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 Don’t force consensus onto everything. As Abraham Maslow

once sa id, ” I f t he only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to

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see every problem as a nail.” Consensus decision making is

one of today’s widely used hammers. People apply it to situa­

tions that don’t deserve the time and attention needed to come

to a consensus or that can’t be solved unanimously.

For example, forty people are brought together to decide on

the color of the work area. That’s too many people. Use con­

sultation. A team meets to decide if each team member should

use a certain type of coffee mug (we’re not making this up) .

Let people choose their own. A couple asks their son to decide

his own punishment. Not always a good idea. Some decisions

need to be made by command.

• Don’t pretend that everyone gets his or her first choice. Nobody

ever said that with consensus everyone gets his or her way.

Consensus isn’t about getting your way; it’s about doing what’s

best for the family or team. It requires give and take. It demands

compromise followed by the resolve to support (in some cases)

your second or third choice-because it’s best for the group.

• No martyrs please. Healthy teams and families are good at

coming to consensus because they’re good at dialogue. They

don’t toggle from silence to violence or otherwise play games

in order to get their way. Since everyone has a say and says it

well, healthy groups don’t end up with the same people con­

stantly giving in and then playing the role of martyr. “Are you

enjoying the theme park? Don’t worry about me. I’ll just sit

here on the curb and try to think of what it would have been

like to go to Paris.”

• Don’t take turns. Decisions should be based on merit, not on

who offers up the options. Don’t take turns getting your way.

“Well, Leona, my recollection is that you gave in last time, so

I guess it’s our turn to roll over on this one.” Make the deci­

sion based on which proposal best meets the needs of the




group. This doesn’t mean that people don’t take into account

personalities or strength of desire (deferring to those who care

a great deal when you don’t care all that much, for instance) .

It simply means that the future of your family or organization

shouldn’t come down to the flip of a coin.

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