RE: conflict and consensus
From: Ruddick, T.R. (
Date: Thu, 3 Dec 1998 12:25:39 -0600
I feel the need to quibble from a communication perspective:

> Date: Wed, 2 Dec 1998 11:01:11 -0800
> From: "David C. Ergo" <DCErgo [at]>
> <cohousing-l [at]>
> Subject: Re: Conflict Resolution
> For instance, I'm sure the Quaker congregation already asked, but I wonder
> what
> the concerns are of the one person who blocked consensus . . .
> 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.
While I agree completely with David's ideas, the use of the term "blocking
consensus" is probably counter-productive.

Basically, the term blames the one in the minority for the disagreement.
The person isn't "blocking" anything--she/he is expressing ideas and
feelings openly and honestly.  Consensus isn't something we're supposed to
"allow" or "block"--it's something that occurs spontaneously when a group
comes up with an idea that is supported by most and objected to by none (or
almost none).

The person who gets accused of blocking will often become defensive and
either will withdraw or will have difficulty expressing clearly in the
future.  Not something we want.  Especially since it means, frequently, that
true consensus will be less likely to happen.

People who disagree open and honestly are essential for groups to avoid the
condition called "groupthink" (Irving Janis) which occurs whenever conflicts
are denied in the interests of group solidarity.  We get groupthink whenever
people value group consensus over individual needs.

One other point: consensus does not mean a total absence of disagreement.
It means that the level of disagreement is close to non-existent.  In really
large groups, consensus might be reached even though one or two members
continue to disapprove.  In smaller groups, it might mean that a number of
members have reservations, but not sufficient to prohibit the majority in
favor from moving forward with the proposition.

___  _      Thomas E. "TR" Ruddick, associate professor      "Veni,
  |    |_)   Edison Community College
  |    |  \   Piqua OH 45356          (937)778-8600 ex 233    Coucouri!"    

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