Just Say No... Just Say Yes...
I have a strong preference for the majoritarian method. It is criticised as a method in which a majority always dominates a minority. This overlooks the likelihood that the majority and minority in most groups shifts and changes from proposal to proposal such that nobody is always one or the other. It also opens consensus method to the response that in practice it is really "the rule of the most stubborn minority".
Under consensus method a decision cannot be made till everyone agrees to a proposal and the proposal must be altered and altered till such time as it wins unanimous support. One would hope that everyone involved in such a process was in a mood to compromise but this cannot be assumed or assured. It is all too likely that those with the greatest commitment to a given course of action will always dominate in such circumstances.
The specific actions undertaken in the two processes are worth picturing. In a majoritarian meeting there is debate followed by a vote (usually) by show-of-hands. The 'yays' hands rise. Then the 'nays' hands rise. Then the hands of those abstaining rise. Everyone can see what everyone thinks. Everyone is expected to have personally shown assent or dissent. Even those who have been silent during debate now must take some active role and express an opinion. In majoritarian method everyone is asked to say yes or no. Everyone accepts the decision but the mistake of assuming everyone is happy is never made.
In consensus however one is simply asked "is there any dissent". Debate ends once nobody responds. Dissent may have evaporated because everyone is content but it may also have ceased because everyone is tired and wants to go home. Under the consensus method silence is consent and everyone is assumed to be content.
On experiencing consensus method I quickly decided I preferred majoritarian processes on grounds of speed and efficiency. However I now think there is more behind my preferences than that and these lie in my feelings on inter-personal relations.
Translate these two methods to everyday informal life circumstances. We have a natural tendency to want to mutely go along with things. If a salesperson proffers a pamphlet at us as we walk past in the street then we are inclined to take it even if we lack any interest in the product. It takes effort to resist even this mild form of pressure and I would hazard a guess that the majority of such pamphlets are taken by shoppers only to be binned seconds later.
Most of us want to minimise contention and we want to be polite. We also are inclined to bend to those who seem surer of things than we feel we ourselves are. If we seem indecisive then others will jump in and make decisions for us. In this way we can be swept along in a cascade of propositions and find that we never truly participated in that decision-making process. It can happen among friends and relations and produce all sorts of simmering issues.
With all this in mind I think it is worth saying this:
It is better to ask than to assume.
Also: It is better to say "yes" or "no" than to go "m-hmmm..."