At the beginning of mediation, some mediators specify ground rules for the process. Other mediators encourage participants to identify their own guidelines or ground rules. Another mediator approach is to wait and see if communication problems develop, and if so, perhaps develop some ground rules at that time.
Regardless of the approach taken, the aim is to facilitate (and perhaps require) respectful and productive communication. Even if not set out as rules, it’s helpful to be aware of guidelines for participants that normally lead to a satisfying and effective mediation process.
Here are some mediation ground rules or guidelines that have generally been found to be useful:
1. Take turns speaking and to try to not interrupt each other.
2. Speak for yourself only.
3. Call each other by first names (not “he” or “she” or worse).
4. Avoid dwelling on things that did not work in the past; focus instead on the future you want to create.
5. Refrain from unproductive arguing, venting and story-telling.
6. Try to avoid establishing and expressing rigid positions.
7. Instead communicate in terms of needs and desired outcomes.
8. Listen respectfully when the other speaks.
9. Sincerely try to understand the other’s needs, interests and concerns.
10. Ask questions of each other for the purposes of gaining clarity (not as attacks).
11. Recognize that each person is entitled to their own perspective, even if you don’t agree with it.
12. Talk to each other (rather than to the mediator) when making an attempt to convince.
13. Speak up if something is not working for you in the mediation or you have an idea for a better approach.
14. Request a break if you think it would be helpful.
15. Speak up if you feel the mediator is not being impartial and neutral.