RE: I never join a club that would have me for a member
From: Fred H Olson (
Date: Tue, 10 Apr 2001 17:18:01 -0600 (MDT)
The message below was written by a person who wishes to share their
relevant experience but wishes to remain anonymous due to the
sensitive relationships discussed.  I know the author and can vouch for
their veracity.  

Fred Cohousing-L list manager
--------------------  FORWARDED MESSAGE FOLLOWS --------------------

I have enjoyed reading other responses on this thread and have to say that
while dealing with difficult people can be a learning and growing
experience, I would remind everyone that the concept of cohousing is
supposed to make our lives richer and save us some time. When a group
spends scores of hours dealing with difficult people, or is forced to
repeatedly respond to demands or quirks of difficult people, it is no
longer fun, it can drain all the energy from people, and can tear apart a
group. This happened to our group.

While I would have said our group was very functional (meetings ran well,
the group moved forward on building the community including making
finacial commitments, we enjoyed each other's company and worked well
together) the group allowed itself to spend too much time and energy
responding and reacting to a difficult person. We even went into formal
mediation to try to resolve the issues. It took the better part of a
weekend, not to mention hours and hours before and after to try to resolve
the problems. And the hardest part was that this person was one of the
founding members. So self-selecting out wasn't much of an option since
he/she wanted everyone else to change. We had all invested so much (as all
cohousing groups do) and it was so difficult to know when to throw in the
towel or how much to accommodate one person's neediness. No matter how
invested or well-intended people are, they can have personality traits or
behavior patterns that are not only unproductive, but harmful to group

We had nothing in place to deal with conflict; however, thankfully the
mediation process was a free community service and did succeed in bringing
out the issues. What it couldn't do was mend the unhealthy behaviors of
the problem person. What we didn't have was a way to decide as a group
that this person no longer belonged. That the group had evolved to
something else and if he/she wasn't happy, then they could decide not to
be part of the group. Of course this is so difficult, we live in a small
community and naturally have some continuing contact. But the rest of the
group has dissolved. The pain and long hours of dealing with this resulted
in the group deciding that it no longer wanted to be a group. We were just
so drained. I would argue that we would have remained a group and
continued growing our community had we decided then to separate ourselves
from the difficult person and carry on. But calling that question at a
meeting was near impossible since we had nothing in place for how to
remove a member. And it was unclear at the time that every other person in
the group would have voted to separate themselves. None of us was brave
enough to put the proposal on the table to remove the person. I wish I
could have. I wish someone could have. We were trying so hard to make it
work and to try to accommodate "diversity" and different people. But being
so accommodating that you lose yourself or your group or your ideals is
the unfortunate tragedy.

So this is what I've learned:
Get something in place early on to deal with conflict resolution
Get something in place on how to become a member
Get something in place on how to remove a member (if legally possible - 
even if it isn't, you could likely vote to remove some privileges if 
someone is being so very difficult  - and then hopefully then the person 
will remove him/herself)
Be careful of needy and controlling people
Next time I will trust my gut and not be so accommodating of dysfunctional 

Here is an example of a possible membership policy:

Voting rights:

Members of XX Cohousing Community become voting members with full voting 
member rights only after living within the community houses for a minimum 
of three months, and attending a minimum of three community meetings , and 
the member arranges and attends a community orientation conducted by 
another community member.

Procedure for losing voting rights:

Member is told at a community meeting that the community has a significant
problem with his/her behavior(s). A committee is then set up to address
the problem. Before the next community meeting the committee attempts to
meet with the member to discuss the problem and possible solutions to it.
The optimal solution is for the committee to solve the problem with a
compromise, and publish it at the next monthly meeting. If the member
refuses to meet with the committee, or if there is no mutually
satisfactory solution that can be worked out, then, at the next meeting
the first thing addressed will be the voting rights of the member. Except
for the member in question and their partner (if any), if all voting
members at the meeting, and those voting members who can be reached by
phone reach consensus to rescind that member's voting rights, the member's
voting rights are terminated. Appeal of voting rights decisions: Despite
the foregoing, the member whose voting rights have been repealed may
appeal the decision according to the regular appellate process; however,
unlike the usual appellate process, the decision will stand while the
issue is debated, and the nonvoting member may not vote to override the
consensus. Note: This is only in case the member's behavior changes during
the three month appeals process;  otherwise it is unlikely that two thirds
of the voting community will change their minds.

Cohousing-L mailing list
Cohousing-L [at]  Unsubscribe info:

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.