Re: Question about Household Decision
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Thu, 5 Apr 2018 11:09:27 -0700 (PDT)
On Apr 5, 2018, at 8:07 AM, Alicia Nowicki <alicianowicki [at]> wrote:
> It is my understanding that in Cohousing decisions are made by consensus, so 
> I am surprised when I hear you speak of voting.  When we notice someone has a 
> thumb down, then we endeavor to determine the reason.  We also have a series 
> of questions that we ask them to help us determine if their downward thumb is 
> only for personal reasons and does their objection consider the good of the 
> community. 

A repeated refrain I won’t belabor but “for the good of the community” is a 
euphemism for “the majority's decision about what the good of the community 
is.” It sounds good but in practice can be excluding. The standard “the 
greatest good for the greatest number” can be equally abusive to those in the 
minority. Sounds good is not always good.

Thumbs up and down, and to the side. The difference between thumbs and voting 
is that thumbs are usually used in the middle of the process to “take the 
temperature” of the room. It can easily have the effect of cutting off 
discussion because the thumbs “obviously” show the answer, and is another form 
of asking people to reduce their druthers to "yes, no, maybe.” I’m one of those 
people who has a hard time with decisions that encompass no shades of meaning. 
Thumbs does just that.

It would be equally expeditious and more informative to do a quick reaction 
round in which people can say yes, no, maybe, if that is how they feel but can 
also say a sentence or two about why or why not.

Another reason is that thumbs are public shows of votes. Those who advocate 
voting also advocate secret ballots so people can’t be intimidated. They are 
freer to vote honestly. If an issue has gotten to the point of needing a vote, 
intimidation may also be a factor.

Another option I don’t hear people talking about is preference ratings. These 
can be very revealing and show many more nuances than thumbs or voting.

Sharon Villines, Washington DC

"Behavior is determined by the prevailing form of decision making." Gerard 

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.