Re: Consensus
From: Mary English (
Date: Wed, 21 Jan 2004 15:11:00 -0700 (MST)
  Thank you for a well written informative email on consensus.  More than once, 
I have wished to comment on what I saw happening in a consensus process, and 
could not find a way to describe my concern or objection about the way it was 
being carried forward.  You write with great clarity about it.
  Here, something I and others have experienced, has been to have group members 
 make "caring" comments of "what are you afraid of" or "why don't you trust the 
group".  That certainly served to squelch any attempt by the minority to 
express concerns, and turned the focus on the individual who was trying to 
describe the problem as they saw it, instead of the concern of that individual. 
It took me time to recognize it as an attempt to personally attack the minority 
member and short circuit their attempt to be heard.  (After  all, how can one 
object to a sweetly smiling person voicing their concern about you?) 
  I remember one consensus discussion where I was explaining my reservation 
about the proposal, and a community member insisted on knowing why I was I the 
community and what I wanted from cohousing.  It had no bearing on the proposal 
and I did not think quickly enough to realize, it too was a form of personal 
attack and would serve to get the group's attention away from the reason for my 
objection to the proposal.
  There are many manipulative techniques that have been used to try to prevent 
the minority opinion from being recognized, valued and considered. More that 
once I have gotten home after a meeting thinking over what happened (Let's see, 
he started to try to say that.....and then she said...then....OOOOHHHHH.) 
  Equally frustrating is: the group consensing on something in one meeting, and 
 assigning a budget at that time; the committee  (composed of anyone who was 
interested in the project, or had concerns about it) doing all the work of 
researching, getting bids, winowing them down; three months later bringing back 
the proposed specs and contract to the entire community for any final imput or 
desired changes; then someone (who had not joined the committee nor had never 
given any input to the committee) saying "no, I don't like this.  I'm blocking 
this now."  And I can think of at least three times this has happened here.
  I find consensus the most difficult part of cohousing, in both emotional cost 
and in cost of time involved in the process.

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