It is important to say, at the outset, that, for me, there is no "wrong" sharing in an AA meeting.
In the beginning of my AA journey I had to tell myself that or else I would never have been able to raise my hand and open my mouth. Over the years I learned, for me, some sharing is more productive than other sharing, but every share has some value, even if it is as a horrible warning to others rather than an inspiration or panacea. (No, seriously, the person who is consumed with self pity or resentment, who wraps up their share with "... and although I've been sober for three years, this is my first meeting in a month or so ..." is carrying a valuable message, even if they don't always see it.)
Thus, having logged thousands of chair miles in AA meetings across the country, I offer, with gratitude and wry affection for all those who both listened to me share, and been brave enough to raise their own hands and speak at group level, this, the first ever,
The "I'm Gonna Get it Together" Share
Lots of talk about what you're going to do. Great plans and commitments and promises about how you're going to start working on your inventory, or go to more meetings, or call your sponsor, or generally "really start working your program."
This is great. Laudable. Inspiring... to yourself. The best thing about talking a good game like this is that you get to feel bold and committed to action for a little while. Sadly, experience shows that talking about doing something is not the same as actually doing it -- if it were, then I'd be sitting here on a much trimmer fanny, what with all my talk of exercise.
If you catch yourself doing this, how about committing to yourself that you come back to the same meeting next week and report the results of your grand pledges -- own whether you actually walked your talk or not. Hold yourself to that and your fear and vanity might actually kick your ass into action.
The "Incredibly General 'Sharing in a General Way'" Share
AA suggests we share "in a general way what it used to be like, what happened, and what it's like now." Sometimes, some folks feel the need to be a little too general:
"There's this thing, with these people, and it's impacting this other thing, and this other guy, and it's making something in my life really ... different."
I'm there for you, buddy. I have absolutely no idea where that might be, but I'm there.
The "Toastmaster to the Speaker" Share
"Oh, so-and-so, I just love it when you speak. You're so smart/funny/wise/interesting. You always tell it like it is/make it real/carry a message. I like the way you..."
Half the share is spent complimenting the speaker on what a sterling individual and tower of spiritual growth they are. Though your words are kind, and I'm sure well intended, perhaps you should take the speaker out for coffee and tell them face-to-face, rather than play at being the charming host/hostess at the AA cocktail party. Really, it's probably best to share for yourself and about yourself.
The "Movie Review of the Speaker's Share" Share
"Well, I liked it when you talked about _______, but I didn't like _______. The thing with _______ was good, I enjoyed that, but the other thing, the _______, didn't really do it for me."
You might not be aware, but when people speak at an AA meeting, they're actually not asking for your opinion of what they said. Again, really, it's probably best to share for yourself and about yourself. (Certainly, what the speaker said can serve as a jumping off point for discussion -- in some meetings its supposed to -- but save your movie reviews for the parking garage after the movie.)
The "Rebuttal Share" Share
Without actually cross-talking or arguing, this is the "other viewpoint" or "other take on something" share. It can be wonderful and helpful and bring different, important viewpoints about sobriety or working the AA Program to the group. It can also just be an exercise in contrarianism and one-upsmanship. Proceed with caution, and check for ego.
The "Dog Whistle" Share
You heard something no one else in the room heard, and you're going to speak to it. You might actually have heard something that no one else in the room heard, or you might be totally misreading what someone said. If you're moved, or feel strongly ... go for it. But don't take it personally if people look at you a little quizzically during or after.
Sharing in AA is not group therapy -- at heart it is each person offering their own experience, either as they face a challenge or offer a solution, in their sobriety. It is a powerful healing tool, and I have been witness to some amazing things along those lines. This Field Guide is just my tongue in cheek observation of some silliness which can take us a bit off track -- sharing which any of us -- and I most definitely include myself in this -- might fall into on occasion.
As I said at the beginning, for me, there is no "wrong" sharing -- but some sharing is more productive (healing and helping) than others.
Don't hamstring yourself in a meeting -- participate. Raise your hand and smash through your ego and fear of what people might think and put it out there. In so doing, as the old expression goes, the life you save may be your own.