RE: Gossip vs. venting
From: Casey Morrigan (
Date: Sat, 28 Dec 2002 17:05:02 -0700 (MST)
I was so interested in people's responses to this post.  During the time I
have lived here, my main community task has been to try to figure out how to
approach people when I am in conflict with them.  I've had a couple of
insights in the three and half years I've lived here.

First, I have noticed when I have felt wronged around some community issue
that I want the community to "be on my side" and I have occasionally wanted
to create a forum so I can get validated and be right.  Embarrassing but
true.  Such a forum might be a business meeting.  I've learned that this
doesn't work well in a business meeting.  It ends up being a hidden agenda
and puts a sharp edge to my contributions.  So where then?

The more I take responsibility for speaking with the person who I am in
conflict with, the better it goes.  The community cannot process my stuff -
I have to.  The community CAN provide me with allies who will be sounding
boards, maybe someone to go with me to have a talk with the person.  Also,
the community can do what Rob suggested - provide well-facilitated places
where issues about living together can be surfaced and discussed.  There is
hardly any substitute for a personal conversation when the issue is

We bring in all our communication skills and habits and agree in community
to try these out on one another.  I have found some gaps in my skills and
have needed to work on them. Of course, I notice everyone else's gaps first.
I have to keep swinging that pointing finger back to me.  Not all solutions
to issues that arise in cohousing can be found in one-on-one communication,
but the more someone really processes their stuff themselves, the less they
"act out" in community.  I want to be "in community" but I have occasionally
wondered, does that mean I have to provide "group therapy" to people who are
having lots of trouble? I'm not equipped and how I hate drama!  Sometimes
when I am not involved in an issue it is instructive to sit back and watch
how it gets resolved; I pick up a few "how-to's" and "how-not's" then.

Casey Morrigan
Two Acre Wood
Sebastopol California

Anyhow, we are noticing tensions in our community dynamics, especially among
those who live in the house.  One issue that has come up is determining when
and how it is helpful for people to discuss negative feelings.  People do
not always immediately want to talk to a person they are upset with.
Sometimes they want a sounding board or a second opinion on the validity of
their complaint.  Sometimes they just want to vent. Sometimes they just
don't want to confront even though they should.

We have seen cases in which the person being complained to has felt the
problem required action and proceeded to tell others.  At one point this
resulted in an emergency meeting that left some of our members feeling
ambushed because this was the first they heard that they were the problem.
They were too shocked to give their side of the story so this meeting did
not open up communication.

I am having trouble sorting out in my own mind who should say what to whom
and when.  Any ideas on guidlines?


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