One thing that always strikes me when I experience or listen to people attempting to make joint decisions is that each person's perspective and choice is often presented as an either/or alternative. Everyone then proceeds to make a case for whatever it is that they are advocating, hoping to convince the other person(s) of the wisdom of their preference. Another version of that is when one person presents an idea or proposal and the other person(s) vetoes it based on their concerns about it — often very valid ones.

The beauty of looking at joint decisions from the point of view of consensus decision-making is that the approach is to create a solution that honors considerations and concerns any person might have and build into the final outcome ways of effectively handling those concerns. In this way, concerns become ways to improve the original proposal, rather than reasons to block a solution. Often, incorporating legitimate concerns involves creativity and thinking "outside the box" to come up with solutions that would not have otherwise been imagined. Far from “settling” for something mediocre to please everyone, true consensus is a process of expanding to incorporate different viewpoints and the value each holds.

Moreover, it's important to discuss the deeper issues underlying the concern — rather than the concern being expressed as a potential solution. If I think something is too expensive, is that because I want the money to be spent on something else that I consider a priority? If that priority could get handled another way, would that satisfy my concern? If I object to your watching so many sports events, is the concern actually for more quality time together? Can we create both individual time and commit to time together that satisfies us both? If it's the noise of the TV being on bothers you, can that be solved with headsets rather than my giving up cherished recreation? If you don’t want to go out for a meal because you are concerned with eating healthy food, are you willing to go if we find one that serves organic?

An example of this more productive strategy is also outlined in the wonderful little book called "Getting to Yes" (Fisher, Ury, Patton, 2011). They talk about two people fighting for an orange, when in fact one person needs juice and the other the rind, and, once those underlying concerns are revealed, there is an obvious solution and no conflict.

Action Step:
Remember the metaphor of the orange and see if you can use that approach when dealing with joint decisions that look like but don't have to be "conflicts". Practice finding creative solutions that encompass the needs and concerns of all involved to create win-win situations.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Connie Stomper earned a masters degree and doctorate in education and psychology from Columbia University in New York.
An ordained minister for over 20 years, she graduated from Peace Theological Seminary in Los Angeles with a masters and doctoral degree in Spiritual Science. The research on self and others that Connie did in this extraordinary program became the basis of the workshops, counseling and writings described on the Soul Musings site.

Her commitment to peace on the planet has taken her on journeys to nearly 30 countries around the world, traveling with fellow ministers focusing on individual and world peace. This interest in peace on the planet has motivated her involvement with organizations such as The Institute for Individual and World Peace and The Community Planet Foundation whose training in consciousness of Community and consensus decision-making she co-created.

Dr, Stomper has been a consultant, trainer, college teacher, and curriculum developer in a variety of organizational and academic settings. She has created trainings in areas such as team building, customer service, listening skills, problem solving, and is certified in the Meyers-Briggs personality profile and in dispute resolution.

Based on working with her own health issues, Connie has studied many forms of alternative medicine and counsels in the spiritual opportunities in dealing with health challenges. Having done care-taking with her mother for several years and having experienced a joyful shared death experience when her mom passed into spirit, Connie's counseling counseling and writing also addresses care-taking and end of life process.