Re: Conflict Resolution
From: David C. Ergo (
Date: Wed, 2 Dec 1998 13:02:14 -0600
At one point our group was stuck on the issue of garages. I didn't want
them because I didn't want to waste more space on cars. Another member was
adamant: he wanted a garage, dammit, so we talked and talked and folded our
arms across our chests in the end. Finally, trying to get off my own
self-righteous high-horse, I asked the question "how is having garages
going to benefit the community as a whole?" One of our members said "well,
face it; we're not going to be able to sell this project to newcomers as
easily without garages."

After a little more discussion, I stood aside. The important thing is that
I got a chance to rant and rave about the evils of cars; the rest of the
group, bless them, listened to me. To me, being heard is so much more
important than being right--I'm much less inclined to dig in my heels. By
listening, you learn what the concerns are behind people's positions.
"Getting to Yes," by Ury, is an excellent book about this process. For
instance, I'm sure the Quaker congregation already asked, but I wonder what
the concerns are of the one person who blocked consensus on getting air
conditioning in the congregation's meeting hall. Are they concerned about
the environment (wasting electricity, using CFCs)? Or is their health
affected somehow by the altered humidity of conditioned air? Or what? Once
you know this, you can begin to brainstorm alternatives that both sides
never thought of (solar power or solar design to help with cooling, buying
the air conditioner and only running it at certain times, whatever.)

As far as when the process is hopelessly deadlocked, we never had that
problem. So how would you decide to vote? The person blocking consensus
will probably block consensus on taking the vote itself (for obvious
reasons), so perhaps after a certain number of meetings needs to take place
before voting becomes an option, so that voting won't come too quickly
without greater effort towards consensus.

I'll bet Rob Sandelin will have good stuff to say about this!

At 12:10 PM -0600 12/2/98, mbishop [at] wrote:
>I would like to start a thread of discussion on the process of conflict
>Acorn Creek Community in Austin is now discussing this topic.  More
>specifically, we are interested in what other groups have done (or plan to
>do) in resolving conflicts that have blocked consensus.  We are considering
>an "emergency" process of reverting to a 75% majority vote.  However, there
>is concern that a process of moving from consensus to majority vote needs
>to be clearly defined.  One idea is to allow any member at anytime to
>request a 75% vote on whether to have a 75% vote on a proposal.    Others
>feel that this is too easy and voting may come too quickly without greater
>effort in resolving conflicts by consensus.
>On the other extreme, Quakers use consensus and apparently have no
>"emergency" process to get around blocked consensus.  I have a Quaker
>friend who told me that the Quaker building here has been without air
>conditioning for many years now because one person in the congregation does
>not consent.  This is Austin, Texas!  The congregation meetings gets quite
>small during the heat of the summer.
>I am interested in your ideas and very interested in what has worked and
>not worked for you.
>Mark Bishop
>Acorn Creek Community, Austin, Texas

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