Re: improving group dynamics?
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Fri, 21 Nov 2003 12:51:07 -0700 (MST)

On Nov 21, 2003, at 12:23 PM, Elaine wrote:

There is this entire vocabulary that goes along with cohousing. It's rather daunting. I find myself in constant fear of making a 'communication' mistake
since moving into cohousing.

It isn't a "cohousing" vocabulary per se but an awareness of distinctions that you have never had to make before -- group thinking and group consciousness technically mean the same thing but they have acquired connotations that make them rather loaded words. Group thinking is very close to "group think" so it is better avoided.

But your question is still a totally valid one and one that is very difficult to answer -- easier to work on your vocabulary than respond to the heart of the concern.

First I would say that in cohousing people are coming from a variety of backgrounds because the premise is "diverse". That means we all speak different languages and have different experiences. I "see" cohousing from my experience in an extended family, actually a series of interconnected extended families that composed my neighborhood as a child. Others come to cohousing with their only community experience being a church, or a political movement, or a therapy group. Because of this we "landed" in our cohousing community with very different expectations about what it would be.

I expected the commonhouse to function like Grandma's house with Sunday dinners, an always welcoming fire, the latest gadgets that my young parents couldn't afford, and a group of cousins always ready to play cards or Monopoly. Those with a background in political movements expected the commonhouse to become a center for political action with piles of flyers, groups meeting to organize demonstrations, piles of recycling materials everywhere, the floor covered with out of town demonstrators in sleeping bags.

Understanding where everyone is coming from, what their reference points are, is what I have found to be the most helpful in understanding why people want things done in ways I think are totally strange.

Group consciousness evolves as the group gains a sense of itself as a group. Talking, talking, talking, is my way to get there. Finding out who people are and what they think they have moved into has been so important. Some people actually thought they moved into an affordable housing complex where the commonhouse would provide rental income to support the community and they would do _maybe_ 4 hours of work a month mowing the lawn. After 3 years, the reality has still not soaked in everywhere.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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