Re: Use of email
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Tue, 11 Feb 2014 08:06:08 -0800 (PST)
On Feb 10, 2014, at 6:50 PM, Philip Dowds <rphilipdowds [at]> wrote:

> So here’s my question:  Why is the Internet regarded as such a high-risk, 
> error-prone, annoying and alienating vehicle for cohousing communities?  Why 
> are e-mails seen as the problem, and meetings as the solution?  More 
> generally:  Why is our professional experience irrelevant for doing business 
> in a residential setting?

I'm with Philip on this. The contradictions in arguments from people who 
advocate face-to-face over email are so numerous that I find the whole argument 
specious. The most insulting and hurtful and vicious interactions with people 
I've had or witnessed were face-to-face and in meetings. Many of the most 
intimate, enriching, and/or intelligent considered interactions have been on 
email -- and daily. Many of my most important relationships are maintained by 
email. Email opens an international platform for friendship and exploration of 

Our community was organized on email. Without it, it is hard to see how we 
could have ever gotten ourselves organized.

I do not find that people who advocate face-to-face as the cure for conflicts 
are more willing to engage with conflict in person. I think they just find it 
easier to avoid conflict in person. They control the meeting by conveying their 

The advantage of email goes to the writer and to the introvert who thinks 
better when alone.

The advantage of meetings goes to extroverts and people who like to shmoose. 

Email is inclusive and a written message can be more specific and complete. 

Face to face is exclusive. Only those who happen to bump into each other daily, 
immediate neighbors, find it as easy as email. Only those who can attend 
another meeting can participate in meetings. Minutes rarely convey all the 
points discussed so the meeting people form their own culture.

Cohousing is supposed to be inclusive, a cooperative effort.

We have two teams that do not use the team email lists set up to allow 
interested members who are not on that team to join the conversation. One team 
has never their list and is perceived as closed and one that recently changed 
has closed down information in a vital aspect of the community. It is 
incredibly frustrating. There is no participation in dialogue before a proposal 
comes forward. Knowledge is not built in the general community as information 
is gathered and the proposal developed so presentations of proposals are longer 
and more tedious, leaving little time for discussion. We too often now don't 
know a problem has surfaced.

Traffic can be a problem, particularly for those who have a lot of work email. 
People have different abilities to read easily. Others find writing painful. 
Some are shy. But our biggest email complainers are people who rarely come to 
any meetings.

One argument against email is that people say things in email that they would 
never say face-to-face. I think this is an advantage, not a negative. It's 
important to hear what people think and feel. I want to hear it regardless of 
how badly it might be communicated. But I also think it is important for a list 
to have a moderator, just like a meeting facilitator, to step in sometimes to 
summarize the arguments given so far and to correct false information and 
assumptions. Not to stop or censor messages.

Rob Sandelin, one of our great list members who has gone on to other things, 
once said the key to cohousing is don't bother anyone and don't be bothered 

To say "we can't discuss this on email" is like saying you shut up because I 
don't want to hear it. Do any of us have that right?

Sharon Villines, Washington DC
"Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can 
have some conversation." Judith Martin

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