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Why You’re Not Ready To Live In An Intentional Community (Yet)

Published April 3, 2024
Written by Nicole Reese

Community skills are worth studying and mastering. By honing these skills, you can unlock the potential for a more fulfilling, connected, and harmonious life.

The article below was originally published on March 10, 2024 by Nicole Reese for the Terrenity Substack Blog. It is re-published here at CommunityFinders with permission.

Blog about community skills

Sometime between 11 and 12 years old, I was on crutches and my mom offered to open a heavy door for me. I stubbornly refused. Instead, I awkwardly shoved and hobbled my way through the door, determined to be no less capable than I was normally.  

Fellow westerners can probably relate to growing up with the intense need to do everything yourself so you never have to rely on anyone. Asking for favors might even feel physically painful in your body.

For us, the idea of living in a close-knit community may seem impossible because you think you’ll have to surrender some part of your independence.

Or on the flipside, allowing yourself to depend on others might trigger shame for you about not being enough.

Well, having lived in different intentional communities for most of my 20s now — from artist collectives to ecovillages to incubator houses— I know that community can be medicine for the soul, and poison for the ego.

Intentional community is a bit like romantic relationships in the sense that the hard work is so worth the payoffs and highs. Also like romantic relationships, there are skills you need to learn such as communication tactics, self-reflection, and boundaries to truly be successful in your relations.

Allow me to download some community skills to your brain right now.

Regen Tribe at the Ekumal community in Mexico
Regen Tribe at the Ekumal community in Mexico

Community as a verb

Having positive community relationships is not just for the lucky — it’s a skill that can be learned and cultivated.

Here’s why community is a skill worth honing:

  1. You experience deeper connection and feelings of “being held” even in your weakest moments.
  2. Your gremlin self is not in the driver seat, and you can take the high road even when you’d rather be petty with others.
  3. You experience interdependence and allow yourself to receive instead of always giving or doing for yourself.
  4. You actually get better at getting what you want from others and reaching resolution quicker.

How you can study the community skills that make co-living more fulfilling

1. Know what community skills are

Community-oriented values include but are not limited to:

  • Collaboration over competition
  • Empathy over projection
  • Relationship over acquaintance
  • Curiosity over conflict
  • Reciprocity over transaction
  • Individuation over sameness

You may have more suggestions for this list (drop them in the comments!), but for me these are the foundational ones.

The last one I find important because it is us being who we uniquely are within our community that makes it so vibrant and interesting. This is something I have learned on my personal journey.

Harmony is not worth sacrificing who I am, and hiding my authentic voice is fake harmony anyways.

So on the flipside, true community is not:

  • passive aggressive
  • people pleasing so you can avoid conflict
  • everyone has to agree or be the same

Beyond just living as an individual participant in community, if your intention is to start a community or become a coliving operator, check out this diagram of the 50 necessary skills for community management.

50 necessary community skills
Click the image for a full size version

2. Know your weak points

Finding the right community is a journey that starts with self-reflection.

Journal prompt questions:

  • What are your values, interests, and aspirations for living in community?
  • When were times you felt good in a community setting (i.e. athletics team, hobby club, activist group etc.)?
  • What are you afraid of others “finding out” about you?
  • What emotions does the idea of community bring up in you? Do you have past traumas around group settings?
  • Where do you struggle to relate to people? When does communication tend to break down for you and others?
  • Can you note any patterns you have with others that you want to change?

Community requires us to foster meaningful connections, practice empathy, and actively participate in shared spaces. To do that, we need to work on our own wholeness in order to show up in the collective.

The Johari Window is popular in ecovillages, because it points out the blind spots we have in our communication with others.

 Johari Window

Activities to try:

→ Try a SWOT analysis and Johari Window to map your communication and community skills. Be aware that you will have blind spots, so ask others for feedback.

→ Pick a moderately challenging relationship you want to work on improving through these community skills, then work up to your toughest relationship. Experiment with the techniques presented here to get comfortable with them.

3. Train your community skills

Here are some common tools for navigating community relationships:

  • Self-awareness
  • Deep listening
  • Empathy-driven connection
  • Boundaries
  • Crucial Conversation Tools
  • Trainings

Each of these probably deserve their own article and breakdown of how to practice them. I will sum them up so you can do your own research.

Self-Awareness

It’s not what others do, it’s how you choose to react or respond to it. Knowledge of your own triggers, projections, and insecurities goes a long way in mitigating internal conflict before it manifests externally in your relationships.

Deep Listening

Deep listening is a skill that allows individuals to truly understand one another.

Effective communication happens when you are fully present with the other. Deep listening means giving your full attention, suspending judgment, and empathetically responding to what’s being shared.

This fosters trust, open dialogue, and collaboration.

Empathy-Driven Connection

When you practice deep listening, you collect enough information to act from a place of deep empathy.

