Re: blocking consensus
From: Margaret Weatherly (
Date: Fri, 1 Feb 2002 21:05:02 -0700 (MST)
Kay, here in Liberty Village we have been doing a lot of work with consensus 
and the provision for blocking consensus. 

One thing that may be missing in your group is the group taking on any one 
person's concerns as the group's concern. We are learning to honor each other's 
opinions, which is not easy to do when they are directly opposite"mine". We 
have learned to sit and listen to someone who does not agree with the group.

Consensus is a different way of thinking than we are used to. It requires 
learning how to state your personal concern and then give it up as personal and 
have it taken on as a concern of the group. This takes some learning, both for 
the individual and for the group. 

Sometimes we need to take a break or have a minute of silence to refocus 
ourselves on our mission as a group.  Then we search for the wisdom of the 
group with less bickering. 

It is amazing that as we work an issue through, we do come up with a 3rd or 4th 
or tenth ideration of an issue that is acceptable to all.  We have done some 
specific work on blocking, and our consensus procedure includes requirements of 
the person blocking and of the group.  We do allow the group to override a 
block that is seen to be for personal reasons and not in line with the mission 
statement and for the good of the group.  We have not had to do that yet, and 
we would not do it without some time to think through the issue and reconsider 
it at the next meeting. Taking care of the person who is blocking in an 
important part of the process. 

When you ask about the formal consensus process, do you  mean the consensus 
process in general, or  Formal Consensus as put forward by C.T. Butler? That 
specific model  includes a way of handling a block. 

It does not sound as if you feel heard by the community, and that might be the 
first place to start. Sometimes it is good for the community to try exercises 
where people switch sides of an emotional issue to see what it is like.  
Sometimes the issue that the one person brings up turns out to be for the best 
of the community. You can be sure that at some time each person in the 
community will feel like the "odd man out." 

You could also stand aside as has been mentioned. I would hope your community 
has done some groundwork on what that means and how it is recorded.  It is 
important to know exactly how that will be handled and what your commitments 
are or are not if you stand aside. Good luck!

Martie Weatherly 
Liberty Village Cohousing
Libertytown, MD
martiew [at]

-----Original Message-----
From: "Kay Argyle" <argyle [at]>
Date: Fri, 1 Feb 2002 18:15:56 -0700
To: "cohousing-L" <cohousing-L [at]>
Subject: [C-L]_blocking consensus

> I've got a question about formal consensus process.
> I've been told repeatedly that the only justification for blocking consensus
> is that you think the proposal will harm the community, and not because you
> dislike it personally.
> If a proposal makes requirements of you that you find objectionable, but
> seems unlikely to cause harm to the community, and the community doesn't
> want to be talked out of it -- what are your options?  Aside from selling
> your house, or saying "I won't! And you can't make me."
> How far can one stretch the definition of "harm"?  I don't think having
> unhappy or angry members, even only one or two, can be regarded as *good*
> for a community.
> Due to a proposal under consideration, this question has unfortunately
> acquired practical importance for me.
> Kay
> Wasatch Commons
> Salt Lake City, Utah
> argyle [at]
> *:-.,_,.-:*'``'*:-.,_,.-:*'``'*:-.,_,.-:*'``'*:-.,_,.-:*
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