Re: Request from Manzanita Village in Arizona: How does your community handle members who abuse the community e-mail?
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Fri, 15 Jan 2021 12:53:41 -0800 (PST)
> On Jan 13, 2021, at 2:29 PM, Nan Henderson <nhenderson [at]> 
> wrote:
> Greetings co-housing friends:  We are looking for solutions to our issue of 
> about 4 of our 60 plus members occasionally abusing the community group 
> e-mail by "calling out" by name in  disrespectful or even abusive posts other 
> members they are upset with/have an issue with.  This issue has been raised, 
> commented on, lamented, etc. but still people do this.
> Have you found a way to solve a similar issue in your community?

Diversity, diversity, diversity. Some people write and some talk in groups and 
some talk one on one. What one person finds offensive another finds honest. 
What one person finds uplifting and encouraging, another finds discourages or 
even blocks honest discussion.

There are actually statistics on how many people are conflict averse. I think 
email enables some people to say what they actually feel. Both loving and 
complaining. What would you like better — shutting down communications or 
learning how to read it? Give people their space.

Our Zoom call membership meetings are going so well that some of us want to 
continue them rather than meeting in person. Everyone can hear everyone, 
significantly more people attend, both parents attend, and they seem more 
organized. Fewer interruptions. It is also nice to have the chat feature so we 
can talk to each other and with the facilitator during the meeting — better 
than passing notes.

Others are horrified by the idea. "We aren’t together!” 

I think as another poster mentioned, express your own feelings in response to 
others expressing theirs is the most productive response. I moderate a 
neighborhood list of 3,000+ people on which we discuss many contentious topics 
and have several contentious people. When members negatively characterize or 
attack other people, I put them on moderated status so I have to approve their 
messages before they are posted. Usually I have to ask them stop calling people 
names and just address the content of messages. 

I talk to people off line about how to make their message less violence 
inciting. In 16 years, only one person has been banned from the list — he 
argued with me constantly about why I wouldn’t post his overwhelming number of 
inflammatory messages. He wasn’t a very neighborly person offline either. I’ve 
put the whole list on moderated status twice: once over calling people racist 
and once over “development."

The list has a reputation for being more argumentative than other neighborhood 
lists, but we also have many more conversations rather than press releases and 

One of my writing teachers said, “If you aren’t saying anything that doesn’t 
upset someone, you aren’t saying anything that needs to be said.”

I know that makes a lot of people grind their teeth but demonizing email and 
trying to make it the same as other forms of communication is selectively 
limiting. Email has brought more people together than any other form of 
communication. It is time and location independent. 

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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