Re: The reverse of one person blocking consensus
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Thu, 7 Jun 2012 07:16:26 -0700 (PDT)
On 6 Jun 2012, at 11:19 PM, David Heimann wrote:

> how to address the situation where one person keeps bringing up a given 
> issue/proposal?

If someone is bringing up a solution when there is a specific change in 
circumstances that might lead to reconsideration of a previous proposal, there 
is a rational link. I think the question is about the seemingly irrational.

We have a few people who do this in an irrational way. One is in the early 
stages of dementia — sometimes lucid and sometimes not. Another with a 
brick-like brain who does not listen to any reasoning once they have made up 
their mind, even after a decision is made. And others who do it because they 
aren't being understood. 

Different approaches work with each one but nothing stops the behavior. Once we 
accepted that (over and over a few times) it became emotionally easier and less 
energy blocking.

In the case of dementia, the choices were to exclude the person from the 
discussion or deal with their ideas whenever they arose. Often they were 
counter to what had just been decided and often not even on the topic being 
discussed. Whenever they speak, everyone listens and someone responds with a 
comment, writing down their concern, etc. Then everyone goes back to business. 
It only takes a few seconds and everyone feels better about having attended 
instead of ignored. The person is happy and forgets all about it a few minutes 
later. Previously the meeting or the conversation would have been sidetracked 
as the someone tried to explain and change the person's behavior. Huge waste of 
time and a debilitating distraction.

In the case of the brick brain — someone will go nuts at this characterization 
but it has helped me to deal with this behavior. You can't argue, reason, or 
divert a brick. On the issue in question, this is a brick. The facilitator 
says, "We've decided not to do that and we are doing this." End of discussion. 
If the person interrupts the response is "We are discussing something else now. 
We're finished with that topic." The meeting can't be taken over. If the person 
persists, they are referred to another venue — form a working group and 
reexamine the issues, write a new proposal, and bring it back. Talk to ___ to 
work it out. The person never does this.

Another thing that happens, particularly with people who have limited verbal 
quickness (my best description), is that they keep raising an issue because 
they don't think it is being addressed when other people think it has. So they 
raise it again. The problem is often that they aren't expressing themselves 
clearly. There is a disconnect between what they are saying and what the group 
is discussing. This takes more attention just to sort out the issues and then 
everyone understands and can deal with it. I find that often this person is 
discussing something simple and the group is discussing something complex and 
they just don't connect.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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