Building Consensus: How to Negotiate When Everyone Has to Agree

Trying to reach a consensus when everyone has differing opinions may seem like an impossible task. However, when you create a space where everyone can respectfully share their viewpoint, you can work toward a consensus in no time. This is an important skill for groups who need to work together to create solutions, address issues, or meet objectives. Here are some helpful strategies for building consensus within your group. 

1. Make sure everyone is included.

Inclusion is one of the most important requirements for building consensus. Everyone who is part of the discussion, should be involved in the process. No one should ever be excluded or left out. Rather, each person should be given the opportunity to share their ideas and viewpoints. 

2. Encourage participation. 

Not only should every person be included in the discussion, but every person should be encouraged to participate. Ask each person to share their opinions and suggestions so that each person has an equal opportunity to be heard. This ensures that everyone has equal stake in the final decision. 

3. Set expectations for the discussion. 

One person should be designated as the facilitator and this person should set the expectations for the group. Start by identifying your goal for the meeting. Next, make sure everyone understands that they are to listen and be respectful of everyone else’s ideas, regardless of their own opinion. Finally, make it known that everyone’s input is valued the same. No one’s input is weighed more or less than anyone else’s. Each member has the same opportunity to amend, veto, or block ideas. Everyone involved is expected to collaborate and build on each other’s ideas in order to reach a solution that will satisfy the entire group. 

4. Explain the benefits of reaching a consensus.

If everyone in the group understands the benefits of negotiating an agreement, they are more likely to buy into the idea. Some of the benefits include:

  • Better decisions that address multiple concerns
  • Better group relationships
  • Strong levels of cooperation because everyone was involved in the decision

5. Create an outline of what needs to be decided. 

You need to set clear objectives so everyone knows exactly what decisions need to be made. It’s also important to discuss why the issue is being raised in the first place and the upside of reaching a solution. This ensures that everyone is on the same page about the goals of the negotiation.