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Several letters have come to the WSO asking for shared experiences on the subject of cross-talking. In addition, at the Canada East RSS in Halifax, members were concerned about the effect of cross-talking at group meetings. In these letters and conversations, cross-talking has been defined as talking out of turn, advice giving, questioning the person who is sharing, holding private conversations, having an individual comment on everyone’s sharing, and as being discourteous and intimidating.
Has your group experienced CROSS-TALKING at meeting? If so, why not share your experiences? INSIDE AL-ANON in turn will share your comments and solutions in a future issue
Fortunately, group autonomy and group conscience are fundamental to the Al-Anon meeting style. Members who responded to the INSIDE AL-ANON call for comments on the problem of cross talk at meetings, offered widely varying opinions.
The majority of letters strongly oppose crosstalk at meetings. A suburban Illinois member wrote, “Last night I went to my first “crosstalk” meeting…I hated it. I was so disappointed and upset, I scratched the meeting right out of my directory.”
A Maine District Representative says, “Specifically, I am very uncomfortable at meetings which have no topics planned in advance. Members are often asked, “Who has a problem to discuss?” which leads to one person being the focus of the meeting with borderline or even blatant advice-giving, and two people getting into a dialogue.”
Several writers made the point that, as adult children of alcoholics, they were seldom listened to. A member from upstate New York wrote, “What we want most is to be heard…The greatest gift we give each other is our undivided attention and acceptance.”
A letter from Massachusetts quotes a group member who said, “As a child I had a lot of things forced on me, and I don’t like the feeling of it when it happens in Al-Anon.” The writer herself describes the chairperson who “editorializes” after each speaker as “arrogant and self-centered” and limiting the time other people have to share.
An Ohio correspondent wrote, “I feel very uncomfortable when I share my gut feelings, and someone immediately jumps in with the last word.”
A number of letters specifically referred to crosstalk as a violation of Traditions. A letter from San Francisco states, “:I believe crosstalking fundamentally and absolutely violates Tradition One-our unity and COMMON welfare.” She adds, “In my view, crosstalking also violates Tradition Twelve-anonymity and placing principles above personalities. When I speak at a meeting, I’m serving as an open channel for my Higher Power to speak through me. If you feel moved by what you hear, that’s a function of your openness to the message your Higher Power has for you…keep it principle-centered, leaving me out of it.”
Several correspondents offered suggestions about dealing with out of turn commenting which, in this brief report might be summed up by this comment in a letter from Oregon. “If interrupted as I share with, “How do you do that?” etc I must say kindly, “I’ll talk to you after the meeting.” I sometimes wonder if. what worked for me might help other members present…but, in the long run, to me it’s more important that I stick to the group format.”
Not all correspondents agreed that crosstalking should be forbidden. An Indiana member wrote that in her former group, crosstalking was “almost no problem.” However, after moving to a new area, she encountered a meeting that was “an entire hour of crosstalk. Yes, a problem!”
A member of a New Mexico group described a cross section of the opinions expressed at a group conscience meeting on the subject of crosstalking. “We run our group in a very informal, spontaneous, loving and caring manner…More often than not, we proceed around our circle…in orderly fashion, but each is free to share out of turn when that sharing is deemed to benefit the group” The writer explained that some have left the group because of crosstalking, while others remain for “its tone and openness.”
A similar letter from Nebraska describes a meeting on the topic of crosstalking. The opposition to crosstalking echoed the opinions described earlier in this report. Others in the group liked the flexibility and opposed any “rigid rules of no crosstalk.” Another member expressed the need to ask questions to clarify if details were sketchy or a point not clear.
A New Jersey group member says, “Our group has what you describe as crosstalking. For the most, we find that helpful, but if it gets overdone, our chairperson gently asks us to move on…may be a better solution than some meetings I have seen where it is stifling an too structured. I have seen confused members leave confused and…not come back.”
Most letters on this subject mentioned side conversations and unanimously opposed them.
It is to the particular credit of our program that each group, autonomous yet devoted to the principles of the program is free to develop its own personality and that in many places there are a number of meetings in which each of us can find the group which nurtures us in our growth.