Re: Gossip vs. venting
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Tue, 31 Dec 2002 08:20:02 -0700 (MST)
On 12/31/2002 12:21 AM, "Tree Bressen" <tree [at]> wrote:

> The State of Grace Document is an agreement between two people (or any two
> entities, including groups, corporations, and countries) co-created to
> sustain a high quality of relationship -- "a state of grace" -- between them.

With all respect to professional facilitators, one problem with this kind of
solution is that it elevates conflict and conflict resolution to such
heights of complexity that it creates a process where the only people who
will engage in it are the rare breed who have nothing else to do. Elevation
to this level also requires professional intervention, costing hundreds of

Pledges, interventions, lectures, etc., also confer a degree of importance,
elevating conflict to crisis, that is out of all proportion to most
conflicts. Just reading the directions for the State of Grace Document would
take a considerable amount of time and study. The vast majority of people
get up in the  morning with good intentions toward all. States of grace are
natural conditions. Restoring them (under normal living conditions) is not
all that difficult.

Resolving conflict takes time on the part of someone to uncover all the
facts and feelings and misunderstandings and to communicate them to all
parties. Sometimes a person involved in the conflict can do this but most
often a third party is needed (or there wouldn't have been a conflict in the
first place). 

Another issue with conflicts between two parties in the context of cohousing
is that often the conflict erupts between two people because the group has
not made clear decisions. Failure to establish clear understandings about
the use of equipment or space leaves individual group members with different
impressions of what is allowed or expected. The whole situation gets muddied
when a decision one way or the other would allow individuals to adapt with
less or no conflict.

Resolving most conflicts just takes time and energy to sort out the issues
and find solutions. Professional facilitators can help in this process
because they are (1) perceived as neutral and (2) have a bag of tricks that
can be useful in uncovering the source of conflict and demonstrating that it
can be resolved effectively. But when the bag of tricks is taking more time
and energy than the conflict took in the first place, people will walk away
from professional facilitation.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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