RE: When world(view)s collide
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Thu, 22 Mar 2001 22:13:01 -0700 (MST)
One way  to find some handles that you can grab on to and use for solution
building is  to ask  questions that frame the bases of the positions. The
simple question: "Why?" applied with the right tone at the right time can
give you important things in order to find solutions.

For example, digging into the why of the people who appear to be afraid of
the park. Why are you afraid of the kids using the buddy system? What
experiences have you had where this has not worked? What has happened in the
park which  makes you afraid for the children  there. Has that ever really
happened in the park?

On the other  side. Why will adding a larger  play set cause you a problem?
Why do you think we don't have room for this addition.

Or another approach is to ask about needs. What do you need in order to be
able to let the kids play in the park/build a  play set.

Often it takes probing into the positions, asking about why they think
something is true in order to understand what will work as a middle ground.
And sometimes knowing the  why lets you know what the real issue is. This
often only comes out in a smaller group setting, it is often hard to get
folks to admit to their hidden issues in front of everybody.

Conflict has three  time frames attached to it, and to successfully surf the
conflict (notice I did not say resolve) it is helpful to try and touch all
three times. The past is a key time phase. What happened in the past to make
you think the way you do?  The present is a  check to see if what happened
in the past is really likely to happen again now. Often, this is not the
case, the past is not going reproduce itself in the now for many reasons.
The final time frame is the future. What do you want to do now so in the
future the outcome is different?

Sometimes conflicts and differences can not be resolved and they simply must
rest for a time. It can be helpful to say, we can't seem to find a way to
solve this now, lets give it a rest for x amount of time and then see if we
can find a solution. This way you are being deliberate in your dropping the
matter for now, with the implied  idea that maybe later we will find a new
idea, or people will have learned some new things that change their

My experience is that when you run the probe set, and get to issues and
understand the thinking behind the statements people make, it is helpful to
have a break, so people can digest their own thinking in order to see a new
perspective. I have often done the probing work, then followed up the next
day with an exercise to see if anybody has learned something new about
themselves. This sometimes leads to breakthroughs. And sometimes it does
not. Sometimes people get mad at me for making them look at themselves
because they did not join Cohousing to do group therapy.

Rob Sandelin
Community Works! Group process consulting for social change non-profit
groups around the world.

-----Original Message-----
From: cohousing-l-admin [at]
[mailto:cohousing-l-admin [at]]On Behalf Of Howard Landman
Sent: Wednesday, March 21, 2001 4:44 PM
To: cohousing-l [at]
Subject: [C-L]_When world(view)s collide

I'm wondering if anyone out there has had experience reconciling radically
different world views into a consensus.

The specific problem we're facing now goes something like this:

- We need to have someplace for our bigger kids (say 6-12 years old)
  to play.  We already constructed a sandy play area, but it's mostly
  being used by the toddlers, and there are issues with the older
  kids being too rambunctious for the little ones.

- We are located directly adjacent to a large city park with trees,
  a large playground, tennis courts, basketball courts, a farm,
  and river access.

- We have 34 units on 4 acres, so there's not a lot of space to
  spare.  (This contrasts with nearby Grayrock, which has 15
  acres in addition to its main property.)

There seem to be two main opinions about this (I may be distorting
things slightly to simplify the presentation):

(1) One group believes deeply that it is completely unsafe and
    unacceptable for kids under 10 to be in the park without adult
    supervision, even if they go there in groups of 2 or 3.  They are
    concerned about "predatory types" doing something unspeakable to
    their kids.  They are worried about the river.  Therefore, it is
    "obvious" to them that we *must* build a play area specifically
    for the bigger sub-teen kids, and that it must be in the central
    part of our site so that parents can keep a constant eye on them.

(2) The second group sees nothing wrong with kids that age going to
    the park and back by themselves.  They reminisce about doing
    much more dangerous things when they were kids, and just don't
    see the problem.  The idea of building a playground on our
    limited space when there's a perfectly good playground a couple
    hundred feet away seems silly and redundant to them, a waste of
    a very limited resource.  It is "obvious" to them that this is
    a bad idea.

Having started off in camp 2 and having made some effort to understand
the camp 1 folks, I now am faced with the "Where do we go from here?"
question.  I think I know the scope of the divergence of opinions, but
I'm not sure how to work towards consensus.  The 1 folks are frustrated
because they've brought up this "urgent" issue several times and gotten
nowhere (but they failed to develop a consensus that there was in fact
a problem that needed solving before trying to get specific solutions
adopted).  The 2 folks are frustrated because the issue refuses to go
away (but are not doing a good job so far of listening to the concerns).

Any ideas?  I'm not interested in hearing that "group 1 is right" or
"I agree with group 2".  I want some way to begin synthesizing both
viewpoints into something we can all live with.

        Howard Landman
        River Rock Commons, Ft. Collins CO
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