/ community

Intentional communities = inevitable conflict?

intentional - in·ten·tion·al
adjective
done on purpose; deliberate.
"intentional gathering to celebrate life"
synonyms: deliberate, calculated, conscious, done on purpose, intended, planned, meant, considered, studied, knowing, willful, wanton, purposeful, purposive, purposed, premeditated, preplanned, thought out in advance, prearranged, preconceived, predetermined;

community - com·mu·ni·ty
noun
1.a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
"the scientific community"
synonyms: group, section, body, company, set, circle, clique, coterie, ring, band, faction; More
2.a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.
"the sense of community that an association can provide"

Most people are exposed to both unintentional and intentional communities at some point, in densely populated areas / cities one finds themselves with a host of others in unintentional communities with people who need to get along to make life pleasant. Think of the lovely human upstairs with the drumkit, or the people next door renovating their living room on your day off.

Intentional communities however are a group of people who come together for a shared purpose, it could be to play football, farm and produce food for themselves and their families, or move in together into a shared house / apartment / block of apartments / eco villages etc.

The desire to achieve shared goals and the energy to do so may vary but so will the methods on how to achieve said goals. Knowing how to approach such differences, how to address the challenges that these bring is an important part of developing good community spirit.

Important to remember:

  • Feelings are valid and should be acknowledged. Expression of feelings without blame should be encouraged - "I feel that my opinion is not valued because my concerns remain unaddressed."

  • Listen - Let the person finish talking before answering - use a talking stick if you have to

  • Recognise signs of tiredness and stop immediately - there is no point in continuing when energy and concentration is low, tired people may be more irritable than usual

  • Stop the meeting if emotions start to run high and a civil, respectful conversation is no longer possible

  • Take minutes that people can read, edit and agree to after the meeting

  • Make sure to address basic needs before / during the meeting, a meeting at lunch time should include food, people can hardly be expected to be productive on an empty stomach - asking members to bring food to share at meetings is a good way to keep the hunger pangs down and mood light

  • Transparency - have a public document with assigned tasks available for people to revisit

  • Accept that sometimes it will not be possible to find consensus & that trying to force a change of conviction will only set distance between people - focus on finding a compromise or accept that whatever is being discussed is not going to happen

  • Be open to change, life is full of unexpected twists and turns and this will be no different

  • Be self aware, if you are stressed or tired and this impedes good relations with others then take some time out to take care of yourself. An empty fuel can won't be able to fill any car tanks.

  • It is ok to say, I am feeling tired and need a break. The group should be able to support resting time

  • Be compassionate with people in the group, being patient and caring for each other is a good basis for community spirit to be resilient

  • Words cannot be unsaid - like thrown stones, so think twice before lashing out, just like a stone it will sure bruise if not break a relationship

  • Forgive. When someone apologizes for their mistake take it as an opportunity to renew the relationship and forgive them, remember to err is human.

  • Take space, if it has all gone south take a few days to think about what has happened and how it made you feel, try to see the situation from the other persons perspective and identify whether you may have unintentionally contributed to the aggravation of the situation.

  • Be ready to apologize, you will make mistakes and hurt people. apologizing brings the relationship close again and the damage will heal with time

  • Schedule meetings at a time during the day when people have high energy levels, avoiding nap times and bedtimes where possible. Low energy = high irritability

  • Give appropriate notice - last minute meetings may leave people feeling unprepared and therefore not able to contribute to the best of their abilities

  • Temperature and comfort, make sure the room is at a comfortable temperature and contains nice comfy seating especially if the meeting is expected to be longer than 30 min.

  • Set a time limit before the meeting, if there are many items on the agenda prioritize the urgent items first and have a back up plan for the items that won't be covered, either set up the next meeting day or find some other way of communication.

Aimee Fenech

Aimee Fenech

Lifelong student, occasional nomad, eternal dreamer and writer, permaculture enthusiast, an escaped financial services professional aspiring to a long, healthy and happy life.

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