Chairing Meetings

Chairing a 12-Step Meeting

The opportunity to chair a 12 step meeting is both a service opportunity and a unique chance to practice the principles learnt in A.A.

A good chairperson simply follows the agenda that each group conscience puts in place and modifies from time to time.

Chairing - A opportunity for Humilty to shine

Chairing a meeting is an opportunity, for the person providing this service to the group, to demonstrate humility in action. Here are some suggestions:

  • forgoing their own opportunity to share in order to give maximum opportunity for other people present to share
  • listening intently to each sharing, with chairperson keeping their opinions to themselves
  • feeling the presence of everyone present
  • using a reading from 12-Step literature to set a theme for the meeting
  • starting strong and finishing strong: choose speakers with solid sobriety as the first and last people to share at each meeting:
    • the opening sharer sets the tone;
    • the final speaker finishes on a positive note, and may be the last thing a member remembers
  • opening the meeting up, at some stage:
    • the chairperson asks if there are people present who feel a need or a desire to share
  • resisting personal biases, or cronyism in asking people to share
  • keeping to the agenda and timeframe

Another way for a chairperson to help newer members is to offer them the opportunity to chair a meeting. This demonstrates trust and helps newer members, whose self esteem is typically low, to achieve some self confidence.  It is another of the many ways that each person in the 12 step programme supports others in their recovery. It also demonstrates humility, and an acknowledgement that the newcomer is the more important than self.

Mistakes made by chair people

Given the opportunity to chair a meeting a chairperson needs to be especially mindful of the privilege offered and the responsibility afforded them to run the meeting accordong to its agenda.

Most mistakes made by a chairperson arise from a false feeling of ego, power or control.  This can create an urge to:

  • interject on someone's sharing,
  • to express an opinion about what the person sharing needs, or
  • to give advice
  • to paraphrase for the benefit of others present what he/she himself has taken from the last sharing
  • or even running a meeting over time in order to summarise the meeting.

All of these mistakes indicate that this chairperson has a little more to learn about humility.

Few, if any, agendas indicate a responsibility for the chairperson to express their own views.

Feedback to a chairman

I have felt feelings of resentment when I have seen chairpeople making the mistakes described about, however I have been uncertain about what to do about these resentments.

What is most amusing about this resentment is that I feel it most frequently when long-timers make mistakes.  It is amusing because the ego and arrogance demonstrated by their mistakes seems to originate from their feelings of ego and power at having overcome their most serious afflictions for such a long time.  They seem to have forgotten that it was the power of the group that afforded them that success.  Don't you just love human nature.

If you have been in this situation, either as a person giving feedback to the chair, or as the chairperson themselves I'd be most grateful of any experience you have in giving or receiving feedback to chairpeople.  I'd like to include your suggestions on this page.