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WHY AND HOW TO BUILD CONSENSUS

A consensus is a generally accepted agreement or opinion.  It does not require unanimity; however, it should represent extensive, if not comprehensive support.


WHY?


~ There can be extraordinary energy in a group of impassioned people working on and realizing or achieving a common goal.  

~ True consensus building resolved conflict, and helps to build/create workable solutions.

~ Consensus building increases capacity and social capital and at times, financial capital ... and ... almost always helps discover and increase resources.

~ Conflict requires an enormous amount of energy, and usually time, that might be better used towards a common good.  It also undermines progress towards the goal.  When conflict is thoroughly processed/discussed and resolved, it can help create a better more lasting and viable solution.  


How?


~ Remember, a lifetime of good can be accomplished in areas where you agree.  You will find that over time, as you accomplish positive, mutually agreed upon goals, you will find more and more areas where there is agreement and genuine mutual cooperation.  It is often easier to find agreement in "what" than "how."  We may agree that we all want happy healthy well educated children, but may disagree on how this should happen.  Find areas and work in areas where you do agree whenever possible.  

~ Even a group of very diverse people can find common ground and work on common goals.  With effort, patience, good skills such as those taught through Crucial Conversations and Influencer, even a group of very diverse people can find commonality, work on common goals, and develop solid working mutually beneficial relationships. Look for areas of agreement.  Support and reinforce positive movement and achievement even if it isn't exactly what you would have suggested or how you would have done it.  


~ Leave egos at the door...SERIOUSLY!


~ Try to understand your own concerns, fears, assets, motivations, and strengths.  Try to understand the concerns, fears, assets, motivations, and strengths of others, both those involved with the group, project, or coalition as well as those who may be affected by your efforts together.  Never assume you completely understand yourself or others and never tell anyone that you do.  You may "hear" what they are saying.  You may repeat it back in your own words to verify, but that does not mean you understand the person or exactly what they are going through.

Be open, but slow to judge others.  There is a saying I like, "be quick to love and slow to judge."  We all need to discern behavior and provide for our own and the safety of others, but that does not mean we understand them or completely why they may be doing something.

Most of us have common and basic fears, insecurities, concerns, needs, and desires.  What is different is how we respond and search for solutions.  Build on the commonalities and really listen to come as close to understanding as possible.




 
~ UNDERSTAND THAT YOU MAY NOT KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT THE ISSUE.  EVEN WHEN YOUR PERSPECTIVE IS ABSOLUTELY CORRECT, NOT LISTENING TO......REALLY LISTENING TO, OTHER PERSPECTIVES, IS ALMOST ALWAYS A MISTAKE.   LISTEN MORE THAN YOU TALK.

 

~  UNDERSTAND WHERE OTHERS ARE COMING FROM, THEIR PERSPECTIVE AND WHY THEY THINK AND FEEL THE WAY THEY DO.

 

~ DEVELOP RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHER MEMBERS OF THE COLLABORATION.

 

~ONE “TRICK” IN MOVING A GROUP, IN WHICH YOU’RE A PARTICIPANT, TO A POINT OR POSITION YOU BELIEVE CRITICAL, AND AFTER YOU HAVE TRIED TO CONVINCE THE GROUP OF THE IMPORTANCE OF THE POSITION TO NO AVAIL, IS TO AGREE AND SUPPORT OTHERS WHOSE OPINION OR POSITION MOSTLY CLOSELY APPROACHES YOURS.  OVER TIME AS YOU CONTINUE TO DO THIS, WITHOUT VOICING OR PUSHING YOUR OPINION FURTHER, YOU MAY BE ABLE TO MOVE THE GROUP CONSENSUS/OPINION CONSIDERABLY.  A FEW WORDS OF CAUTION, THIS CAN BE SEEN AS BEING MANIPULATIVE AND THE GROUND YOU GAIN MAY NOT LAST…ALSO, BE HUMBLE ENOUGH TO UNDERSTAND THAT IT IS POSSIBLE THAT YOUR POSITION IS REALLY NOT THE BEST FOR THE GROUP AS A WHOLE.  EVEN IF YOU ARE SUCCESSFUL IN DOING THIS ONE TIME, YOU MAY HAVE USED UP ALL OF YOUR SOCIAL CAPITAL FOR THIS ONE, POSSIBLY FADING, GROUP CONSENSUS.

 

~ SET GOALS AND MOVE FORWARD.

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