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Relationships naturally develop and deepen over time spent together, and they are naturally challenged with disagreements and conflicts over time. Being thoughtful about facilitating relationship growth and building the formal relational structures of consensus or consent will increase the warm and fuzzy connections, decrease conflicts and provide a strong foundation for working through conflict productively.
Relationship building begins the first time one member of your community introduces themself to another. From that moment on, it is important to reserve time for focusing on relationships. It’s important to take time to socialize, to share about your lives, and to practice communications skills like Non-Violent Communication or Imago Relationships Intentional Dialogue.
As your group grows, the complexity of your relationships will increase, and you will begin to need formal structures for making decisions. There is no need to start from scratch as many have gone before you and developed structures that work. You will need to discover the one that works for you and adapt it to your group. Adopting structures that have the support of everyone in your group is essential to success as you move forward. Clarifying these structures early, when you have fewer members, can be easier than waiting for a larger group that must come to agreement. Over time these agreements can be adjusted to meet changing needs, but having something in place can help you avoid getting tangled in messy disagreements about your process.
There are a lot of ways to learn about building strong, connected relationships in cohousing. Most communities benefit from professional support at some point in the process, and process professionals generally agree that it is wise to get support early and plan for additional training often.
As you are getting started, make use of the resources on this website – articles, blogs, and documents. You can also read through information from people who have formed communities successfully on Cohousing -L and the Cohousing US facebook page.
WebChats and professional listings on this site will help you find the process consultants you need to guide you. With specialties ranging from consensus and sociocracy to relationships and conflict support, there are skilled professionals available to help you at every stage. While many communities wait until there are obvious signs of trouble to call in help, it is much more efficient in effort and money to prevent problems with good foundational skills early on.
Cohousing conferences and other events are great opportunities to learn about everything to do with cohousing, and relationship skills are no exception. From Intensives that teach facilitation to single sessions on particular process problems, there is much to be learned from presenters and other attendees alike.
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