Re: decision-making is hard
From: Denise Tennen (
Date: Fri, 29 Jan 2021 18:08:24 -0800 (PST)

As someone who has lived at my cohousing community in MN since Feb 1996, I love 
all that you wrote about decision making in cohousing, including your summation 
that it becomes easier when we accept that it is hard.

thanks for this!


> On Jan 27, 2021, at 5:16 AM, cohousing-l-request [at] wrote:
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> Today's Topics:
>   1. Re: Is consensus holding back the cohousing movement?
>      (Sharon Villines)
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Message: 1
> Date: Tue, 26 Jan 2021 14:57:10 -0500
> From: Sharon Villines <sharon [at]>
> To: Cohousing-L <cohousing-l [at]>
> Subject: Re: [C-L]_ Is consensus holding back the cohousing movement?
> Message-ID: <CF3243CC-7ECD-4E60-AD22-2AA8CD803360 [at]>
> Content-Type: text/plain;     charset=utf-8
> I hesitated to weigh in on this on top of Anna (who lives 2 doors away and 
> notices everyday if I?m watching TV or not). But waiting has also clarified 
> some issues that I think we need to cross-stitch on a pillow with some roses 
> and thorns:
> 1. Decision-making is hard regardless of the decision-making method. 
> What is easier in both the short and long term than consensus? Is community 
> enriched with autocratic decision-making? Or majority vote. Or management 
> company decisions? Or political tradeoffs.
> 2. Making decisions that affect everyone individually is hard. 
> A team is not making decisions about planting trees for themselves. They are 
> making decisions for many people as individuals. And no one hired you to do 
> it ?? you have no professional training in placing and planting trees.
> 3. Communications are hard.
> In the process of investigation and study, information is lost. Preferences 
> gathered in October are forgotten by January. Options have changed by the 
> time the order is placed. People have different mental images of expected 
> results. A feature that is very important to some is not even noticed by 
> others. Without communication, these expectations cause conflict.
> 4. Having patience is hard.
> A decision that you see as clearcut, a no brainer, is new to others and they 
> need to sit with it. It may seem more efficient to set time limits on 
> discussion, but that may discourage some people from getting involved at all. 
> And some of those people will nurse grievances that build up and affect their 
> comfort in the community.
> 5. Decisions that affect us physically and emotionally are hard.
> Cohousing is where we live. Our soul is invested. Can we live with appliances 
> made in Germany? Which religious practices are comfortable for us in the CH? 
> Do we value casual or formal? Do we need better air in the CH? Sometimes 
> these are decisions made for health or ethical reasons, but they are also 
> decisions about things that affect us physically and emotionally at a barely 
> conscious level. 
> 6. Decisions that place limits on our future are hard. 
> If we plant trees outside the kitchen window will we be sorry next winter 
> when there is no light or next summer when the birds are roosting and pooping 
> on the glider? If we give up the hot tub, will we really build that darkroom? 
> If we give up parking spaces, will it be a problem in the future?
> 7. Decisions that require sacrifices to our ethical beliefs are hard.
> Engaging and trying to change ourselves and the world is hard. It?s swimming 
> upstream everyday. How far can we go on shopping locally? Or organic? Can we 
> avoid shopping at a store that treats employees unfairly? Is that even the 
> best way to change the store? Is the effect of using wool the same for animal 
> welfare as using leather? 
> 8. Decisions that require spending large amounts of money are hard.
> Cohousing is designed to facilitate and encourage community living but is 
> also a significant real estate investment. We become managers of 
> multi-million dollar buildings that require spending tens of thousands of 
> dollars to maintain. Actively consenting to spend $500,000 on solar panels 
> even with all their promise is still hard.
> 9. Decisions that must harmonize multiple socio-economic, ethnic, and 
> cultural differences are hard.
> We want diversity but then we want consensus. In addition to behavioral 
> expectations, cultural expectations often require spending money and time on 
> things that have little value to us personally. Avoiding discrimination 
> against or in favor of one group or the other according to age, gender, 
> socio-economic class, education levels, etc., requires a depth of 
> consideration that few of us have done on a daily, moment to moment basis.
> ?????
> Some people are not in a place in their lives that allows them to accept all 
> these Hards. They are too stressed physically or mentally to cope with them 
> or too happy without them. They have nuclear families or long-term 
> friendships are as satisfying as they need. Or ill parents who require as 
> much energy for others as they have ? right now.
> None of these Hards are likely to be easier by adding more process, or 
> training, or setting time or discussion limits. Some can be more easily made 
> using another decision-making method or additional training but it is still a 
> matter of degree.
> Some decisions are made more appropriately by different methods. Majority 
> vote for choosing dates when most people can be in town. Ranked choice voting 
> for choosing the strongest preference between 6 alternatives. Solidarity for 
> actions that might put the community legal or economic at risk. 
> Group decisions become easier as community members gain understanding and 
> build trust, but there are always new community members with new opinions, 
> needs, customs, expectations, etc. It is not unusual for someone to join a 
> community with ideas of fixing it.
> Basically, decision-making becomes easier when we accept that it is hard. And 
> hard for good reason, not because we are inexperienced, afraid of conflict, 
> have psychological problems, are too dominant or too passive, or are social 
> failures. Decisions are easier when we don?t make judgments about why or how 
> people disagree with us.
> Sharon
> ----
> Sharon Villines, Washington DC
> "Reality is something you rise above." Liza Minnelli
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