Ground Rules for Discussion and Support Groups

This is a set of simple rules for use in facilitating discussion and support groups. This particular set of rules has been used in the MSU LBGT community for many years, but is mostly common sense and politeness. These rules are behavioral, as opposed to procedural. For the latter, the standard is Robert’s Rules of Order.

  1. Arrive on time, remain for the entire session, and do not wander in and out of the session. (If the group meets for more than an hour, consider having a short planned break.)
  2. Unless you’re expecting an emergency call, please turn cell phones off. (Using laptops or other gadgets is also generally not appropriate.)
  3. This group is for discussion/support, not debate. No one is right; no one is wrong. In particular, there is no single correct view of sex, gender, social role or human sexuality. (Or whatever the topic may be.)
  4. Listen. Hear what the other person is saying. Let them finish talking. Think before you react. Realize that the same word or phrase may mean different things to different people.
  5. Talk about yourself and your own experience. You may ask questions of others, but do not challenge the validity of another’s personal experience.
  6. Keep your comments brief and to the point, so everyone has a chance to speak.
  7. Do not generalize from your experience and feelings to the experience and feelings of others. Let people speak for themselves.
  8. Do not attack, or try to hurt, or pass judgment on anyone, whether or not they are present.
  9. Treat this group session as a private conversation, do not repeat elsewhere what is said here.
  10. Stay on topic. (If the group has a specific focus.)

It’s a good idea to repeat the rules before every session of a group, even if the people present are ‘regulars’.

Perhaps the most difficult rule for most facilitators to enforce is #6. Some people really like to hear themselves talk. Because most groups meet for a relatively short time, it’s essential to enforce that rule or some people will not have a chance to participate.

Facilitating a group is hard work! Good luck!