Even with the best of structures, obstacles are inevitable; they are in fact desired inputs of growth.  When they arise, the right tools can make the difference between clearing the hurdles like Jackie Joyner-Kersey or stumbling repeatedly.

Problems Strategies
Challenges With Time
  • Break the decision into smaller pieces, and/or staged pieces over time
  • In the face of strict time barriers, harness willingness.   Distinguish between preferred outcome and outcome you are willing to support.  Willingness differs from compromise as it based on a desire to meet others’ needs and a trust that our needs still matter.  “How many folks would prefer another solution, but are willing to go forward with this one?”
  • If out of time, and the costs of prolonging the discussion, outweigh the desire for a strong agreement:
    •  Accept a temporary solution.  As long as no one is blocking, move ahead and revisit as soon as possible within the principles and framework of consensus.  The group may decide that a strong objection is enough to hold up a course of action as well. 
    • Continue along the current course of action, acknowledge that it is the standing consensus agreement, until a new consensus can be reached.  
    • Allow the group to consent to using a different decision-making style.  This path may be rejected by any member.  This likely results in reverting to a role decision.  While the decision may in that case not be owned by all, the decision making style is.  Folks may feel heard, and may trust the decider to consider their input.
Interpersonal Hostility
  • Promote empathy before problem solving.  With high decision weight (the family farm), and high emotions (been in the family 300 years),  allow for sadness, regret, remorse, frustration, et cetera to be fully expressed and understood in as many ways as possible before moving on to the strategic part of the decision.  Could take quite some time to get there.
  • In struggling groups, invite all speakers to repeat the key point of the previous speaker.  This simple steps can help alleviate communication disconnects. 
  • If there are a few passionate voices, create a time for them to be heard in small groups (or one-on-one) fully, and then bring their thoughts back to the group. 
  • Ask everyone to argue convincingly the point of view they like the least.
  • Bring in a facilitator. If the group is unable to work through conflicts or if similar issues keep coming up, think about bringing in a professional facilitator or mediator who is trained in conflict-resolution techniques.
  • Break into smaller groups.
  • Identify the assumptions, needs, and beliefs underlying the issue.   Consider if we is a deeper problem exists.  Get to the heart of this matter.

Remember, “resentment is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.” Clean communicate. 

New Perspective Needed
  • Take a short break. Enjoy an energizing activity or cup of tea
  • Take a longer break  hours, days, perhaps weeks
  • Play the Believing and Doubting Game
  • Break down the decision into smaller areas. See which ones you can agree on and see what points of disagreement are left
  • Imagine what will happen in six months, a year, five years’ time if you don’t agree. How important is the decision now?
  • Check the core beliefs/values of the group/community and test how well they mesh with current objections.
  • Helpful phrases
  • “I’d love to know how to move this process forward, but am stuck.  Anyone have any ideas?”
  • “I wonder . . .”
  • “What additional information would add greater clarity?”
  • “Who else could we invite to be part of this decision that would add to the quality of what we decide?”
Language Lacks Connection/Clarity
  • Head the words of J. Krishnamurti, winner of the UN Peace Medal “To observe without elevation is the highest form of intelligence.”  Separate observations (what a video camera could record) from our evaluations, judgments, or assumption behind them.
  • Express what would fulfill your vision, rather than what doesn’t currently.
  • Make requests rather than demands.  Demands yield either obedience or rebellion, requests seek collaboration.  
  • Bring awareness to unhealthy uses of “Should,”  “Just,” and “Try”.  Watch for unhealthy “Why,” or “Yes/No” questions.
  • Listen for 4ish letter words (General, nonspecific, ambiguous words that leave the receiver confused, unmoved, or uncaring). 
  • Work to speak with intention.  Digging behind this vague or unclear language will often get us to the heart of the matter.