Staff Meetings and the Chatham House Rule

How do you encourage open and inclusive dialogue in staff meetings whilst ensuring confidentiality?

Giving everyone a voice in a meeting is crucial but they are not always the most appropriate forum to speak freely.

One way to get around this and to promote more respectful listening is to adopt the Chatham House Rule which simply states,

The Chatham House Rule helps create a trusted environment to understand and resolve complex problems. Its guiding spirit is: share the information you receive, but do not reveal the identity of who said it.

The Rule was devised at Chatham House, London, in 1927, to encourage free debate whilst protecting the privacy of speakers and delegates at a meeting or conference. The purpose of the rule is to encourage open discussion since anything said is “off the record”.

Chatham House is a building at Number 10 St. James’s Square in London and it’s home to an independent policy think tank known as Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs.

This is basically a confidentiality rule which protects participants so that those attending a meeting know they can discuss the content of the meeting in the outside world, but they can’t discuss who attended or identify what a specific individual said.

It allows people to speak as individuals, and to say their bit and so it encourages free discussion. They can express views that may not be aligned with your organisation while maintaining anonymity.

The rule is invoked regularly in meetings dealing with sensitive topics.

The great thing about this arrangement is that there is only one rule: nothing should be done to identify, either explicitly or implicitly, who said what. In practical terms this means avoiding any directly attributed quotations.

There’s one exception to the Rule. You can identify yourself as the source of your own comments.

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