Re: I don't buy the "stages of groups" theory.
From: Kay Argyle (
Date: Fri, 14 Dec 2001 17:05:01 -0700 (MST)
In my observation, people tend to be burning souls on particular issues, not
at large (some do ignite more easily and often than others). They commit to
the group according to (a) their belief the group will fulfill the goals for
which they joined, and (b) how big a part of their life the goals are.
Goals when joining cohousing are typically an individual's private
definition of community -- socializing, looking out for each other, working
together, sharing resources.

As people invest emotion, effort, and time into the community, they become
more committed, and in turn are willing to invest more.  As the community
shows it can be trusted with their dreams, they entrust more dreams to it.

When/If enough members shift to an increased level of commitment on a
particular issue, it tips the balance in the group.  Power shifts.
Sometimes that pulls other members through the transition, and sometimes it
polarizes the group.  Observance of formalities at such a time can alter the

Societies use formalities (process, law, tradition) to teach and reinforce
their values.  By submission to process, a new power-holder signals respect
for the society's values, and people are more likely to be supportive, or at
least take a wait-and-see attitude.  (Consider changes in head of state --
the more orderly the change, the more foofarah surrounds it.  Violent coups
don't usually throw inaugural balls.)

The process of course reflects the society.  "Gimmicks" like talking sticks,
poker chips, or egg timers underline cohousing values -- nobody dominates,
everyone gets heard.

> 3.  Pacification, conflict avoidance, "assumed consensus"....
> "groupthink", ... people withhold feelings and thoughts.
> Decision-making is done quickly and without thought on major
> issues, ...  lengthy debates about relatively meaningless things.

I like Howard's phrase "dead-end rathole" -- though I might choose the
metaphor of an unpaved detour that'll rip the community's undercarriage out.
It's an attempt at the form of community without the substance, and is
neither healthy nor necessary.

It mimics true community, the way elections in a one-party state mimic
democracy -- or the way teen smokers mimic adulthood, or angler fish mimic a
worm.  If you're fooled, you get eaten alive.

In a later post by T. R. Ruddick, stage 3 was described quite differently:
"--Everyone agreed to work together (stage 3)."  That I can look forward to.

Wasatch Commons
Salt Lake City, Utah
argyle [at]

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