6 Nov 2009, 3:23pm
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interactive strategies

i typed this up for my permaculture design group* ’cause we’re going to use consensus decision-making. it’s a handout (plus some notes) from the directing class at the cornerstone institute this summer that i thought would be useful and interesting to consider. it applies pretty widely i think, to all kinds of interpersonal and group interactions, so i thought i’d share it here.

*to earn our design certificates we are required to do a group project, usually a site design, over the course of the course. it may or may not be implemented–the design is the point, not the implementation–but we are designing for a real site, with a real client and all of that. my group is doing a design for kailash ecovillage.

summary of interactive strategies

collaboration (consensus):
equal emphasis is placed on the task or goals and the relationship between members of a conflict situation–the two sets of task goals are not seen as mutually exclusive–in fact, the approach taken is that the only acceptable problem solution is one that completely accomplishes both sets of goals because the relationship is important to both parties–a problem-solving orientation is used to confront differences.

appropriate uses:
–to gain commitment from others
–to learn more about others’ point of view
–to obtain input into best solution
–when neither set of goals can be compromised
–to work through bad feelings which have been interfering in a relationship
–in conception stages, when nothing is set
–when there is passion on both sides
–as a problem-solving technique
–when different elements are being integrated

again, equal emphasis is placed on the task or goals and the relationships of the members of a conflict situation–now, however, rather than both sets of goals being completely achieved, each party will win and little and lose a little.

appropriate uses:
–to gain commitment from others
–to achieve temporary settlements to complex issues
–to achieve quick solutions under time pressure
–when resources are limited
–when damage/wounding has been done

greater emphasis is placed on the relationship than the task goals–the accommodation style involves giving in and submitting oneself to the goals of another in order to protect the relationship at the cost of personal objectives.

appropriate uses:
–when the issue is much more important to the other person than yourself
–to build up credits for later issues which are important to you
–when you realize you’re wrong, to allow a better position to be heard
–to show that you’re reasonable
–when continued competition would damage your cause when you’re losing
–when preserving harmony is equally important
–to develop team members by allowing them to experiment and learn from mistakes
–when you want to empower people and invite ownership of the process/project/product

greater emphasis is placed on the task or goal than relationships–winning at all costs becomes the most important consideration.

appropriate uses:
–when quick decisive action is vital (such as emergencies)
–on important issues where unpopular courses of action are needed
–on issues vital to company welfare when you know you’re right
–when you’re working with people who need leadership
–when personal safety is a concern
–when important values are at stake
–when you’re relied upon for vision

emphasis is placed neither on the task nor the relationship–using this style, one gives up both in return for non-involvement.

appropriate uses:
–when the issue is trivial or when other issues are more pressing
–to let people cool down, to regain perspective and composure
–when there is absolutely no chance of satisfying your concerns and the potential damage of confronting a conflict outweighs the benefits of its resolution
–when safety and emotional well-being are a concern
–when compromise doesn’t work


speaking of cornerstone–the other day i found, in the back of my planner, a folded-up sheet of paper–from a class in which we wrote words of wisdom, things we live by, etc, anonymously on a piece of paper, folded it up, tossed it into a pile in the center of the room, and picked up a different one–with the following words (along with some others) written on it:

“we lose things, and then we choose things. the choice may have been mistaken; the choosing was not.”



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