Bearing in mind the spiritual aspect of our admission in the First Step of our powerlessness over others, the CoDA Fellowship Service Manual (FSM) offers guidelines for personal, written, and electronic communications for individual members and groups, including those engaging in outreach and fellowship service work.
Guidelines for sharing – Approved 2010
The following statement is to be read before the meeting opens for general sharing
When many of us were growing up no-one listened to us. We were told our feelings were wrong or that they did not matter. We were often interrupted and criticised.
As adults we are used to taking care of other people and not taking responsibility for our own lives.
So in our meetings we speak about our own experiences and feelings. We listen without comment to what others say because it is true for them. In this way we work towards taking responsibility for our own lives, rather than giving advice to others.
It is important for our recovery to know that we can share without fear of interruption, contradiction or criticism.
- We do not judge, offer advice or comment on what other people say in meetings, even if the comment is positive or solicited – this is ‘feedback‘.
- We do not interrupt one another or engage in discussion – this is called ‘crosstalk‘. When sharing, we use ‘I’ statements and avoid using the word ‘you’, ‘we’, ‘one’ or addressing someone by ‘name’. Crosstalk can include: physical contact or touch, passing tissues, excessive laughter, verbal sounds and noises.
Crosstalk and feedback are strongly discouraged in CoDA, since as codependents we are working to break away from dependency on what others think, feel or advise.
Crosstalk infringes on boundaries, and many people find crosstalk or feedback unsafe. When we ask for no crosstalk, we have set a boundary in order to create a safe environment. No crosstalk nurtures recovery rather than codependency. It reminds us to focus on our own recovery rather than be distracted with helping or controlling others.
If a previous member’s share echoes within you and inspires you to speak, we suggest you stick to the ‘general topics’ you identify with, only. If you would like to speak to someone about something they have shared, please do so after the meeting, asking their consent first.
The secretary may read these guidelines again to remind members of this CoDA principle. Please do not be upset or embarrassed if this happens – it is only to maintain the safety of the room, to help us identify codependent behaviour and further our recoveries and awareness of this principle.
If you think these guidelines have been violated or are not being observed, please ask the secretary to read them again at the end of that particular share.
To be read during meeting, AFTER a specific share
If FEEDBACK occurs…
We would like to gently remind the group that all feedback, including positive comment, is discouraged, since as codependents we are working to establish our own realities and opinions free from the judgement, advice and opinions of other people, even those we love and respect. This is not a criticism but only a reminder and a useful tool to preserve the safety of the room and further our recovery from codependency.
If CROSSTALK occurs…
We would like to gently remind the group that crosstalk or mentioning people by name is discouraged in CoDA, as we all have a right to share without fear of being misinterpreted or having our boundaries violated.
We would like to gently remind the group that we are encouraged to further our personal recovery from codependency by refraining from using the word ‘you’, ‘we’ or ‘one’ in our sharing and instead, keep the focus on our own recovery by using ‘I’ statements. Changing the language we use in meetings and working to keep the focus on ourselves is a valuable tool in recognising and nurturing our own reality and identity.
Suggestions to follow should certain events occur
All meeting secretaries need to be aware of possible procedures they may need to action should the following ensue. Some or all suggestions could either be included in the preamble or be available for reference as a separate document.
Event: If someone insists on attending a meeting from which they have been excluded
e.g. a man at a women’s meeting
It is suggested that Tradition Four should be reiterated. Each group is supported in its right to be autonomous. If ineligible persons insist on attending, an immediate group conscience may be called to agree on possible actions e.g. including the person in the meeting, opening the membership to all people in the future, asking that person to leave, adjourning or relocating the meeting on that day or calling on an outside agency (police or venue manager) for support as required.
Event: If a member behaves aggressively or abusively during the meeting
It is suggested that this particular member should be advised that they may be asked to leave by immediate group conscience which may be called by any member. This supports tradition one where our common welfare comes first. Some venues may have policies on tolerating abusive/aggressive behaviour and these policies could be read out if necessary. They should be printed out and located somewhere accessible to the secretary (e.g. in the folder).
Event: If a member shares in a way which another member finds offensive
It is important to consider Tradition One: Our common welfare should come first, personal recovery depends upon CoDA unity. Members should take their own inventory and balance the possible harm to them in continuing to listen to the speaker or possible harm to the speaker by interrupting his/her share. Any member may call an immediate group conscience. In a group conscience, principles are placed before personalities, issues are discussed and any actions agreed and acted upon. Alternatively, members may choose to leave the meeting on the day temporarily or permanently. Similarly, members may ask the secretary to re-read the guidelines at the end of that person’s share, rather than interrupting.
Event: If a member finds it hard to access suitable meetings or share and behave appropriately at meetings
It is suggested that the member should be informed that all members have access to online meetings (website addresses), CoDA literature, and arrangement of sponsoring relationships when attending meetings is difficult or inadvisable.
General Recommendations for meeting secretaries
It is proposed that all meetings should review their guidelines to sharing to ensure that they have the following incorporated:
- A description of cross talk and feedback and WHY they are discouraged.
- Using ‘I’ statements, avoid using the word ‘you’ or addressing someone by name.
- If a member wants to talk about what someone has said, he/she should approach the person after the meeting asking their consent/agreement first.
- Members have the procedure to ask the secretary to re-read the guidelines again if they feel that the guidelines have not been observed, but only after a person has shared.
- A statement about how the group will deal with seriously offensive shares, secretary to re-read the guidelines at the end of that person’s share, rather than interrupting.