Re: Consensus - a Time to Rethink? (FWD)
From: Fred H Olson WB0YQM (
Date: Sun, 15 Jan 95 13:11 CST
Tom Moench MOENCH [at] AOL.COM is the author of this message but
due to a listserv problem it was posted by the COHOUSING-L sysop.
****************  FORWARDED MESSAGE FOLLOWS *********************

Oh goodie!  Thanks, Rob, for opening up the consensus issue again.  After 16
years of working with consensus groups in many different formats I have
become deeply troubled by the "notion of consensus" as it is used in my
cohousing community and as it seems to be in others as well.  The following
definitions I have gleaned from various sources started me wondering about a
few thinks.  I share as a foundation for our discussions.  My personal
concerns and , dare I say, insights to be tested will come in later messages.


consensus (Webster's Third New International Dictionary - Unabridged)
- (L. consentire  to feel together, agree)
 1a.:  harmony, cooperation, or sympathy especially in different parts of an
   b.:  group solidarity in sentiment and belief
 2a.:  general agreement:  unanimity, accord
   b.:  collective opinion:  the judgement arrived at by most of those

consensus (Roget's Thesaurus)
Unanimity:  total agreement, understanding, mutual understanding,concurrence,
consent, accord, acclamation, unison, harmony, chorus, concert, one or single
Agreement:  likemindedness, meeting of the minds.

"Consensus is a decision-making process that involves the the agreement of
all the people who are part of that meeting.xDraw the Consensus - whatever
process you use to draw whatever is the general agreement of the group" ---
"One of the placesxwhere people get stuck is when they try to make it
unanimity in place of unity.  The difference is that in unity you are in
agreement with the sense of what is moving forward and are OK with
implementing it.  You do not have to cross every 't' and dot every 'i'
exactly as everyone wants to." -- Caroline Estes - Alpha Farm -- (First
Annual North American Cohousing Conference audiotape, 1994)
"Consensus is a psychological state which might be described as follows: 'I
understand what most of you would like to do.  I personally would not do
that, but I feel that you understand what my alternative would be.  I have
had sufficient opportunity to sway you to my point of view but clearly have
not been able to do so.  Therefore, I will gladly go along with what most of
you wish to do.'" --  Edgar Schein - Organizational Process expert (source

"True consensus is an approach to understanding where summaries, agreements,
and decisions are arrived at and supported by every member of the team."  --
Tom Moench - Organization/Group Dynamics consultant

"Consensus means giving each person an equal chance to influence the outcome.
 It need not--and rarely does it--mean a unanimous decision.  Often a
consensus is achieved in the face of strong opposition when opponents have
had their say, feel heard and supported, and agree at last to support the
course of action most people want to take." -- Marvin Weisbord - Organization
Development consultant. (Training and Development Journal. Jan. 1985:  29)

"Consensus is a group decision (which some members may not feel is the best
decision, but which they can all live with, support, and commit themselves
not to undermine), arrived at without voting, through a process whereby the
issues are fully aired, all members feel they have been adequately heard, in
which everyone had equal power and responsibility, and different degrees of
influence by virtue of individual stubbornness or charisma are avoided so
that all are satisfied with the process.  The process requires the members to
be emotionally present and engaged, frank in a loving, mutually respectful
manner, sensitive to each other; to be selfless, dispassionate, and capable
of emptying themselves, and possessing a paradoxical awareness of the
preciousness of both people and time (including knowing when the solution is
satisfactory, and that it is time to stop and not reopen the discussion until
such time as the group determines a need for revision." -- Valley Diagnostic
and Surgical Clinic of Harlingen, Texas (M. Scott Peck - A World Awaiting to
Be Born: Civility Rediscovered, 1993)

"In classic  consensus decision making every member must consent to the
decision before the group can adopt it.  If even a single member has a strong
objection to the decision (for example, it violates a deeply felt moral
belief), the the individual has the power to 'block' the decision and the
group must keep searching for a new, acceptable solution.xWhether a group
goes to this degree or not, the emphasis in practicing consensus is on
listening to everyone's ideas and taking all concerns into consideration in
an attempt to find the most universally acceptable decision at a particular
time(p2)"  "xin consensus, group unity does not mean each person is delighted
with every decision.  It does mean that everyone's concerns have been
considered and that group members are willing to accept the decision as a
good one for the group, even when it doesn't represent their personal first
choice. (p.6)" Center for Conflict Resolution (Building United Judgment:  A
Handbook for Consensus Decision Making, 1981)

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