|RE: All-but-one consensus||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: Rob Sandelin (robsanmicrosoft.com)|
|Date: Fri, 29 Apr 94 12:28 CDT|
>The issue of consensus came up at the recent meeting of the Claremont >Cohousing group. I made a few statements based on my experiences in >community rather than cohousing, and would like to run them by you all as >a reality check. >...Remainder of posting dealt with Scott Pecks evil people hypothesis and Martins >experience with consensus blockers. My reality differs. I too have found people who seem to block consensus in order just be troublesome and to derail the progress. This is probably one of the commonest situation I have found when I have been asked to help mediate a group dispute. In every single instance of this, (I can think of 8 mediations off-hand over the last 3 years) the blocking (evil in Scott Pecks terms) individual had a real issue which either had been ignored, or unheard, which was the root of the discontent. The issue under contention was not the real issue or problem, it was something else, usually a communication problem or a power hierarchy type of problem. Although my mediation work is confidential, let me give a generic case example of how this works. Jon has a secret crush on Joanie, and she isn't interested in him. He indirectly makes his feelings known and she very carefully lets him know she is not interested. They are both adults right? everything is ok now right? A couple weeks later at a dinner conversation she gently mocks him in front of some other women friends and he is humiliated and quietly furious, although he hides his anger, makes a quick come-back retort and leaves, on the surface without any real problem. Three months later, some of the women who were at dinner that night are part of a proposal. Jons unresolved anger comes out and he blocks their proposal, seems intractable and even more than a little rude about it. Joanie has left the group and no one but Jon remembers the mocking incident but here it is again, blowing out the group process. He may not even realize the source of his anger with these women but he feels a strong dislike of them and anything they propose he is going to be stubbornly against. Is he "evil" as Scott Peck would label him? hardly. If this all seems like Pysch 101 stuff you're right. Group dynamics is a hugely complex and interesting subject, which cohousing groups in general seem blissly ignorant of. It is too bad that pop pyscologists like Peck can get away with reducing enormously complex human relationships to simple labels. He does the same thing with his descriptions of community as well. (I could rant for hours about Peck . He seems to generate either guruish love or scorn and derision from people) I find many groups (including my own) often use consensus badly. False consensus is often rampant, where people do not speak their truth because they feel the group does not want to hear it. I have written an article describing the warning signs and solutions to false consensus for the Summer issue of the Northwest Intentional Communities Association newsletter. Its too long to post but if you have interest send me a SASE and I'll mail a copy. In my opinion, based on my own experience with consensus, in a well run consensus process blocking should hardly ever occur. Blocking is never used except in the best interests of the group. In my observations, blocking is too often used to promote the interests of an individual. This is not consensus and in an environment where all participants are not committed to acting in the best interests of the group, consensus is not possible. One of the first questions I ask in mediation for groups is for them to define their commitment to the group vs. their personal self interest. Also consensus is often inappropriately applied to decisions which it should not. For example decisions in which their is not a true best solution for the group is not a good decision to use for consensus. Which is the best true solution, blue tile or green tile? There is no such thing as best solution here (assuming both colors work with the rest of the design choices), it is just a matter of personal preference. These kinds of personal preference, micro design decisions are perhaps better made by a vote or by the architect. If you tried to use consensus for this tile color decision you would waste a whole lot of time and will probably end up deadlocked, in which case most groups let the architect decide. For a descrition of a effective group decision model I reccomend reading Collaborative Decision Making. Joel David Welty. Pp 51-52 in Communities:Journal of Cooperative Living. No. 80/81 Spring/Summer 1993 Rob Sandelin Sharingwood Cohousing 22020 East Lost Lake Rd. Snohomish, WA 98290 As to the Winslow question, (Someone living in the community but not being part of the community) here is the reply of someone who lives there: Well, it's a bit more complicated than that. For one thing, he is dead. He was an older man, who had leukemia. He was working full time and trying to fight the inevitable by going to dances, health clubs, etc. He wanted to connect with the community, but I don't think he knew how, even when we reached out to him. He just stayed too busy to participate, although he occasionally went hiking with the kids. It was a very sad situation, actually. It taught me a lesson: if you want support during the difficult times in life, you need to stay put, serve others, make relationships, get involved in the messiness and joys of community life. Some people are more skilled at group participation\010 than others--and I do think it is a skill. One of these days, I want to write an article about "How to Join a Group," and for the group "How to Welcome a Newcomer to Your Group." Not so much a how to, rather, but a resurrection of two arts: humility/service and hospitality, respectively. Roberta a-bertaw [at] microsoft.com
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