Re: Individual vs. the group in consensus process
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Fri, 25 Apr 2003 13:10:07 -0600 (MDT)
On 4/24/2003 4:31 PM, "Rob Sandelin" <floriferous [at]> wrote:

> I think Sharon you misunderstand me. I don't say individuals do not have
> self interests, or should give up their self interest, I say, if the group
> process I call consensus is to function well, the individual interests are
> given to the group, examined and fairly dealt with in relation to the whole
> groups needs. 

This is the original statement:

> 2. Participants agree that the good of the group is the most important
> factor.

What I would feel comfortable with is "agree that the good of all members of
the group is the most important factor."
> Labeling this Groupthink, is a misnomer. It's group commitment. In an
> individualist focus, there is shallow group commitment, where the individual
> is only willing to give to the group in relation to what is comfortable or
> convenient for them.

I agree with what you intend to be saying about consensus being a group
process and concern for the good of everyone as a group has to be a
commitment for consensus to work, but often people idealize "the group" as
something ethereal and all important. As if it were independent of
individual interests or as if they by giving all to the group have become
Jesus-like, walking on water. As one person said to me, you only exist as a
member of the group. The group gives you power. Without it, you have no
definition." This is what I'm concerned about. This kind of thinking leads
to groupthink. Compromise can also lead to groupthink -- you end up with a
solution that meets no one's needs and thus weakens "the group."

In coming to consensus, each person's needs have to be considered and
addressed in a way the individual feels comfortable with. In the process
individuals come to see their stated needs change in response to other needs
and in response to what is possible. That is what makes a group a group. But
it is still a group of individuals.

I don't think we would disagree in practice, but these words are interpreted
by some in a very different way. For people who have experience with
religious groups that require total giving up to the group, it can be
misleading to say that the good of the group has to be the most important
factor. That isn't what consensus in cohousing is all about.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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