Conflict Resolution
From: mbishop (
Date: Mon, 7 Dec 1998 14:32:27 -0600
It seems to me:?
>From a pragmatic point of view, a consensus process may be just a tool.
>From an idealistic point of view, a consensus process is an aspiration
driven by the same idealistic aspiration that lead people (like me) to
living in a cohousing community.  Aren?t most cohousing groups aspiring to
consensus?  Why?

Concerning trust: It seems to me that a group of untrusting strangers
making decisions about their community will have problems no matter what
process they use.  I am not clear on how consensus is more vulnerable to
the lack of trust than a majority vote. Anyone able to explain this to me?
Does consensus require more trust than a majority vote?

<<? This is commonly expressed where a small group makes a decision, brings
it to the larger group, and the larger group shoots it down with What

For a majority vote, would not the same larger group vote against proposals
from the untrusted smaller group?

<<Many people who join communities may not have the skills in
self awareness and process that it takes to effectively use consensus. And
most have no training in how to be collaborative. Most Americans  are
ingrained in competitive behaviors, which undermine consensus. And, most
groups that take on consensus do not have very good facilitators, and this
really causes problems.>>

Yes. It seems that those going with consensus need to have in place a plan
for building skills in facilitation, communication and in the understanding
of intent of the consensus process which ties back to the vision/mission of
the group.  In fact, it seems to me, that training should be a requirement
for membership.  I may not be speaking for many people when I say that I am
not interested in living in a cohousing community that are not skilled in
communications and working together collaboratively. I?m not interested in
living with people that use competitive behavior patterns in making
decisions in my community.  This is one of the weakness of consensus with
cohousing catching on.  It goes against the norm.  I think that if the
society taught communications skills as a requirement in schools and used
consensus as a norm, I probably would not need to be making so much effort
in creating a better community/society/world for myself.  The majority vote
system in our society demands skills but not the same demand as the skills
of consensus.  People skilled in getting votes do well in a majority vote
<<?. The person who threatens, "If I don't get my way I'll block everybody
and hold up the whole group" is sometimes not unlike the kid that threatens
to hold her breath until she turns blue.... Its counterproductive, making
people question the group and its ability to accomplish anything. ?
? The key measure for blocking, in my experience, really should be "This is
bad for the group because....."  Not "I don't like this".  >>

Yes.  Having blocked consensus for the right reasons is good and for the
wrong reasons, terrible.  Having a vote on the legitimacy of the intent of
a blocked consensus seems to remedy this (in theory, I have not experienced

<<?. consensus works best when
there is a definite best answer. In the case of the tile, blue or green is
matter of preference, there is no best answer...
? So in this case, a weighted prioritization would be a much more effective
tool for making a decision. The details of multifaceted design decisions do
not work well as consensus decisions. In this situation, it might be a lot
more effective to reach consensus on design goals and leave the details to
other methods.>>

I think that a weighted prioritzation method can be done with consensus.
However, you raise an interesting problem I have not thought about.   So
how does this work?  A group is meeting to decide on the color of the tile.
Is it already understood by the group which method to use based on the
attributes of the proposal?  How?  Should the decision methods and when to
use them be put in the groups bylaws or policies for making decisions?  Our
group is starting to use a thumbs-up, thumbs-sideways, thumbs-down for
coming to consensus quickly on little things.  We talk about the proposal,
then check the thumbs.  It is interesting to see the thumb movements as
everyone watches everyone elses thumbs (and faces).  Kind of an instant
feedback mechanism.

<<?In fact, allowing individuals or small groups
to make decisions with autonomy is often the most effective means of moving
the group forward and encourages iniative, leadership and ownership?.>>

Yes.  It seems that a group can delegate by consensus.  It seems that it is
almost required to have committees and subcommttees with powers of decision
as the group gets larger or the proposals get complex.

Excuse me if I sound argumentative. My comments may sound  strong and
passionate.  Actually, I?m too new at this to be that way.  I'm just trying
these views on for size? like a suit.  How do they look?

Mark Bishop
Acorn Creek Community

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