Learning empathy-driven connection starts with actively assuming that the other person has the best intentions, and learning about their unmet needs.

The premise of Non-Violent Communication is built on the idea that conflicts arise from unmet needs, and the key to resolving them lies in identifying and addressing these needs.

Boundaries

Community isn’t all about the other people. It’s about you, too.

How well you nurture yourself, attend to your needs, and know your limits affects how much you can actually show up as your best self for the collective.

Be realistic in how much you can give, and know when to say no or take personal space. At Regen Tribe we say, “It’s not a ‘no’ to you, it’s a ‘yes’ to me”

Tools to Navigate Crucial Conversations

Harmonious co-living starts with healthy communication.

I want to share a book with you that completely upgraded the way I communicate with others, especially in those conversations that made me shrivel up inside.

It was originally recommended to me by an amazing friend John, who spent something like 20 years in an intentional community called the Lighthouse in Oregon before exiting to work on the urban Blue Zones initiative.

Wow. Let me tell you. This book? It’s the book.

It armed me with practical tools that came in handy acronyms like CPR (Content, Pattern, Relationship), STATE, CURE, and AMPP. I still use these tools today in my personal and professional relationships, and occasionally reread my notes about them to refresh.

I cannot recommend this book enough.

The name of the book is “Crucial Conversations: Tools for talking when stakes are high”. Surprisingly, it mostly centers on workplace and couple situations, but is universally applicable.

Crucial Conversations: Tools for talking when stakes are high
click this image to buy this book at a not-Amazon retailer that supports local bookstores

Other books include “Community: The Structure of Belonging”, “The Art of Gathering”, “Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships”, “Turning to One Another”, and “The Art of Community: Seven Principles for Belonging”.

Books about community skills

Please comment other suggestions for books to read in the arena of communication in community. I am always open to finding new resources.

Trainings

If you’re eager to develop these skills, there’s a valuable resource library you can explore from the Foundation of Intentional Communities, IC.org.

They offer a range of courses designed to help you master the art of what they call communitarianism, but what I prefer to call ‘cooperative culture’.

Click here for a free PDF of the Cooperative Culture Handbook.

These courses cover topics like empathy-driven connection, deep listening, finding and creating communities, and conflict resolution. By investing in these courses, you’ll gain the knowledge and tools needed to thrive in shared spaces.

Some relevant courses include:

courses for community skills

We also talked about Deep Listening and Non-Violent Communication, and they offer trainings on those too.

Deep Listening Course

Deep Listening Course

Non-Violent Communication Course

Non-Violent Communication Course

IC.org is a non-profit that has been studying and living community since 1949, so they are definitely worth learning from.

Want to develop your community skills?

Community is obviously a skill worth studying and mastering. By honing these skills, you can unlock the potential for a more fulfilling, connected, and harmonious life within a community and within your own self.

Remember, it’s a journey, so pick one community skill you want to work on for the next month, and then let me know how it goes.

Leave a comment below to share with Nicole how your community skills are developing!


About Guest Author, Nicole Reese

Nicole Reese

Nicole Reese has been studying, living in, and obsessing about regenerative villages for 5 years. Educated as an anthropologist, she has a professional background in graphic design, marketing, and event production working for TEDx Talks and WELabs.

Nicole worked for her local government in native plant and wildlife habitat restoration and green waste management in the Long Beach Office of Sustainability, before leaving California to live in ecovillages in Costa Rica and Mexico.

In 2021 she founded Terrenity, an educational organization to support ecovillage seekers and builders. This project became an official collaborator of the Global Ecovillage Network. Terrenity evolved into a nonprofit model to support emerging ecovillages in Guyana and Uganda, while Nicole merged its venture projects with Regen Tribe as co-founder and COO. She now leads projects in regenerative community education and design, and collaborates on regenerative land development in Mexico and abroad.

Current highlight communities she is working on include a longevity smart village in Italy and La Ecovilla community in Costa Rica.

Nicole is a teacher in our Community Founders Circle program. Connect and learn from Nicole by enrolling today!

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1 Comment
  1. Pat

    These resources are wonderful! Truly, thank you! Being disabled (Immune Dysfunction Disease: ME/CFS) I live on a disability income which is fixed and very low by most people’s standards. I cannot afford the cost of classes at ic.org or others I’ve run across. I truly appreciate the resources you’ve provided. Thank you.

    In addition, I live in the Lake Norman area of NC, about 30 miles north of Charlotte, NC. It’s a wealthy/expensive area. I was born in the town I live in now. I have no family, but friends have become my family. But no one I know is interested in CoHousing, which I believe to be an ideal structure for intentional community living. I hope to help start or locate a community starting in our area soon. I’ve been researching for about 10 years off and on now. Thank you for any resources you may be able to offer.

    Reply
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Cynthia Tina

Hi! I’m Cynthia.

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