13 Ground Rules for Conflict Resolution

Vegas Rule

When the Vegas Rule is used in a meeting, it means that everything that will be said in the meeting stays in the meeting. As you may guess, this comes from the original saying "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas".

"Disagree without being disagreeable"

"Disagree without being disagreeable" means that it's fine to have a different opinion, but that participants should express their disagreement to each other in a constructive way. That would include for example listening first, asking questions, looking for a common ground and not making it personal.

"Seek first to understand, not to be understood"

Normally, we do this in reverse. Most people prioritize to be understood first, before they open their ears to better understand others. This can have a negative impact on the meeting. Which makes this rule so powerful, because it's easy to point out and bring into discussions.

"Tackle problems, not people"

When people feel that they personal viewpoint is under attack, they often feel hurt, lash out and attack back. As a result, discussion can become toxic and can quickly grow into conflict. "Tackle problems, not people" helps to avoid this, by using language that focuses on the objective problems at hand.

Chatham House Rule

The Chatham House Rule is an alternative to the Vegas rule. Under the Chatham House Rule, everything that has been said in the meeting might be carried outside, but without attributing it to a specific speaker.

"Share the air"

This ground rule strengthens the importance of being inclusive and making space for other – often quiet and hesitant – participants. It's everyone's responsibility, to find ways that everyone can contribute their ideas and thoughts to the meeting.

"Discuss undiscussable issues"

Undiscussable issues are those issues that are on everyones mind, but no one is able to bring them forwards. Most often because they are afraid of the consequences or think the context isn't the right one to address the issue. "Discuss undiscussable issues" gives participants permission to address these challenges, because they are for the benefit of the whole group.

"Agree to disagree"

"Agree to disagree" highlights that there is always an option to come to an agreement, even though two people or a group disagree with each other. How? Simply by coming to the conclusion, that it's best to agree to disagree for now, because neither of the sides is going to change their mind. After this agreement, the group can stop arguing and move on.

Windshield Rule

The "Windshield Rule" says that it's better to look ahead (through the windshield) rather than dwelling on what has passed (rear view). It's a great meeting rule to put the group into a forward-looking mindset.

"Explore interests, not positions"

It's often difficult to reach an agreement in a meeting because some people are often dogmatic about their position. But if participants mutually explore the interest behind the positions, it becomes much easier to find a common ground.

"Use “I” statements"

Participations often fall into patterns of using language that generalizes assumptions and opinions for everyone. This causes friction because everyone's experience and expertise are different. Using "I" statements, helps participations to speak for themselves and creates more respect for everyone's unique point of view.

"Lean into discomfort"

Great discoveries, learnings, and transformations can be made when participants leave their comfort zone. This ground rule helps to draw out participants to embrace discomfort. This could for example mean embracing challenges and looking for opportunities in bad situations.

"Tolerate and teach, don’t shame and blame"

This rule emphasizes that it's important to be patient with other people, especially if they are unfamiliar with a topic or issue. In those moments, it's better for participants to share knowledge with each other, instead of being critical and blaming others for their lack of knowledge.