<< Back

Friendly Consensus: Speak, Listen, Unite

Chapter 1: Expressing Beliefs and Values

What is Consensus?

Consensus is a way to make decisions without voting. The group works together to agree on the best decision that everyone can support.

It is general agreement, mutual understanding, and a meeting of the minds.

Consensus is a coming together of the sense of the group.

Why Use Consensus?

  1. It allows you to be open and honest with the people with whom you make any kind of decision. This can include your family, your friends, your classmates, or the people at work.
  2. Consensus helps you to get along with everyone else.
  3. Groups that make decisions by consensus are committed to their plans and do a better job of making them happen. Use it when there's a problem, question or task that needs everyone's full support.
  4. Consensus helps everyone be more respectful and understanding toward others.
  5. It serves the needs of the individual as well as the group.
  6. Consensus helps people reach the truth and make good, sound decisions.
  7. It works. Traditional cultures in Africa and the Americas have successfully used consensus. Today Quakers continue their centuries-old practice of making decisions by consensus in their meetings, schools, colleges, and services organizations. In addition, an increasing number of businesses and organizations have begun to use consensus.

Friendly Consensus Rules

How To Use Consensus?

Just like basketball, Monopoly or driving a car, Friendly Consensus has rules that everyone must follow. The following six "rules" make Friendly Consensus work.

  1. Express your beliefs and ideas clearly and honestly. Believe that you have just as much right to express yourself as everyone else. Remain confident and stand behind your ideas. You might just be the one that comes up with the idea that everyone likes. Drawing - Stand Behind Your Ideas
  2. Encourage others to express their ideas. Listen with respect to each person's perspective or opinion even though it may be different from yours. Everyone is allowed to have a different opinion. If everyone thought and acted the same, no new inventions or ideas would be developed.
  3. Listen carefully to all ideas. Sometimes the best ideas come from the quietest person. Separate the person from what they say it is important not to put down an idea just because of the source. Allow a time of silence between speakers to reflect on the ideas.
  4. Work with your team and team leader for the best solution. While it is always important to stand behind your ideas, it is also important to realize that everyone is working together to reach the best decision for the group. Even though your idea or opinion may be valid, it may not be something that will benefit the group. You should ask yourself: Are my thoughts important to the group process? Has someone already voiced them? How can I say them concisely? Drawing - Separate Me From What I Say
  5. Summarize accurately what you hear. Always keep in mind that there will be a solution to the problem or question that you and your group are discussing. With perseverance, the solution that is best for the group will come.
  6. Work creatively to deal with conflict. Be committed to keeping the tension level among group members to a minimum. If everyone practices the first five "rules," everyone will be able to better deal with conflicts as they arise. Drawing - Bring People Together

What Happens When Someone Doesn't Go by the "Rules"?

As you already know, Friendly Consensus is a process that is designed to bring people together and to aid in the creation of solutions that appeal to all members of the group. However, there are times when conflict arises and people become very unhappy and sometimes even unwilling to remain with the group anymore. Avoiding this type of conflict is important for all who are in the group. Here are a few things that members can do to keep the group running smoothly.

Drawing - No Waving Be sure to be an "active listener." This means that everyone should listen to the key points. Be respectful to those who are speaking. Side conversations can be very distracting and may make those people who are addressing the group feel self-conscious and unwilling to talk again. Try making a note of your thoughts instead of telling them to your neighbor. Also, waving your hand to speak next is disruptive.

Give time and silence or a "time-out" between each speaker. This allows everyone a chance to think about what was just said. People who disagreed with the point need this time-out to reflect on what has been said. They may decide that it is not necessary to challenge the point after they have thought about it.

A Quick Summary of Consensus "Rules"

Drawing - Cooling Off

Express Yourself

Banner of Personal Values

Instructions: Work on your own to create a personal banner that you can use to tell others about your values, strengths, goals and motto.

  1. Create four pictures, symbols or words that represent your most important values or beliefs.
  2. Show in words or pictures three things you do well and consider to be your strengths.
  3. Display three goals you have.
  4. Write a personal motto by which you try to live.

Journal Query

  1. How can I put my personal motto into practice? What can I do today to act on my values?
  2. When I express my beliefs honestly to others, I . . .

Copyright Earlham Press - Used by permission

<< Back