I don’t know why I’m still so resentful and disappointed in the mediator who was hired to help our cohousing. My expectations were so high. The same expectations that thought cohousing would be different since we had a conflict resolution team. I didn’t realize that most people still fear conflict and would rather avoid it or avoid other people. Many cohousing communities have lingering resentments and tension and don’t effectively use their conflict systems in place. I had no idea about that when I signed the house contract.
I heard that mediators come in and teach the community how to work together. The problem is they can only do so much. It is still up to individual members in the community to do the hard work. My community still wants to keep working with the mediator but it’s been over a year and I have yet to see the training they promised so we could do it on our own, or people taking the initiative and practicing conversations and the few tools they have shared with us.
I think I really wanted a superhero. A psychiatrist or psychotherapy superhero who can sweep in and have everyone share their feelings and be respected and then hug it out. I have also heard of healing circles and restorative justice and they sound so peaceful yet many communities are still figuring out how to use those too.
I put too much hope in the mediator. Actually it was a last ditch effort. First off, the mediator said we should reach out to others and not just those who feel the same way we do. I heard from no one. They said that makes us a caring community. I got the message – we aren’t that.
They also have been called on to have one big meeting which I found disastrous. They should have recused themselves from one issue that they didn’t know anything about and referred us to someone who does and then focus on their supposed expertise in community building.
This mediator also greatly disappointed since they let people lie (we had already told them our stories and they knew the truth but let others speak without any follow up from what they had told them earlier and let people scapegoat and pile on the minority who feels differently – I saw this twice, not just against me. Lastly, they let it known publicly that they prefer one person who is the center of the conflict over others. Most people feel mediators shouldn’t take sides. I also think cohousing shouldn’t have any sides. We are there to be one community. We gather together and solve problems and compromise.
I also think buyer should beware. There isn’t a review on yelp for mediators for cohousing. Ask around. Really ask around. One mediator let a fist fight break out and wouldn’t answer emails from real psychologists in the community. I feel they are like Disney World – you can leave compliments but they will give you the run around if you try to call in a complaint. Other mediators may have helped specific groups – ask what they did and what was the issue to see if it matches your conflict. Don’t just trust that they have published books or articles – ask other communities and find a match for what your cohousing is going through. But many communities have discovered that it is expensive to always call in a mediator so eventually you have to learn to do it yourself. That’s where I was looking for a hero – that they would fix everything when it’s painfully obvious, individuals in my cohousing weren’t willing to communicate, be vulnerable, and work through some tough issues.
I found a list of superheroes that I may call next time here: