meetings vs slack

where and how we make decisions

Something I love about living at The Village is that the people here care a lot about building a community and a home together. We’re constantly improving our spaces and thinking about systems. When conflict arises, as it inevitably does, we voice our feelings and work through things together. One side effect of this is we often have A LOT to talk about.

A lot of community living is learning to communicate with each other and make decisions in ways that feel good, and I could write literally dozens of blog posts on this topic. Today I’m specifically diving into the question: when do we talk about things on Slack and when do we bring them up in meetings? This is a constant dance that we navigate, and every community will have its own balance depending on their specific needs and goals. This post will be exploring various things I consider when deciding where to start a discussion or if it'd be better to move an existing discussion to a different modality.

slack → meeting: reduce time spent on decision-making

On Slack, there’s infinite space for decision-making. It can feel like a firehose, constantly spewing new messages that need attention. Meetings happen for a certain amount of time at a fixed frequency (e.g. 1.5 hours, every two weeks). There’s a limited amount of decision-making that can happen in this limited amount of time. Shifting decision-making to house meetings is a great way to force prioritization of conversations. For people that are busy but still want to participate in decision-making, reserving important decisions for meeting-time can be very helpful.

For this reason, The Village has experimented with having very minimal decision-making on Slack, though we’ve brought some decision-making back to Slack due to various other factors described below.

meeting → slack: be able to make a type of decision more quickly

Decisions made at meetings can only happen at the cadence of meetings (which for many houses is every two weeks), and Slack can allow decisions to be made sooner than that. Quicker timelines are helpful for time-sensitive decisions, like buying a rug from Facebook Marketplace before someone else does, or finding a short-term subletter for an upcoming trip. Quick decisions also allow people to follow through with ideas while they’re still excited about them. When I notice a category of decision where it might be helpful to move faster, I suggest finding a way to make those decisions on Slack.

slack → meeting: include everyone’s perspective

Some decisions are best made with everyone’s perspective taken into account, and it's harder to guarantee people's attention on Slack than in a meeting. Many houses require consensus for large financial decisions and choosing new housemates. If something needs a consensus vote (or for everyone’s opinion to be heard before making a decision) waiting for a meeting can be more time-efficient, since everyone can be present for voting at the same time. Sometimes at The Village we’ll do a go-around where everyone speaks for a minute or two about how they feel about the topic being discussed, so that we can consider everyone’s perspective before making a decision.

meeting → slack: give people more time to think about something

A caveat to the previous point -- people don’t always have opinions formed the moment a discussion topic is brought up in a meeting, and especially when a meeting agenda is long it can feel hard to have the time and space to figure out how one feels. Just because everyone is in the room doesn’t mean that everyone’s perspective is being heard.

Bringing up something on Slack before a meeting is a great way to give people time to think about their feelings before sharing them. Sharing thoughts asynchronously on Slack can also give people more time to think about each other’s opinions before responding to them, and lets them share thoughts at a time in their week when they feel more ready to share.

slack → meeting: when messages get emotional or unproductive

In-person conversations help people see each other and interpret emotional cues, and sometimes people are more willing to say something hurtful over text than they would in person. There are a handful of situations where I suggest moving a Slack conversation to in-person or a meeting: many messages in rapid succession, people seeming stressed or annoyed, difficulty reaching shared understanding, too much detail or nuance to work through over short texts.

meeting → slack: when not everyone wants to contribute their perspective

Sometimes only a few people care about something. Posting a proposal on Slack is a great way to figure out who cares about it. Those who care about it can talk about it more (maybe over Slack, maybe in person or in a working group) and those who don’t care about it get to spend very little time thinking about it. When I’m in a meeting and notice only a few people seem invested in a decision, I try to offer that they chat outside of the meeting to figure it out amongst themselves.

other mediums for conversations

Of course, decision-making conversations can happen in places other than house meetings and Slack. I focused on those two in this post for simplicity, but want to share two other helpful mediums for discussion:

issues that can arise regardless of where decisions are made

feeling rushed

It’s hard to have collaborative and compassionate decision-making when people feel rushed. I’ve heard people say Slack feels rushed, because decisions can be made faster and they feel like they need to be online regularly to make sure they share opinions before something happens that they don’t like. Meetings can also feel rushed when there’s a desire to not spend too long on any particular topic. Regardless of the medium used for discussions, how can we help people feel like they have time to have their voice heard on things that are important to them?

Some strategies I’ve seen include (1) when sharing a proposal, adding a timeline for when the proposal will be moved forward if no objections are heard yet (2) people saying that they want to contribute feedback but need until a specified future date to be able to share.

when people don’t speak up

Some people usually talk more than others, both on Slack and in meetings. Hopefully those who care the most about a topic speak the most during discussion, but that’s not always the case! Regardless of the medium used for discussions, it can be helpful to think about “what would help us prioritize the voices of the people who care most about this?” such as starting with a sentiment check and hearing from those who feel most strongly. Some people might be more comfortable sharing thoughts on Slack and some might be more comfortable in meetings, so having a mix of modes is also a way to have more diverse voices represented.


In the end, where and how decisions are best made depends a lot on the specific community and the preferences of the people in it. How often do decisions need to get made? How often, and for what things, do people want to contribute input? How much time do people want to think about something before speaking up? Do people feel more comfortable communicating over text or speaking up in an in-person group? And the answers to these questions can change over time as a house and its needs evolve.

Instead of having hard and fast rules, I like to think back to three goals I have around communication on house issues:

  1. Housemates contribute thoughts on issues they care about.
  2. Conversations are collaborative and reach mutual understanding.
  3. The quantity and quality of decision-making conversations feel manageable for housemates to engage with.

I feel lucky to live with many people who share these goals and who work together to try to achieve them. It’s always an ongoing process, and I hope that some of the things we’ve learned so far in our journey can help other communities in their journeys as well.