Guidelines for consensus building
- Be respectful and trust each other. Don’t be afraid to express your ideas and opinions.
- Don’t assume that someone must win and someone must lose. Look for the most acceptable solution for everyone.
- Think before you speak, listen before you object. Listen to others’ reactions, and consider them carefully before pressing your point.
- Remember that the ideal behind consensus is empowering versus overpowering, agreement versus majorities/minorities.
What is consensus decision making?
Consensus is a decisionmaking process that works creatively to include all the people making the decision.
Instead of simply voting for an item, and letting the majority of the group get their way, the group is
committed to finding solutions that everyone can live with. This ensures that everyone’s opinions, ideas and
reservations are taken into account. But consensus is more than just a compromise. It is a process that can
result in surprising and creative solutions often better than the original suggestions.
At the heart of consensus is a respectful dialogue between equals, helping groups to work together to meet both the individuals’ and the group’s needs. It’s about how to work with each other rather than “for” or
“against” each other. Making decisions by consensus is based on trust and openness – this means learning to openly express both our desires (what we’d like to see happening), and our needs (what we have to see happen in order to be able to support a decision). If everyone is able to trust each other and talk openly then the group will have the information it requires to take everyone’s positions into account and to come up with a solution that everyone can support.
It may take time to learn how to distinguish between our wants and needs: after all most of us are more used to decisionmaking where one wins and the other loses. In this kind of adversarial decision making we are often forced to take up a strategic
position of presenting our desires as needs, allowing us to concede points without giving up any significant ground.