Like Johnnie Moore I don’t generally set ground rules when I facilitate a meeting. For most meetings, it’s demeaning and it tends to enforce the authority of the facilitator to act as a judge rather than as a host for the conversation.
The odd time there are meetings in which the tension is explosive and if necessary I do this simple exercise with a group:
1. Invite each person to reflect on these two questions:
- How do you want to be spoken to by others in this meeting?
- How do you want others to listen to you in this meeting?
2. Break into groups to compare these relfections and bring one or two as operating principles back to the whole.
Yes, it’s the Golden Rule. What I want for myself, I should also want for others. It’s a useful exercise for focusing us on mindful conversation, while at the same time giving the group a quick thing to work on together, and not being prescriptive in our rules of behaviour. By definition, the ground rules are already owned.
(Incidentally, the most common answers to these questions are things like “don’t shout at me, don’t interrupt me, hear what I am saying, don’t blame me. Of course it is easier to want these things than to do these things, but the group can find more skillfulness if these principles are made explicit.)