One of the astonishing learnings in such large group experiences is the incredibly complex ramifications of any decision. In ordinary life, a course of action is ordered by authority, and unless it outrages us, we tend to obey the order, follow the rule. Although people may mutter, it appears that, in general, everyone accepts the regulations. All the complex reactions are hidden.
But in a (person-centered) workshop community, where persons feel a sense of their own worth and a freedom to express themselves, the complexities become evident. Someone in the workshop proposes a way of dividing into small groups: “Let’s draw numbered lots. Then, all the “ones” will constitute a group, all the “twos” another, and so on.” It is hard to imagine the variety of responses. Reasons are given for this idea. Points are raised against it. Slight variations are offered. Exceptions are suggested. One discovers that there are not one or two, but dozens of personal reactions to this seemingly simple plan. Often the group seems on the verge of consensus, when one more member speaks up, “But I don’t like this because it doesn’t fit me.”
Such a process can be seen as – and often is – a cumbersome, complicated, irritating, frustrating way of arriving at a decision. After all, does the wish of everyone have to be considered? And the silent answer of the group is that, yes, every person is of worth, every person’s views and feelings have a right to be considered. When one observes this process at work, its awesome nature becomes increasingly apparent. The desires of every participant are taken into account, so that no one feels left out. Slowly, beautifully, painstakingly, a decision is crafted to take care of each person. A solution is reached by a process that considers each individual’s contribution – respecting it, weighing it, and incorporating it into the final plan. The sagacity of the group is extraordinary.
The process seems slow, and participants complain about “the time we are wasting.” But the larger wisdom of the group recognizes the value of the process, since it is continually knitting together a community in which every soft voice, every subtle feeling has its respected place.
Carl R. Rogers: A Way of Being. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1980), p195-196.