Re: Issues in Cohousing [was Play/toy weapons
From: R Philip Dowds (
Date: Sat, 23 Jul 2016 08:30:20 -0700 (PDT)
For me, it’s not the topic that matters:  Pets, guns, smoking, clutter, fees, 
parking, chores, guests, meals, noise, damage, locks, signs — it’s all 
negotiable.  It’s all mitigable.  Provided that the community shares three 
critical traits:

(1) Willingness to dialog.  There’s a lot of dialog technology and dialog 
expertise out there — Difficult Conversations, Getting to Yes, consensus (which 
is a methodology, not a result) — but none of it helps if the community won’t 
use it.  Communities shun dialog about hot topics, not because they “fear 
conflict”, but because they fear losing control of conflict.  Of permanently 
ruining personal relations.  And it’s a reasonable fear: Relations do get 
permanently ruined, not just because of defective methodology, but also because 
of defective participants.  This will occasionally need an explicit 
consideration.  So I guess I’d modify this one to read, Courage to dialog.

(2) Willingness to compromise.  Seriously.  Living in community has lots of 
rewards, but from time to time, each of us must give up something as well.  
Maybe something important, not trivial.  My outdoor cat must now stay inside.  
I might as well sell my high end subwoofer.  Maybe we’ll get better at accurate 
bookkeeping or consistent application of rules, but we’ll never be perfect.   
If I can’t compromise, then maybe cohousing is not a good place for me.  (If my 
neighbors can’t compromise, maybe I picked the wrong community.  Or, maybe I 
expect too much of them, and not enough of myself.)

(3) Willingness to persevere.  People and issues come and go.  The dynamic must 
endure.  Our cohousing communities are never done, with all problems resolved.  
There is always more to do.  We are always a work in progress.  I hope.

Philip Dowds
Cornerstone Village Cohousing
Cambridge, MA

> On Jul 22, 2016, at 12:16 PM, Rick Gravrok <rick.gravrok [at]> 
> wrote:
> Six quick replies,
> First, This is what I’ve usually heard: The three big issues in community
> life are: Children, Chores and [Cherished] Pets. (I just added in
> ‘cherished’ for the first time)
> 2nd) Conflict is a normal part of life.
> 3rd) The violence of grudges, gossip, hard feelings, dissing, etc. can most
> easily sneak in the back door when conflict is not welcomed in the front
> door.
> So welcome it in, invite your neighbor(s) to have the necessary
> conversation to resolve things respectfully and promptly even though that
> talk is uncomfortable.
> 4th) If someone chooses to not let conflict in (it is a choice) - if the
> choice is to not have that talk - watch your back door because violence
> will possibly sneak in for more pain and grief and months of disconnection
> and suffering than if folks took the time and energy to resolve the issue
> up front.
> 5th) Find someone to sit in for that conversation, someone as a support for
> respectful conversation, not someone to take sides. This is often a job for
> an elder if you can find one. Not just someone who is an “older” (folks
> like me who are 60 or older). I’ve heard that only about 15% of a
> population is elder-capable, but that may not be true.
> 6) When talking about a problem, instead of identifying “what’s wrong” or
> “what someone doesn’t like” (both of these contain negative words that set
> a negative tone), identify ”what’s missing” i.e. what *interest* or *need* is
> not being met or is lacking. Talk about needs or interests, not wants,
> needs and interests are things we can all relate to (wants are personal
> choices about how to get needs met and are usually different for each
> individual). Once “what’s missing” has been identified, you’re probably
> half-way to finding a solution.
> PS (# 7 snuck in) - get copies of ”GETTING TO YES - Negotiating Agreement
> Without Giving In” by Roger Fisher and William Ury of the Harvard
> Negotiation Project”.
> In the chapter titled *“Focus on Interests, Not Positions”* it lists 5
> Basic Human *Needs*: Security; Economic well-being; A sense of belonging;
> Recognition; and Control of one’s life.
> Happy co-living!,
> Rick
> Monterey Cohousing Community
> Minnesota
> Rick Gravrok
> St. Louis Park, MN
> 952-926-6655 (landline preferred)
> iPhone 952-220-8153
> On Fri, Jul 22, 2016 at 9:10 AM, Elizabeth Magill <pastorlizm [at]>
> wrote:
>> Also:
>> Do we need a policy, a best practice, or just a discussion?
>> If its a best practice do we have to follow it?
>> Its more welcoming to have more rules. Its more welcoming to have less
>> rules.
>> Smoking.
>> When can you call animal control?
>> -Liz
>> (The Rev.) Elizabeth M. Magill
>> 508-450-0431
>>> On Jul 21, 2016, at 1:41 PM, Sharon Villines <sharon [at] 
>> wrote:
>>>> On Jul 21, 2016, at 11:27 AM, David Heimann <heimann [at]
>> <mailto:heimann [at]>> wrote:
>>>> P.S. -- During our development, someone referred to the four P's as
>> potentially contentious issues: "Pistols", "Pets", "Progeny", and
>> "Paying".  Guns and swords are on that list!
>>> Another version of this is Parents, Pesticides, Pets.
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