Re: March 12th Training in Conflict Resolution Skills
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Thu, 3 Feb 2011 08:19:48 -0800 (PST)
On 2 Feb 2011, at 11:33 AM, R Philip Dowds wrote:

> Our problem is conflict AVOIDANCE:  We have, in my view, an interesting and
> un-short list of unresolved interpersonal grievances, questionable
> behaviors, and controversial policy choices that somehow never seem to find
> agenda time.  When I try to bring them into the light, I get everything from
> “No, that’s not right, that’s not the problem” to “If you’re so
> dissatisfied, why did you move here?”

Praise the Lord and Pass the Potatoes. My solution:

1. Create a public list of topics that anyone can add items to. Anyone can put 
an item on the list, something they are concerned about or something they are 
tired of hearing other people bitch about.

2.  In each Membership Meeting, set aside a specific amount of time to take up, 
in order, the next one or two or three items on the list. Obligatory order. Do 
a round — no proposal, no presenter required. If it is not or no longer an 
problem, the round will be fast and the item dismissed. If it is a problem or 
something that needs to be addressed, the round will identify key issues and 
quite probably suggest ideas for resolution.

What happens in our community is that we have members who believe that, like 
the Senate, the only purpose of meetings is to approve a proposal. Meeting = 
Proposal. Well, until you have discussions, sometimes several, it isn't clear 
what the proposal should be. And most importantly, not every issue needs a 
proposal. Many just need to be aired and clarified. If the full group, not just 
those who suffer, won't discuss it, it doesn't go anywhere.

My experience is that once the discussions have been had and the issues 
clarified, the proposal can be written and the policy approved on email. 
Wordsmithing is best done by people who care about it. Open, free discussion is 
what is fundamental for community building as well as for decision-making.

The other reason that problems don't get discussed is that they are presented 
as personal problems or personality problems. This is very rarely true and 
addressing them this way will just make matters worse — or more probably mean 
the problem doesn't get addressed at all. Problems are 99.9% structural. The 
personality gets caught in the revolving door but the problem is the revolving 

Probably some NVC-like technique for identifying the structural issue would be 
good here. I have guys downstairs refinishing the CH floors so I can't take it 
on but it would be a good exercise if other listers would like to give it a try.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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