« Personal effectiveness requires discipline and learning | Main | Focus on the idea, not the person who presents it »

Ground rules for civil discussions

We’ll operate in an atmosphere of trust, of mutual respect to feel safe to express opinions.
1. Turn cell phones off or at maximum, to vibrate; if you must answer, do so outside this room.
2. Discuss ideas and issues, not people.
3. Disagree without being disagreeable.
4. Listen to the person speaking and focus on his or her comments.
5. Speak for yourself, not others.
6. Encourage others to contribute to the discussion.
7. Try to understand the others, as much as you hope they try to understand you.
8. Stay focused on the topic, although we’ll meander in various directions.
9. Avoid repetition.

I don’t like rules much. The first civility workshops I hosted taught me there was a need for ground rules. People were naming names. I was naïve and not assertive enough then to stop the barrage.

I reformed, searched for ground rules others used and worked to get a short list that would set a civil tone. They’ve worked well now for two workshops and a retreat. People seem very comfortable when they understand everyone is going to abide by common rules.

If you need ground rules for discussions, please feel free to use these or adapt them. At least consider the need for ground rules….even if you don’t like rules much.