In a consensus style of decision-making, group members discuss all sides of a problem thoroughly and attempt, by considering possible compromises and exploring people’s different ‘bottom-line’ positions, to find common ground and the agreement of all to a course of action. Obviously, it is less straight-forward than the majority vote approach outlined above.

As we noted in Unit 1, this is the style of decision-making used by Commonwealth Heads of Government. It is also occasionally used in political systems such as where there are governments of national unity and parties agree to suspend voting due to its potentially divisive nature, and agree to develop consensus agreements on important decisions.

Consensus decision-making is obviously easier to do if there are fewer people involved in the discussions and negotiations. Clearly, it would be difficult to hold a national election through consensus, but many small groups can decide their leaders and their policies in this manner. (More details about how to work in a consensus style are included in
Unit 4.)