Re: Experiences in handling difficult issues
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Fri, 28 Feb 2014 10:24:46 -0800 (PST)
On Feb 20, 2014, at 2:40 PM, Willow Murphy <willowm7 [at]> wrote:

>  We are especially concerned about times when some members have strong 
> feelings and concerns against a proposal and others have "facts" to support 
> it, which we have recently experienced.   This has brought up the tough issue 
> of whether we value facts over what are believed to be legitimate concerns, 
> or vice versa. Concerns may be devalued, because there aren't as many facts 
> to back them up.  The question of caring about our neighbors feelings came 
> up, the
> question of either group "forcing their will" on the other, the importance of 
> saving money over health concerns or the reverse, and how to find what really 
> IS best for the community as a whole?

Some decisions are hard and no process will make them easier. In the end, you 
have to make the decision and do a review of its success. By measuring the 
actual against the aim, then you know what changes to make to move toward 

Shorten the time period of the proposal and add evaluation criteria. These 
criteria should address the concerns and the facts. Most facts have a context 
so they may not be facts in your context. There is a huge movement now to 
reexamine the many research studies that purport to prove things that turn out 
to be bad studies or misinterpreted or reported results. The recent shocker is 
that the evidence for the great cholesterol scare evidence was made up and 
there is no correlation between red meat and heart disease.

So treat facts with care, but I'm always amazed at how many people are 
perfectly comfortable ignoring facts. That'w where measurement comes in. 
Measure in your own community.

The "forcing your will" on others goes both ways. The people who don't want to 
move forward are forcing their will on those who do. Don't fall for the guilt 
trip. Stick with the facts as you know them and can measure them.

My personal feeling is that the "community as a whole" is only in the eyes of 
the individual, and groups of individual. No matter what the issue is some will 
feel more or less strongly about it. I am fairly sure that no matter what the 
issue is, I could find someone in the community who would argue with me about 
it, even issues on which no one objected.

The best solution, I think, is to respect the concerns of all sides, pro and 
con, and work out a way forward. Moving forward is important. Moving forward is 
the only way to measure whether the proposal is a good one or bad one. Even if 
you don't go forward, you can measure the results of not moving forward and try 

Does my community do this? Of course not. It takes too much attention. But we 
are getting much better at it.  After 14 years, the most difficult decisions 
never come up for a decision because we can't figure out how to propose a 
solution. Like bike storage, workshare -- the big things. We haven't had a 
proposal come forward in a long time that wasn't accepted. But some are stuck 
in the pre-meeting stage. And some dissatisfactions just bubble about.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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