Where there is no trust among parties, there can be no consensus. Consensus building is the commitment to a decision process in search of a solution that benefits the whole, instead of insisting on a position that benefits a few.
It’s frustrating to watch a group of diplomats struggle to build a consensus that takes into consideration the needs of the whole while dissidents, promoting their self-interests, do everything possible to thwart the effort.
When it comes down to it, lack of trust is at the core of the struggle. Consensus making and trust building must go hand-in-hand.
1. Consider everyone’s position as sincere.
I think treating people like you believe them is more likely to build trust than treating them as if they are lying. I would prefer to get to a relationship with others in which they know it is safe to express themselves sincerely instead of dancing around hidden agendas.
One of my Tenets of INPowered living is to treat yourself excellently, and telling your truth kindly is an aspect of that. Expect that of others as well. Encourage them to speak their truth openly and be ready to receive their truth respectfully no matter how much you disagree or how incredulous their truth might seem to you.
2. Find a way for all parties to “live long and prosper.”
Everyone needs a win. A fundamental condition of humanity is that everyone seeks to survive and live in some measure of comfort and hope. Work on making that happen for everyone, and consensus is possible.
By definition, consensus building is seeking to balance disparate needs and interests of several parties. The problem is when one party believes it is not possible to live in peace with another and is set on eliminating the threat; ergo, lack of trust.
If one party is only concerned with getting all they want all the time regardless of the needs of others, the result is competition–winning at the expense of others. Consensus is impossible in an atmosphere of fighting for your life.
Consensus is possible in an atmosphere of collaboration where all parties are committed to building a solution where everyone can live long and prosper.
3. Build in accountability.
If everyone acts in a trustworthy manner, being mutually accountable becomes part of the group dynamic. Everyone feels safe being transparent and answerable to the group.
Accountability is a natural extension of being trustworthy, not a threat to our independence. If the first two principles above are met, accountability should not be an issue.
President Reagan is famous for saying, “Trust, but verify,” in dealing with the Russians. (The phrase is actually a Russian proverb recommended to Reagan by a speechwriter, Suzanne Massie.)
The more accountable we hold ourselves to keep our word, the less urgent our need to verify among parties.