13 Sep '16

Guidelines for consensus building

Guidelines for consensus building

Make sure everyone understands the topic/problem. While building consensus make sure everyone is following, listening to and understanding each other.

Ensure that all members contribute their ideas and knowledge related to the subject.

Explain your own position clearly. Listen to other members’ reactions and consider them carefully before pressing your point.

Be respectful and trust each other. This is not a competition. Nobody must be afraid to express their ideas and opinions. Remember that we all have different values and opinions, different behaviours, different areas and thresholds of distress.

Do not assume that someone must win and someone must lose when discussion reaches stalemate. Instead look for the most acceptable solution for all parties.

Distinguish between vetoes/major objections and discomfiture/amendments. A veto/major objection is a fundamental disagreement with the core of the proposal.

Do not change your mind simply to avoid conflict and achieve harmony. When agreement seems to come quickly and easily, be suspicious, explore the reasons and be sure that everyone accepts the solution for basically similar or complementary reasons. Many of us are scared of open disagreement and avoid it where we can. Easily reached consensus may cover up low esteem or lack of safety for some people to express their disagreements openly.

Differences of opinion are natural and to be expected. Seek them out and try to involve everyone in the decision process. Disagreements can help the group’s decision, because with a wide range of information and opinions, there is a greater chance the group will hit on more adequate solutions. However you must also be flexible and willing to give something up to reach an agreement in the end.

Remember that the ideal behind consensus is empowering versus overpowering, agreement versus majorities/minorities. The process of consensus is what you put into it as an individual and a part of the group. Be open and honest about the reasons for your view points.

Think before you speak, listen before you object.Allow enough time for the process of building consensus. Being quick is not a sign of quality. Thinking issues through properly needs time. For taking major decisions or in a controversial situation, it is always a good idea to postpone the decisions, “to sleep on it”.