Wednesday, 20 March 2013
Traditions when chairing service meetings
(1) Seek to encourage unity. Personal attack or criticism, or other attempts to divide, should be quietly and swiftly stopped.
(2) Allow the principles, the facts, and the experience to come to the fore but let the group's decision be by its conscience. Do not permit railroading by individuals (excessively lengthy or forceful argument, repetition). There is a point at which further discussion simply deepens divisions and inflames tempers without introducing any new material. That is the point at which a vote is wise.
(3) AA membership does not require conformity. Oddball or eccentric contributions, if on-topic, may be aired and quietly listened to without being mocked or shut down. Sometimes the greatest wisdom comes from unusual sources.
(4) The group is autonomous, subject to the usual proviso. It may therefore vary or go back on previous decisions or "rules", and be imaginative or creative in its solutions, or at least flexible. The worst that can happen is that the group makes a terrible decision: if so, it can promptly admit it and change course. (Cf. Tradition 9).
(5) Remember what the overall purpose of service is. Remember on each topic, too, what the purpose of the discussion is. New topics that are generated should preferably be deferred to a future agenda, and group conscience matters, to a group conscience. Stick to the topic, and do not permit lengthy digressions. When a view has been expressed, it does not need to be repeated by the person or by anyone else. Ask always for fresh ideas, views, or experience, not rehashings of ones already aired.
(6) Outside purposes have no place. Personal battles, personal ambitions, "wanting to be right", "wanting to be heard" (when it is not relevant to the topic), retaliation, humiliation, posturing, grandstanding, axe-grinding, "having the last word", personal criticism, and other purposes should be spotted, and the debate should be returned to the matter at hand.
(7) Visitors may contribute at the discretion of the chair, only if there is available time.
(8) We have experience but we are not experts. It is well to remember that all of us may be wrong. Experience, however, must always be lent more weight than opinion. Encourage the sharing of the former.
(9) Be organised but not over-organised and inflexible.
(10) This is linked to Tradition 6: beware outside purposes, and keep the meeting's nose out of other groups', Intergroups', fellowships', and outside agencies' affairs.
(11) Let ideas attract by their own merits: the "rightness" of an idea need not be forced down others' throats.
(12) Never make things personal or allow others to. Stick to general principles, especially when it comes to qualification for a particular role.