The term crosstalk is not mentioned in the Big Book, the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, nor any official AA publication we know of. There is no widely accepted official definition. But most Twelve Step meetings do discourage it.
Generally, it is acknowledged to mean two people talking back and forth, instead of each person getting to speak uninterrupted. So “no crosstalk” generally means to wait until the speaker has finished before responding. It often means not being critical of what the speaker said, nor giving direct advice about what the speaker should do.
It has been said that addicts can do anything to excess, and crosstalk is an example. In some places it is discouraged to refer to what another speaker said, or give positive feedback. The group may be reluctant to deviate from the official topic, thinking that responding might constitute “crosstalk.”
This is especially hard on newcomers. If they are having trouble with abstinence or moderation, or do not understand something, and are told, “no crosstalk,” they are liable to feel rejected. A good meeting will adhere to the spirit of avoiding crosstalk, while still remembering that the group’s primary purpose is to carry the message of recovery to those who still suffer.
Experience, Strength, and Hope
A good way to avoid crosstalk, besides not interrupting or criticising, is to share your experience, strength, and hope. So if you experienced something like what a previous speaker did, you may have something that can help. Like, “I did almost the same thing. My sponsor suggested _____, and that worked for me. Now when _____ happens, I think I handle it a lot better.”
The same approach can even work when someone says something you think is contrary to the suggestions of the Program, you can gently share that you interpreted it differently, and how that has worked for you. It helps if you don’t wind up seeming to set yourself up as an expert in OA or AA or other Twelve Step group. There are no right or wrong answers, but some do seem to work better for most people.
Crosstalk in OA
Overeaters Anonymous is more directive regarding crosstalk. The Suggested Meeting Format includes:
“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.”
http://aagrapevine.org/feature/1491 — An AA oldtimer reflects on the changing perceptions of crosstalk over the decades. Paywall.
https://oa.org/pdfs/What%20Is%20Cross%20Talk.pdf — What is Cross Talk, reprinted from Lifeline.
https://oa.org/pdfs/suggested_meeting_format.pdf — Suggested Meeting Format, from OA.
Updated 10 Oct 2015
Addictionary 2 by Jan & Judy Wilson
is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.