Photo Credit: Ahmed Carter,

You have a viewpoint based on your perception of the world at that time – your culture, personality, and experiences.  The advantage of having a group discussion or consultation is that the issue can be seen from more points of view than you have.

Imagine you’re leading a meeting for a business or a family. A decision must be made that will lead to a specific direction. How do you gather enough critical information to produce a wise decision that’s better than what any single person would have created? Consultation or discussion?

You need to make a decision. Now!

But how?


The police were threatening to close the shelter for homeless families. A baby had suddenly stopped breathing that afternoon. Between screams, the mother explained to EMTs and police that she’d stopped taking cocaine as soon as she knew she was pregnant but after the baby had been born, she hadn’t been able to resist. She’d breastfed because she spent the money for formula on drugs.

The private, independent shelter had to make a new drug policy immediately or risk being shut down. The police were asking where the mother had bought the drugs and where she had taken them. Had she brought them inside? Were dealers living in the shelter? Were other children at risk?

The heads of the four departments all had to agree on a plan that night. Edgar was head of education and could be counted on to do what had been successful before in the cultures that comprised their population. Frank would come armed with all the statistics, which worked well for his security department, and Barney, head of community relations, always brought his keen sense of analysis to the table.


The three men arrived within minutes of the call for the emergency meeting. Abigail ordered pizza so hunger wouldn’t interfere with the thought process. Delia arrived 10 minutes later, carrying her overstuffed bag from the counseling programs. She sat down, put her elbows on the table and said, “I knew that woman would be trouble and I told you!”

Annoyed, Frank contradicted her, “You had a dream about her and your dream’s not a usable fact.”

Delia retorted, “When I dreamed we would get fifteen new families last week and we should prepare, how many new clients did we get?”

Edgar interrupted. “The pattern in all the other shelters is that this time of year, you get a higher influx near the end of the month. What happened was predictable, so don’t act as if you are the oracle for this business.”

Abigail sighed, “I ordered pizza because this might be a long meeting unless we focus on what we need to do. I want to hear everybody’s viewpoint.”


“It won’t be a long meeting at all if we just act on the facts. Fear works! Drugs make death and disaster and these mothers and fathers are homeless for a reason. We can search each apartment tonight and have thorough, random searches three times each week. Parents with drugs can go back to the street.” Frank was definite. His family had been in law enforcement for two generations. “That policy will clear this up.”

The others were shaking their heads. Abigail was trying not to show her stress. “Let’s start with the facts and use them to make something still close to our dream. We all came here believing that homeless people needed safety, homes, social and mental health services, and education. How can we make this a welcoming place for positive change and deal with these facts? We need a policy and a plan we all agree on.”

Delia said, “Well this is my viewpoint and I know I’m right. These people need more connection to the universal. If they know their real power, they won’t be attracted to the fake power in drugs. Barney,  after you find them more places to join that are filled with spirituality, this will disappear by itself.”

“Wake up, Dee! Listen to facts and hear what we need to do! Nobody wants these people anywhere near them.” Barney was mad. “They’ll come here to pray and sing, but nobody wants to invite them for dinner or for worship. And meditation is not a drug policy. We need to work with the police and the politicians to find out who in the community is selling drugs to our people and make it dangerous for them to do it again. Frank nodded vigorously.


Edgar was looking in his phone. “I”ll call three other shelters to find out what is usually done in these cases. We’ll know by the end of the week.”

Abigail got loud. “End of the week? How about tomorrow? Most of those places are hellholes and I don’t care what worked for them. Frank, why didn’t we have a plan before? Delia, What data do you have that spirituality has kept babies from breast milk drug overdoses? The pizza is here and I’m going to get it. Get your viewpoints lined up with our goals. Barney, pick up the marker. When I get back, you better have something written on this whiteboard that will keep the police from shutting us down!”


One problem with this discussion is that each one believes he or she is the only one who’s right. Each one is seeing only one aspect of multifaceted truth. If they were consulting, they would

  1. Take a moment to gather their thoughts
  2. Carefully define the problem
  3. Then find ways each person’s input could address some aspect of a solution.

If they work together, accepting each viewpoint as valid, they might create a solution better than one based on any single understanding of their reality.

If you want help practicing consultation, contact me at [email protected] or

Photo Credit: Ahmed Carter,