Principles of consensus

You might be looking for some clear-cut ‘rules’ for how to work in a consensual manner. But there are no set rules for consensual decision-making. There are, however, some well-tested principles and key ingredients that everyone should understand before embarking on the process.

The main principles are:

  • Everyone who will be significantly affected by a decision should participate in the consensus process, if at all possible.
  • All positions and concerns need to be heard out fully – each individual should be able to express dissent and should respect and welcome the different viewpoints of other participants. People must be prepared to present their ‘bottom-line’ positions, the minimum terms upon which they can agree, as well as their preferred terms (rather than withholding or hiding this information, as is common in adversarial negotiations).
  • All participants need to listen actively and with an open mind to each others’ views: they should strive to understand each others’ positions even where they are not in agreement.
  • Where differences exist, participants need to think creatively together about how diverse positions and expectations can be integrated, or how some common ground can be reached.