Process Workshop Recommendations?
From: Becky Schaller (
Date: Wed, 5 Nov 2003 07:12:11 -0700 (MST)
Hi Sharon, thanks for your response.  I agree that how people feel about
each other is vastly more important than any communication skills that 
might be learned in  a workshop. However, I have seen minor conflicts
get escalated because of poor process.  My thinking is that the more
people understand and agree on process, the more likely someone else can
point out and assist when someone mistakenly says something that is not
following good process or effective communication skills.   

Let me give two examples.  Over time, I have begun to realize that our
community often gets into trouble when we skip a process step we
previously agreed upon.  I think our whole community is learning that
lesson through the school of hard and painful knocks.   My hope is that
we might learn other skills through easier methods in a workshop.

Another example.  I remember one member who was quite upset in a meeting
saying, "I feel attacked by what Georgia said."   No one responded to
that.   After thinking about that, I now remember that in the book on
Nonviolent Communication, I read that "attacked" is not a feeling word. 
 It's an interpretation.  That person was really indirectly saying that
Georgia had attacked her.  But she didn't say that directly and she
didn't specifically say what Georgia had said.  So Georgia simply sat
there - I imagine feeling a bit guilty and afraid to say anything else. 
 Now had more of us known more NVC, than perhaps someone else might have
been alert enough to point this out and ask the one member to clarify
what she meant by saying she felt attacked.  This might have allowed
George to have felt able to respond.   Also, if there had been a
community understanding beforehand, then a person would simply have to
point this out and not teach the difference between interpretation and
feelings to the group while doing so.

So, I'd like to repeat my request.  If anyone has recommendations of
types of process workshops that have been helpful in your community,
would you please let me know.

Becky Schaller
Sonora Cohousing
Tucson, Arizona

On Monday, November 3, 2003, at 08:14 PM, Becky Schaller wrote:

Our Process Committee is researching different types of process workshops
for our community. We seem to be looking at basically two general
1. How to make decision making more efficient.
2. Improving communication skills particularly when we disagree. 

Sharon V replied:


Research on team functioning consistently shows that in the long term
how people feel about each other and how well they function is related
to how well they do their jobs -- content, not process. The emphasis on
communication as "skills" can be very artificial and distract from real
issues -- getting the job done. With success in performance, seemingly
impossible skill-less people work perfectly well together.

Defining the job and understanding why it needs to be done is the best
solution to communications skills.

We just went through a bout of name calling, negative characterization,
and angry attacks, in person and on email. Since the attackers (from my
perspective as the person being attacked) included a social worker who
teaches family therapy, a Methodist minister, a perfectly competent
group facilitator, and several otherwise-normal, perfectly "non-violent"
people, one who does peace work, skill training was not the issue. All
of these people have been through all the training they could possibly
go through -- voluntarily! -- and consider themselves to be fine
examples of the truly good and proper among us.

The fact remains that in the end what we had to do was sort out the
issue -- the content. The whole incident happened because people had
been avoiding an issue I needed to have dealt with and they wanted to
continue avoiding. In such situations, I push decisions -- it's my
genetic makeup. It drives people just as nuts as their avoidance drives
me nuts.

But by pushing everyone's buttons in October about how we spend all the
December holidays, we established both a wonderful schedule of inclusive
community events early enough that the calendar does not get filled with
conflicting exclusive private events AND established a procedure for
dealing with that type of content the next time we need to deal with it.

I could easily have filed libel and slander suits against several of
these people. We could easily have spent days and weeks in workshops and
spent hundreds of dollars on an outside facilitator. Sorting out the
tangible issues with a calendar on the wall worked much faster, with a
better result. When the issue remained a content issue -- the schedule
of December holidays -- only _one_ of the name-calling people attended
the meeting. All the name-calling was speaking for others, not oneself.
Along with my refusal to respond to name callers with anything more than
a request for an inclusive plan for the holidays, a simple rule, "we
speak for ourselves and allow others to speak for themselves," enforced
by the meeting leader stopped the chaos.

After reading many "process" books, the best remains one that is not
process at all, Thinking Critically by John Chaffee. This is a textbook
so it is expensive (though not that much more than NVC and the NVC
workbook together). He has a second book, The Thinker's Way: 8 Steps to
a Richer Life that I haven't read but I'm sure is equally helpful -- and
much less expensive. Amazon is the best source for these -- new and used.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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