Ground Rules for All Passport 2 Purpose Retreats or Workshops

Throughout Michigan Reach Out’s 20+ years of experience, we have found that new and ongoing groups need some ground rules to ensure we all feel safe, welcome, empowered, and capable of sharing our life stories and what we are learning.

These Ground Rules must be given to every retreat or workshop participant. We should always take the time to read them aloud and to open the floor for any discussion or opinions and ideas about all or one of them. We will not be able to have highly effective programs unless we all commit to these.

  1. Take a break from your life! Enjoy this gift of time, learning, and fellowship. Turn off and put away phones, iPods, laptops, etc.
  2. Practice “Active Listening.”
    Mirroring: Truly paying complete attention to the person who is talking.
    Validation: Relaying back to the speaker what you believe you heard him or her share in your own words.
  3. Feel free to say “Pass” if you do not want to comment or share.
  4. Honor Confidentiality. What we share stays with us unless we give permission to share outside the group. This is a really tough Ground Rule. By our very human nature, we have a desire to repeat stories or talk about our experiences and the people we meet. And far too often, we tell people what someone else has shared with us about their own life without ever thinking that it might be a breach of confidence, harmful, or hurtful. Even our “good news” stories are our own. We need to honor people when they share something with us and ask us not to pass it on to someone else.
    By avoiding the use of names, where a person lives, and where he grew up, we can honor confidentiality and yet have the freedom to share lessons learned during retreats, workshops, or courses.
  5. Do not offer unsolicited advice or counsel. Simply put, do not make “you” statements.
  6. Embrace silence and pauses. Do not feel pressure to fill in moments of silence. We deserve time to think, reflect, and let ideas or stories sink in.
  7. Honor the “time pie.” Every person needs and deserves the opportunity to share his or her experiences, thoughts, concerns, reflections, memories, insights, and questions.
  8. Express appreciation for one another. It takes courage to genuinely share of our life experiences or to talk openly about what we are learning with others. A simple “thank you for sharing” goes a long way.
  9. Remember that we are works in progress. Exploring, defining, and living out our beliefs and values is a process and a journey. Learning about healthy relationships and boundaries takes time. And, certainly, the skills and ability to recognize, manage, and learn from our emotions require plenty of time and practice. Be patient with one another and with yourself.
  10. Take care of yourself. Be sure to stretch, stand, get some refreshments, and go to the restroom as you need to!

Do you agree with these Ground Rules? Do you have anything that we should consider adding?

Think about times where you have and have not experienced these kinds of rules or guidelines for team projects, committee meetings, staff meetings, small groups, support groups, family events or reunions, etc. Take time to consider what roles people played to either enforce these guidelines or not.

How did you feel when you were part of a group that did honor such a code to respect and appreciate one another? And on the flip side, how did you feel when such guidelines were not followed?