Majority doesn't rule

Majority doesn't rule

An option might get the most votes and still not be the best choiceLike working in a kitchen with too many cooks, trying to negotiate with a lot of people who have divergent views can lead to some bad soup outcomes. The more views mixed in to spice up the negotiation, the harder it is to agree on the flavour of anything. Even determining when an agreement has been reached can be difficult.

Groups usually rely on majority rule to make decisions in such situations. But that can be a serious mistake for two reasons: first, it assigns an equal vote to every person, though all may not feel equally passionate about the outcome.

Second, it devalues (or just plain ignores) potentially important reasons behind a minority vote. Once enough people vote for one side, listening to the reasoning of those who voted the other way seems unnecessary. But without airing that information, it's harder to forge an agreement that integrates differences instead of dismissing them.

The better way to go is to require consensus. To reach a unanimous agreement, each party has to make trade-offs. While it can be time-consuming, the outcome should be a lot tastier.

Adapted from: Negotiating Rationally by Max H Bazerman and Margaret A Neale (The Free Press, 1992)

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