Sample Ground Rules for the Mediation Process

Although mediation is generally an informal process, mediators usually specify guidelines and rules of conduct towards facilitating fruitful and productive communication. It is important to have ground rules because they define the purpose of the mediation process at hand and shape how discussions will be conducted. By establishing rules about the behaviour of concerned parties and how decisions will be reached, parties can ensure a smooth execution of the dispute resolution process.

Here is a list of ground rules that can be adapted by mediators to protect disputing parties and reduce the chances of unnecessary escalation:

1. We will work to reach the fairest and most positive agreement for both of us.

2. We will practise active listening and sincerely seek to understand each other’s interests and concerns.

3. We will attack the problems and issues at hand. We will not attack each other.

4. We agree to follow the instructions of the mediator.

5. We agree to take turns speaking; we won’t interrupt each other.

6. We will genuinely seek to avoid unproductive arguments, needless narration or venting.

7. We will not take hard positions. We’ll simply express ourselves in terms of our personal needs, interests and desired outcomes.

8. We will not attack, blame or spite each other. We’ll only ask questions to gain clarity and understanding

9. We agree to focus on the future we intend to create. We will not dwell on issues that erupted in the past.

10. We agree to respect each party’s opinion even if we don’t agree with it.

11. We will speak up if we are not satisfied with the mediation process.

12. We agree to make adjustments in our behaviour if required.

The essence of establishing ground rules is to ensure that each party is treated fairly and equally. It helps people to hold themselves responsible to normal rules of conduct which they would ordinarily consider fair but are likely to neglect in a conflict situation. In the course of settling the dispute, parties may have cause to add a new rule or change an existing one. When such situation arises, the proposed changes must be approved by all concerned parties before adoption.

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