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Holding a Good Vote

• Weigh the consequences. Voting by its very nature creates

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winners and losers. So you have to be careful. You should only

take a vote when you know that the losers don’t really care all

that much. Otherwise you may be fighting the battle for a long

time after the decision has been made. With children, for

example, have them carefully consider if they’re okay with los­

ing before they agree to have you take a poll.

• Know when to vote. When matters aren’t all that weighty, there

are many good choices to select from, and people care about

not taking too much time, then take a vote. It’s the kind of thing

you do to reduce lengthy lists. Vote to reduce the list of twenty

items to five. Then use consensus to select from the five.




• Don’t cop out with a vote. When everyone cares a great deal

about an issue and people are having trouble coming to a

choice, don’t stop and call for a vote. Votes should never replace

patient analysis and healthy dialogue. If you find yourself say­

ing, “All right, we’ll never agree so let’s vote,” you’re copping


Surviving the Joys of Consensus

Imagine you’re working with six people, all housed in a tight

space. Things are sailing along smoothly until one day when a

new employee shows up with a huge boom box-it looks like a

storage shed with a handle on top. It has its own set of wheels.

Thirty seconds later, the pulsing sounds of a band called Decibel

Death fill your area. You’re not happy. You fear your head will

explode. How might you handle this?

Or how about this challenge? How do you decide the temper­

ature of the room you share?

Or how about this one? Where does the entire family go on


Or if you want to take on a real corker-who performs the

most distasteful jobs at home and at work?

These are the kinds of decisions where neither consultation nor

command tools work very well. Everyone is affected, everyone

cares, and there are several options-not equally liked. This kind

of crucial conversation calls for consensus. Everyone meets, hon­

estly and openly discusses the choices, comes up with a variety of

ideas, and jointly makes a decision that each person agrees to sup­

port. As is the case with all crucial conversations, this is not an

easy process and is routinely handled poorly. Here are some hints

for avoiding common mistakes .

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