Ground Rules for Safe Communication

Interpersonal environments must be trusting and safe before Productive Dialogue can occur.  Before beginning a conversation, discuss what doesn’t feel safe and make contracts where needed to respect each other’s vulnerabilities.  The following ground rules are offered as guides to help you avert potentially explosive or unsafe situations.  Review them together, and edit them as necessary to meet the needs of your relationship. 

1.  The physical environment is safe (no aggressive physical contact, and at a location both agree feels safe).

2.  The emotional environment is safe (no name calling, real or implied threats, “below the belt” remarks, or other means of intimidation). 

3.  Time-outs may be called if emotions flare out of control.  Agree to resume the conversation later, at an agreed upon time, when you both calm down.

4.  It is fair to bring up a topic at any time, just as it is fair to say, “this is not a good time.”  In this event, the person who declines should take     responsibility for bringing up the conversation at a preferred time, within 24 hours.   

5.  No interrupting while your partner is speaking.

6.  No passive withdrawing or walking away during a discussion without a promise to resume at a specified time.

7.  When discussing a sensitive issue or problem, give one another your undivided attention.  There should be no other distractions or diversions (TV, children, newspaper, etc.).

8.  No out-of-control emotional displays in front of children or in public.

9.  Disagreements that remain unresolved at the end of a conversation should be resumed as needed until both of you are satisfied.

10. Your word is reliable (i.e. say what you mean and mean what you say).