Re: Contentious issues?
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Mon, 28 Sep 2020 10:38:06 -0700 (PDT)
> On Sep 28, 2020, at 12:22 PM, Martie Weatherly <mhweatherly [at] 
>> wrote:
> The one thing you cannot allow in your group is someone who is non-negotiably 
> negative, with their personal point of view more important to them than what 
> is best for the group.

In all respect to Marty, in my quest of dissenting from the romanticized 
mythology of the “The Group” and its “Best Interests”, the sentence above could 
be stated as “their personal point of view is more important than the personal 
points of view of other individuals in the group.”

I realize that  "best interests of the group” is a standard and very 
well-meaning phrase, often a short-hand. But it can also camouflage the kind of 
decision-making that is actually being used. A group is a set of individuals. 
When a sub-set is less than the full group but almost all of it, it is the 
majority. The greatest obstacle to consensus is the majority.

We question individuals who disagree with us much more than we question others 
for agreeing with us. Why is one more likely to be "best" than the other? As 
one of our members said when we were planning a workshop on consensus, “We 
don’t have any problem with consensus. We need help with objections.” 

> So welcome those contentious issues! That is where the creativity is going to 
> come!

And this is very important. It’s the strength of cohousing — being in a 
situation where it is a positive thing to understand why someone thinks 
differently than you do.

Also if we don’t learn how to deal with contentious issues, how can we learn to 
deal with diversity? Diversity is about difference — solid ground for 
contentious issues.

(If you read this with humor, you will enjoy it more, or maybe enjoy it some.)

On the weirdness of what can become contentious in cohousing. I’m in the middle 
of one I’m refusing to give up on — hyperbole vs precision. Obvious 
exaggeration vs precise reality. Our linguists and data people like the word 
“some”. I tend to say “no one ...” or “everyone …”

One speaks emotion, “[it feels like] no one …” The other is (supposedly) 
objective: 6 out of 8  were false, not all of them. Then the conversation 
quickly devolves into a statistical or linguistic discussion when in fact 
everyone has understood the meaning of the hyperbole. 

Should one person stop using hyperbole because another uses linguistic 
exactitude. They both understand what the other is saying. Communication is not 
affected—what was?

In the real world the culture of the office, the family, or the school would 
determine the language and it is doubtful if both those people would end up in 
the same group. Or be there for long. In cohousing, for interest, edification, 
and irritation, they coexist.

Sharon Villines
sustainablecohousing [at]
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