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Scripting Strength

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About ten years ago, my home meeting was dealing with talkative, unruly, and sensitive newcomers. The meeting was beginning to feel unsafe. We regulars, being the people pleasers we are, considered just letting them talk without a time limit. Luckily, sanity ruled that out. We considered removing them from the meeting by having a special “newcomer time” in another space. That strategy had worked in other meetings, but we realized this time our motives were selfish, so Step Twelve eliminated that option. Then someone had an inspiration: she suggested we make an addition to the text of our meeting format.

We added text to explain how sharing is managed in our meeting. As part of the meeting’s format, the leader reads this scripted text twice: once before the break, when we invite shares on the OA Tools, and once before the close of the meeting, when we invite shares on a passage from literature. This is the text we use:

“There will be a two minute time limit for sharing on a Tool. When the beep sounds, please stop rather than add one more thought. If you do go over the time limit, it is the responsibility of the meeting leader or secretary to interrupt you in order to allow time for everyone to share. If you get cut off, please know that we do care about you and we encourage you to talk more with someone during the upcoming break. Everyone is asked to remember to begin by introducing themselves.”  

The second time we read the script is after the break, when it refers to the rest of the meeting. We add this text first:

“Feedback, cross talk, and advice-giving are discouraged here. Cross talk during an OA meeting is giving advice to others who have already shared, speaking directly to another person rather than to the group, and questioning or interrupting the person speaking/sharing at the time. Please ask questions after the close of the meeting.

“Please respect the responsibility accepted by today’s leader (that’s me) to have the discretion to suggest to anyone sharing that he or she is off-topic or speaking too long, in order for us to keep our meeting on track and focused.”

Then we repeat:

“There will be a two-minute limit for sharing at any one time. Thanks to ______ for being timekeeper this morning. Please respect the timer and stop when it beeps rather than add one more thought. . . .”

Making this format change has worked miracles, and at every home meeting I’ve had since, the group conscience has decided to add this member’s inspired words to their meeting format.

To this day, I’m grateful to whoever had this inspiration and to the first group conscience that made the decision to implement it. “Here we ask God for inspiration, an intuitive thought or a decision” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., p. 86). This is truly an example of Steps Ten and Eleven in action on a group level!

— Anonymous

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