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Environmental Review Toolkit

Collaborative Problem Solving: Better and Streamlined Outcomes for All

Guidance on Managing Conflict and Resolving Disputes between State and Federal Agencies During the Transportation Project Development and Environmental Review Process

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Example Discussion Groundrules

Discussion groundrules provide a structure for negotiation and problem solving in meetings. They are designed to manage discussion, encourage constructive exchange of ideas, and move participants toward solutions to disagreements. Groundrules should be developed and agreed upon by all participants at the beginning of the transportation planning or project review process.

General groundrules may cover a wide range of topics, such as: representation and attendance, speaking issues (e.g., the order and length of presentations), the structure of discussions, how agreement will be determined (e.g., majority vote or consensus and how consensus will be defined), documentation of agreements, and issues of confidentiality and relationships with the media. Many of these items are discussed separately in Section 5. The focus here is on discussion groundrules. Following are typical groundrules for assuring that discussions are constructive and efficient:

  • Wait to be recognized by the chair before speaking.
  • Be focused and brief in your presentation; stay on the subject being discussed.
  • Be open and forthcoming; share information, ideas and concerns.
  • Be respectful; no put-downs or use of derogatory language.
  • Allow the other participants to speak without interruption.
  • Listen carefully to what is said; try to understand the basic interests of the presenter.
  • Check that you understand by restating what you heard in your own words.
  • Try to think of ways in which everyone's interests can be satisfied.

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