Conflict Resolution Specialists
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There are many ways to learn more about the work of conflict resolution specialists. You can obtain experience in the field by volunteering or completing an internship at a company, association, or organization that provides conflict resolution services. You could also try to serve as the mediator when your siblings or friends have a disagreement. But be sure to serve as an unbiased moderator and avoid getting dragged into the argument.
Talk to conflict resolution specialists about their work. Ask your school counselor or psychology teacher to help set up an information interview. Additionally, the Association for Conflict Resolution offers a list of its members at https://acrnet.org/search. Use this list to contact potential interviewees. Once you’ve scheduled an interview, ask these and other questions:
- What made you want to become a conflict resolution specialist?
- How does one enter the field?
- What are the most important personal and professional skills for conflict resolution specialists?
- What are the pros and cons of working in the field?
Read books about conflict resolution to learn more about the field. Here are two suggestions: Changing the Conversation: The 17 Principles of Conflict Resolution, by Dana Caspersen and Joost Elffers, and The Conflict Resolution Toolbox: Models and Maps for Analyzing, Diagnosing, and Resolving Conflict, by Gary T. Furlong.
There are four main types of conflict resolution specialists (CRSs): arbitrators, mediators, conciliators, and ombudsmen.
Arbitrators are impartial parties who hear and decide disputes between two or more opposing parties in a non-judicial setting. They are typically retired judges, attorneys, or business professionals who have expertise in a particular field—such as finance, construction, shipping, or insurance. Others have backgrounds in engineering, scientific research and development, or health care. According to the American Arbitration Association, popular practice areas include commercial, construction, consumer, employment, government, international, and labor.
Mediators also help people and organizations resolve disputes, but unlike arbitrators, they do not render binding decisions. Instead, they work with the opposing parties to help them find common ground and come to a mutually acceptable agreement. If the parties cannot agree, they are free to move on and work with a different mediator or try another form of conflict resolution. Mediators can be generalists or specialize in fields such as labor relations, divorce, or child custody. Opposing parties often agree to work with a mediator if they believe that they are close to an agreement, but need professional assistance to complete the deal. Some courts will order mediation in small claims cases or in other situations where it appears that the parties can come to a solution for their dispute.
A conciliator is a type of mediator, but they typically meet with the parties separately and work with them to try to come to an agreement. The opposing parties must decide in advance if they will be bound by the conciliator’s recommendations.
An ombudsman is a male or female conflict resolution specialist who is hired by a company, government agency, or other organization to investigate complaints by employees or others who feel they have been wronged. After their investigation, they report on their findings and recommend how the dispute should be resolved.