Planning for Conflict

Pair of Kea by Bernard Spragg

So imagine this, you’ve had a meeting of your community, forming or
formed, and you could hear some tension in the discussion. Roberto was
really not happy with the discussion. At process check-in the
facilitator asked if he was upset and he said he was fine, he just
needed time to mull over the facts.

And then the next day you get a call from Evonne and she is crying.
“Roberto just emailed me and he thinks I’m trying to destroy our

Cohousing includes conflict. In cohousing there are ways that conflict
is different from the other circles we travel in. In social settings
we can avoid people who rub us the wrong way. At work we can avoid
topics that generate conflict, or, if the conflict is about the work
itself, we have a boss or human resources team with the authority to
step in and make things right—or at least closer to bearable.

In cohousing you can’t easily move out, and we can’t easily avoid the
people who seem to know how to push our buttons. In a best case
scenario, we take advantage of those facts and go ahead and engage with
the conflict. A community support or conflict resolution team can help
with that.

At Mosaic Commons Cohousing we started with a conflict resolution
team, which we later renamed community support (CS), that helps people
engage with interpersonal conflict. We have an agreement that people
will try to resolve conflicts on their own, and that if they engage
the CS team they will make an effort to come to agreement (and that
they might simply agree to disagree).

So when Evonne calls, a member of the CS teams asks: do you want to
try to resolve this conflict? If the answer is yes, we meet with her,
and contact Roberto and meet with him. We listen to the stories of
what happened, and then we help the two people get together.
Sometimes it leads to deeper understanding. Sometimes it leads to an
apology. Sometimes the same two people come back again and again.

I am leading a workshop on how to create and use a community support
team at the National Cohousing Conference. When I think about “for the
health of it” I think especially of our emotional health. The
questions that arise are not only how can we help others resolve
conflict, but also, when is it impossible to solve a conflict? What
are the reasonable boundaries for a community support team? Join me
for the pre-session to dig deeply into community support, and for
the Saturday session for how to create a conflict resolution team.

Liz Magill has been a part of Mosaic Commons Cohousing since 2002. She
moved into her new home in 2009 and has been on the community support
team all that time!

Art work is a Pair of Kea by Bernard Spragg, Creative Commons License.
I call it "butting heads".