For newcomers, attending your first 12-step fellowship meeting can be stressful and somewhat overwhelming. Understanding how to properly conduct yourself during a meeting is sure to reduce nervousness, increase comfortability and allow you to get the maximum benefit of each meeting – not just for you, but for each member in the room as well.
This is the golden rule of 12-step fellowships. Remember, who is seen and what is heard in the rooms, must stay in the rooms. These rooms are intended to be a safe space for all who wish to live a clean and sober life to connect with likeminded individuals – so be sure to respect their confidentiality by not sharing personal or private information with others outside of the meeting. By respecting this rule, you are also playing your part to protect the integrity of the fellowship as a whole.
Use “I” Statements
When you share, try to keep your share centered around your own personal experience. The proper way to do so is by speaking using “I” statements, instead of “you.” In the rooms of a 12-step fellowship, you’ll be surrounded by likeminded individuals, but everyone’s story is different. By using “I” statements, you can effectively keep your share centered around your experience and your emotions, instead of projecting onto others.
Share Once and Share the Time
If you decide you’d like to share, raise your hand, introduce yourself, and be sure to keep your share within the time limitations the meeting has set in place. Being mindful of your time allows other members the opportunity to share as well. If there is something you need to discuss further, express this during your share and stick around after the meeting; doing so invites group members to approach you and offer their support.
In the beginning of each meeting, it’s likely you’ll hear someone read about avoiding cross-talk, but as a new member, you might not know what exactly this means. Cross-talk is the act of addressing another member’s share instead of speaking directly to the group. In order for everyone in the room to benefit from your share, be sure to address the group. If you hear something during another member’s share that you wish to discuss further, it’s a great idea to approach them after the meeting.
Shuffling around through a crowded room can very distracting. Try making it a habit to arrive 10-15 minutes before each meeting starts, that way you have plenty of time to get a cup of coffee, chat with others, use the restroom, and find a comfortable seat before settling in for the duration of the meeting.
Avoid Side Conversation
Meetings tend to run more smoothly when side chatter is kept to a minimum. Although it can be tempting to whisper to the person sitting next to you, it can also be distracting to others, and the person speaking. Remember, there are three parts to every meeting; before, during, and after. If you wish to make connections and converse with others, do so either before or after the meeting.
Limit Cell Phone Use
These days, we are always accessible, glued to our phones and habitually scrolling on social media. However, in order to stay entirely present, hear the message and not distract others, it’s best to keep your phone put away and on silent for the duration of the meeting. If you receive an important phone call that absolutely cannot wait until after the meeting, be sure to wait until the person sharing is finished before getting up and taking the call outside.
Remember, as a newcomer it’s perfectly normal to feel like a fish out of water, but as you continue to attend various 12-step meetings, your comfort level will increase, and these etiquette suggestions will become almost second nature.
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