Musings about the Cohousing ‘Dealing with Diverse Personalities’ Retreat

“Forget Arcosanti, we’ll always have Mayer …’

These movie line maloprops from “Forget Paris” and “Casablanca” struck me when I started writing these musings.

Good memories.

Besides, I have to make some sort of movie reference since it was my “Dealing with Diverse Personalities” retreat presentation theme at Arcosanti in Arizona which wrapped in early October and sponsored by the Cohousing Association.

If you’re reading this and didn’t attend the retreat, you’ll likely note a bunch of “inside baseball” references and I don’t expect you to understand them, but maybe that bit of mystery will entice for you to a similar workshop at your community.

It was a lot of fun for me. I get personal satisfaction as a facilitator when participants learn something – at least I hope something stuck with each of them! I try to appeal to all learning styles with visual, audio and hands-on approaches.

We had 40 people from around the country attend who I hope learned a little bit more about themselves and why self-awareness is important while interacting with others.

I hope all who attended are still at least a little jazzed up with the experience. There was a lot of stuff crammed into a short weekend. I’ll send out periodic notes to our retreat group to keep the creative juices flowing and keep everyone connected, even if it’s virtually by way of email.

Coho/US presented a retreat September 30 – October 2 called “Dealing with Diverse Personalities” at Arcosanti in Arizona. Arcosanti is an interesting urban community laboratory – not easily forgotten – established in 1970 just outside of Mayer, AZ – which is a bit hidden away just past Cordiss Junction.

The unique venue proved to be an apt setting for the retreat about dealing with diverse personalities in communities.

The cafeteria food was good, but mostly because I didn’t have to cook it.

Sharing food with others is always a great chance to know people better – like whether they use their salad fork through the entire meal, if they like ice in their water or not, etc. – as well as about their lives.

A cross section of folks attended who currently live in a community, starting a community or just interested in community. Building a cohousing community is a daunting task and getting compatible people to live together in the same place is the most fulfilling, but maybe the most difficult part of the process. There were plenty of war stories and questions about cohousing.

If you’d like to see my notes from the two sessions I facilitated, you can download them from this flip book. My presentation style is a combination of lecture and interactivity. I generally don’t like power point presentations, but I think they are necessary to provide details about content as takeaways. The activities are intended to be hands-on applications of the information provided.

The upshot of the retreat was to take a different look at diverse personalities and realize that we all are diverse in our own ways, with moments of being difficult, conciliatory, positive and everything in between.

Getting to know potential residents at the superficial level is part of the process, like if they are readers, or knitters, or hikers.

But what about the nitty gritty? Is getting to know if a person is a chronic over achiever, or a control freak important?

I say, “yes” and we covered some techniques as to get a handle on the nitty gritty.

The other higher level component is for communities which consist of members of all types of personalities to agree upon norms and expectations to create an atmosphere of accountability, rather than setting up a “victim vs perpetrator” norm.

It is up to each of us, as individuals, to take responsibility for our actions. It’s then up to the community to determine the level at which its members agree to intentionally learn about one another, particularly about past experiences and histories.

I sensed that there was some push-back from this approach since it moved participants out of their comfort zones.

There were some who wanted more “practice” dealing with interpersonal conflicts between and among people who have personality traits that tend to rub people the wrong way.

The main drawback to “practicing” is, all scenarios are different, they occur at the moment, there are different people situations.

Practicing one set of variables will ALWAYS differ from what actually happens. My approach is for neighbors to better understand themselves and how they can monitor their reactions to prevent conflicts from happening in the first place.

Nonetheless, the best way to practice is through interactive simulations. To get us all up and moving, my colleagues Mike and Jeff administered a self-evaluation form that classified us into various animal types, which was an interesting exercise and gave some insight into specific personality types.

Following that, a problem solving game (involving a treasure hunt) was played with the upshot being that we all possess iterations of each of the personality types. Sometimes we play different roles in a group decision making setting.

I’ll likely be teaching a redux of the Arcosanti workshop, but entitled “Understanding Diverse Personalities” at the 2017 National Cohousing Conference. Based on how well the information was received, I’ll tweak the May content. It will be new and approved – so stay tuned.

I like smaller events like the Arcosanti retreat. I got to know a some of my cohousing colleagues better and kindled some new friendships. I’ll likely return to Arcosanti, particularly since I forgot a piece of equipment there.

What will I remember?

I’ll remember scraping the under carriage of my VW in the dark of night. I have fond memories of the Cowboy Saloon in Mayer.

Whatever your experiences, I hope they are good ones, but keep in mind – “What happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas!”