Re: Conflict Resolution: Really about Consensus blocking
From: Stevenson/Bitner (
Date: Fri, 4 Dec 1998 11:45:24 -0600
>I think it can be important to allow individuals to block for self-interested
>reasons.  One of the critical factors in a cohousing development is that 
>are taking absolutely huge risks with large amounts of their hard-earned 
>I think the reason consensus is important is to provide people the 
>security that
>the group will not do something crazy with their money.  I think "I'm 
>the decision because the personal costs to me are too great" can work and be
>necessary for the individual to stay in the group.
I very much agree with this statement.  We've had individuals block 
consensus on things such as where to put the clothesline* and what kind 
of grass we are going to get.  It sounds silly, and at the time I wanted 
to strangle them, but these people are still beloved members of our 
community after five years of decision making.  Do people still block for 
stupid reasons?  Not often, and I think it's because we gave everyone the 
space to have their way.  It's the community's way of saying,"The 
decision is not as important as you are to us" When people are really 
secure about their value in the eyes of the community, they are willing 
to give in on a tremendous number of issues that they used to think were 
important to them.  We had an exercise some time ago that illustrates 
this.  Before we moved in, we each had short autobiographies and would 
give out a packet of everyone's biography to new members, so they could 
familiarize themselves with us.  Recently we took out those bios and 
reread the part that each of us wrote about what our non-negotiables are. 
 Everybody said that most of those items are no longer non-negotiables.  
The reason is that we trust each other.  We would not have that trust if 
we voted, or sidestepped every person who blocked instead of giving in or 
working it out.  

We can go too far in thinking that fast decision making is the ultimate 
goal.  It's more important, and the reason that most people choose 
cohousing, to feel that you are an accepted member of your community.

*any issue that is super contentious at the same time as being nearly 
irrelevant is now known as a "clothesline issue"

Liz Stevenson
Southside Park Cohousing
Sacramento, CA

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