Re: March 12th Training in Conflict Resolution Skills
From: Margaret (
Date: Sun, 13 Feb 2011 19:21:56 -0800 (PST)
Philip and Sharon:

Thanks for your thoughts about conflict in community.  We agree with your
comment that the problem in community is often conflict avoidance.  We see
that there are some specific reasons why people avoid conflict in community:

Fear - fear of consequences (can be self-fulfilling) 
Hopelessness - seeing the chance of things improving as minimal 
Uncertainty about what one thinks or ability to defend beliefs 
Energy conservation - does it take more energy to engage or avoid? 
Systems or relationship preservation - avoidance maintains appearance of
Powerlessness - little confidence in one's ability to engage constructively 
Shame or embarrassment - want public image that aligns with self image &
community norms
Resource depletion - choices with time, fortitude, support or energy 
Inadequate skills - some lack the skills needed to engage constructively 

Here on the Front Range in Colorado, we have started a cross-community
resource to deal with interpersonal conflict in communities in the area.
We're a small group of individuals from two different communities.  After
all getting the same mediation training designed specifically for cohousing
folks, we've successfully mediated all situations we've engaged in.
Basically, we use Christopher Moore's facilitative model utilizing a
gender-balanced, co- mediation approach.  Our team then debriefs the process
to examine procedural learning points.  Since mediation is just one process
to manage conflict, we've also worked with William Ury's "The Third Side," a
book that describes 10 roles useful in dealing with the different aspects of
community conflict.  We felt so strongly about the need for all communities
to learn to bring all of these roles to bear that we named our group, "Coho
Third Siders."  Over time, we are hoping to build a larger resource network
of cohousing community members that can assist their own and each others'
communities with creative ways to address conflict.

The Coho Third-Siders

-----Original Message-----
From: Sharon Villines [mailto:sharon [at]] 
Sent: Thursday, February 03, 2011 9:20 AM
To: Cohousing-L
Subject: Re: [C-L]_ March 12th Training in Conflict Resolution Skills

On 2 Feb 2011, at 11:33 AM, R Philip Dowds wrote:

> Our problem is conflict AVOIDANCE:  We have, in my view, an interesting
> un-short list of unresolved interpersonal grievances, questionable
> behaviors, and controversial policy choices that somehow never seem to
> agenda time.  When I try to bring them into the light, I get everything
> "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

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 door.

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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