Re: improving group dynamics?
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sat, 22 Nov 2003 06:59:12 -0700 (MST)

On Nov 21, 2003, at 3:16 PM, Elaine wrote:

Thanks sharon! I love the idea of finding out where everyone is coming from and what they thought cohousing would be when the moved in. maybe we can do something with that. we also don't get enough opportunities for exploring through talking. Usually talking is business related. Do you have ideas for doing more talking as a group (that wouldn't make the group roll its eyes)?

Our group rolls their eyes too. I've been totally unsuccessful in getting people to talk about things like this on any kind of planned way. What I have done is to analyze people's activities and extrapolate possible references. This seems to help because I can then use examples when I talk about the commonhouse that references their possible interests.

In DC for example there are many many places where one can hold political meetings so it isn't necessary that they be held in the commonhouse. In a small town that might not be true. Some communities have said that their commonhouse is the only community meeting space available and they have become the community resource. But knowing that some of our members had the idea that the commonhouse would be a nicer or more convenient political organizing place made it clear to me why they didn't understand when I objected to an 18 inch high maximum occupancy signs in the dining room. To them it made the room more "usable" and it felt like "home". To me that felt less like home and much less usable. I now ask, "Is this some thing you would do in your dining room at home?" emphasizing that I consider the commonhouse to be a private residential space rather than a public space to be rented out, however good the cause.

We have a Friday night pizza "tradition" that works very well. One person (me) orders pizza at 5:30 for delivery at 6:30. People drop in -- no sign up -- and pay $2 a slice for pizza and soft-drinks. In January I'm trying to have a talk show segment where someone interviews residents. We have been "in" for three years now and several of my paintings grace the walls of the commonhouse. Last week a person with whom I serve on several teams and talk to a fair amount "discovered" that I was an artist and had actually painted the paintings. Three years! I"m sure there are many things I don't know about others.

So a long way round of saying I do it on an individual basis as best I can. The group as a whole just doesn't have time for it. They just won't sit still. And if you think about it, this kind of thing has always been done individually -- usually by women. The wife who arranges the dinner party for her husband's colleagues or the grandmother who settles family disputes and keeps order during the holidays. The mother who sees to that all the children's needs are met. Family dinners.

There are very good traditional models out there but expecting everyone to sit down in a circle and talk is not likely to work except in very small groups of people who have chosen to do that.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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