root to conciliate, which means:

to make compatible, to reconcile;
to gain favor, regard or goodwill;
to overcome distrust;
to placate;
to win over.

I remember when this word came up, the class settled on something like ‘peacemaker’ as our definition. That’s not quite it, of course; but then again, our professor’s list was meant to demonstrate some concepts are hard to put into words.

On the other hand, some concepts are ever more difficult to put into action. I, myself, am not a conciliatory person. I like getting to answers, to finding the ‘truth’ or the solution to a problem. I’m not so good at those gray areas of life where we find uncertainty and opposing opinions.

Which means that I’m not good at being conciliatory. Sure, I’ve learned moderation as I grew older and gained a more nuanced perspective on life but still I’m always up for a good discussion or an arm-waving argument.

How about you? Are you a conciliatory person?

No? Then who is your life takes that role? Was there someone in your family growing up, who had this skill? How about at work these days?

I think you will find in larger corporate structures that managers are seldom the conciliatory role models. Decision-making and peace-making don’t seem to go hand-in-hand. However, for a healthy, functional workplace there needs to be some level of conciliation. We need compromise and mediation to move forward from those periods of intense disagreement.

So, who takes that role? I ask again, are you a conciliatory person?

If you are, consider some of the costs and benefits to you for taking on such a role.

Someone who can bring two opposing factions together might be seen as not having a stake in the conflict. If reconciliation is your goal, how do you express your input on either side of an issue? Does the conciliatory person occupy the third position in a conflict?

Are both sides reconciled by the present of the third-party moderator? If so, what happens in the workplace when the designated peacemaker has an opinion?

I asked this question to someone I had worked with for years. She is as far to the conciliatory side of the equation as I am to the other end of the spectrum. Her insight was eye opening for me.

“I’m not always able to work for the compromise, not when I have strong feelings towards one side or the other. What I try to bring to these situations in the workplace is a long-range perspective. I ask if the decision is going to have lasting repercussions for our work group or the company as a whole. If it is, then I usually find a compromise serves us all better.”

“On the other hand, when I am completely on one side of the debate, I fold up my conciliatory soapbox and argue for my position. You really can do both.”

“How about at home,” I asked.

“Oh, that’s completely different. I’m the mom. We don’t really make family decisions that have dire consequences. If that were to happen, then my husband and I would make such a decision. But day-to-day family conflicts always need the mediator and 99% of the time that means the “Mom” mediator. Whether it’s the kids fighting or a discipline problem usually handled by my husband, mom takes the role of peace-maker.”

So, the question is: are you conciliatory or not? If not, who takes that role in your workplace, your family, or your relationship? If you don’t have a conciliatory person, how do conflicts get resolved? Do they?

Perhaps we need a 1-800-Consiliatory service. Or you could take on the role sometimes; I know I could, or should, or might.



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