Re: Dealing with sensitive issues
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Thu, 3 Oct 2019 14:13:13 -0700 (PDT)
> On Oct 2, 2019, at 7:54 AM, Marcia Zuckerman via Cohousing-L <cohousing-l 
> [at]> wrote:
> We were able to learn more about each other and about the range of feelings 
> on the topic.  There’s plenty of hard work left, but Karen got us thinking 
> and communicating constructively.

Language suggestion: “hard work” strikes people differently. "Hard work" in 
terms of feelings can be totally off putting. We all have lives that are 
overwhelming in one way or another. The idea of taking on someone else's 
emotional baggage or anger in addition to our own can be "the final straw.” We 
would rather have all our teeth pulled. It is enough to subject ourselves to 
group decisions.

I think the issue can be explained better as understanding each other and why 
we believe this or that or feel this way or that way. It’s an educational 
process, not a ditch digging or heart rending process. No one has to do the 
equivalent of joining a chain gang and busting rocks. Cohousing isn’t therapy. 
No one has to consent to be fixed in order to survive, but we do need to 
understand and be understood.

I’ve learned a ton in cohousing about the different ways people view things. 
Living in close proximity 24/7 and facing many decisions together is aided 
greatly by understanding why I say “no" and another person says “yes.” That is 
the value of diversity.


We had two people who complained about using consensus. One kept saying that we 
had given up the best decision-making method ever discovered when we gave up 
majority voting. We were giving up what so many people in the world were 
suffering from not having. Why were we doing this? What was wrong with us. 

We had another person who kept saying we needed to choose the solution that 
provided the greatest good for the greatest number of people. We couldn’t make 
everyone happy and should stop trying or we wouldn’t accomplish anything.

For members who had come from civil rights movements listening to this was like 
sleeping on sandpaper. Some just got up and left the room. These statements 
were reflections of the privileges of the white middle class—the professional 
ruling class. But look at where these ideas came from. 

The first person was born in the Arab Republic and was still very connected to 
his homeland and large family there. He was talking from the experience of 
oppressive and violent dictatorships and religious persecution. The daily news 
and hearings in Congress reminded him of this everyday. If only his country 
would accept majority rule. The second person had worked most of her life with 
the Red Cross. In emergencies, decisions had to be made on the basis of the 
greatest good for the greatest number of people or they would accomplish very 
little or much less. Resources were never enough and had to be stretched as far 
as possible. 

Understanding that we still insisted on consensus but with more acceptance than 
teeth gritting and rejection. Our ability to explain was greatly improved and 
informed. The differences were still there but much softer and reasonable. 
Eventually they almost disappeared as they understood the value of consensus 
and we were more willing to move forward with ideas without insisting on sworn 

But I wouldn’t describe it as hard work. It just took awhile because we didn’t 
just sit down and explain to each other.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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