Jaeeun Ko, Nataly Caviedes, Brandon Trujillo

Group Communication


I.            What is a Group

II.          Types of Groups

III.       Characteristics of Groups

IV.        Planning and Preparation

V.           Being an Effective Team Member and Leader




I       What is a Group? (Back to Top)

A         For communication purposes, a group consists of a small collection of people who interact with each other, usually face to face, over time in order to reach goals.

B         Without interaction, a collection of people is not a group.

C         In groups, members dont just interact. Their members are interdependent.

D         A collection of people who interact for a short time does not qualify as a group. Groups who work together begin to take on characteristics that arent present in temporary organizations.

E          Groups, according to experts, range in size from 3 people to between 7 and 20. To be a group each member should be able to know and react to every other member.

F          Groups usually hope to achieve one or more common goals.

II     Types of Groups(Back to Top)

A         Learning Groups

a          The purpose of learning groups is to increase the knowledge or skill of each member.

b          Some examples of learning groups include: members of a scuba diving class, members of a bible club, etc.

B         Problem Solving Groups

a          They work to resolve a mutual concern of members.

b          The problem can involve the group itself or be external to the group.

c          Problem-solving groups can take part in gathering information; at other times they make policy.

C         Social Groups

a          The inclusion, control, and affection that social groups provide are reason enough for belonging.

b          Groups are not mutually exclusive; a social group could also be a leaning group, or a problem-solving group.

D         Growth Groups

a          Growth groups focus on teaching the members more about themselves.

b          Growth groups, unlike the other types of groups, dont have a real collective goal. The entire purpose of the group is to help the members identify and deal with their personal concerns.

c          Consciousness-raising groups, marriage encounters, counseling, and group therapy are all types of growth groups.

III   Characteristics of Groups(Back to Top)

A         Rules and Norms

a          Many groups have formal rules that explicitly state the guidelines that govern what the group are supposed to do and how the members should behave.

b          Alongside official rules, norms also operate, often without ever being discussed.

c          Norms can be defined as shared values, beliefs, behaviors, and procedures that govern a groups operation. There are three types of group norms:

1.           Social, which govern the relationship of members to each other.

2.           Procedural, which outline how the group should operate.

3.           Task, which focus on how the job itself should be handled.

4.   To identify norms that are rarely stated look for behaviors that occur often and/or look for clues that members are being punished for violating norms.

B         Patterns of Interaction

a          The complex structure of groups affects the flow of information.

b          Sociograms represent graphically the number and complexity of interactions that can occur in a group.

c          Sociograms provide good network analysis but fail to indicate the quality of the messages being exchanged.

d          Physical arrangement has proven to be key in communication in groups. Lack of visibility can be troublesome in groups.

e          Research has shown that when group members are seated in a circle, they are more likely to talk with persons across from them than with those on either side.

f           When seating in a rectangular arrangement, group members usually participated more and were viewed more when sitting at either end of the table.

g          In rectangular arrangements distance also proved to be key since group members perceived people sitting further from them to be less friendly, less talkative, and less acquainted with each other.

h          There are three kinds of group interaction patterns:

1.           An all channel network in which all members in a group stayed together and share every piece of information with one another.

2.           A chain network in which information moves from one group member to the next.

3.           A wheel network in which one person acts as a clearinghouse, receiving and relaying messages to all other members.

C         Decision-Making Methods

a          Consensus

1.           Occurs when all members of a group support a decision.

2.   It can be advantageous when full participation of group members increases the quality of the decision as well as the commitment of the members to support it.

3.   It can be disadvantageous when it becomes frustrating and time consuming to make a decision.

4.   Because of the need to deal with the emotional pressures, consensus calls for more communication skill than do other decision-making approaches.

b          Majority Control

1.   This decision-making method has its advantages in matters where the support of all members isnÕt necessary, but in more important matters is risky.

2.   Besides producing unhappy members, decisions made under majority rule often are of a quality inferior to that of decisions hashed out by a group until the members reach consensus.

3.   Under majority rule, members in the minority portion of the group often participate less, and their viewpoints are often underappreciated when deliberations occur after a majority opinion has formed.

c          Expert Opinion

1.   Sometimes a group member will be defined as an expert and be given the power to make decisions.

2.   This method can be very efficient when the expertÕs judgment is truly superior.

d          Minority Control

1.   In minority control, only a few members of a group will decide matters.

2.   This approach works well with noncritical questions that would waste the whole groupÕs time.

e          Authority Rule

1.           This approach is most often used by autocratic leaders.

2.   This method is quick and is perfectly acceptable with routine matters that dont require discussion in order to gain approval.

3.   This approach can also result in members trying to tell the leader what they think he or she wants to hear to gain acceptance, or compete to impress the decision maker.

IV    Planning and Preparation(Back to Top)

A         Analyzing of the Situation

a          Questions to consider:

1.           What are the goals of the group?

2.           What is the purpose of the group?

3.           To whom is the group responsible?

4.           What will happen with what the group produces?

5.           What are the expectations facing the group?

6.           What expertise can you offer the group?

7.           What roles are you expected to play?

8.           What role do you want to play?

9.           What does each member contribute?

10.       What problems exist among the members?

11.       How will you need to behave in reaction to the other people?

b          Agenda

1.              an outline of the issues to be covered in a meeting, including the order in which they will be considered

2.              They help members reduce uncertainty by letting them know in advance the nature of the meeting.

3.              They let members assemble and necessary information that might be relevant to the discussion.

4.              They form the basis for the initial organization of the discussion and help the group stay focused.

B         Clarifying Goals and Roles

a          Individual goals.

1.              The reasons each member has for participating in a group.

2.              Getting the job done, also known as task orientation is the most obvious type of individual motive for belonging to a group.

3.              Sometimes a members task-related goal will have little to do with a groups stated purpose.

4.              People also join groups seeking a sense of belonging, to exercise influence, and get the liking of others.

b          Group goals.

1.              The reasons a group exists; its purpose.

2.              There could be a close or an incompatible relationship between group and individual goals.

3.              Sometimes the gap between individual and group goals is public, whereas at other times individual goal becomes a hidden agenda.

4.              As long as members individual goals match those of the group, no conflicts are likely to arise.

c          Organizational or external goals.

1.              The reasons an organization has for forming a group.

d          It is important to clarify the roles to be played, both your own and those of other members.

e          Understanding the role you are expected to play lets you know the type of research, information, functions, and actions that will be expected of you.

f           Knowing other members expected roles helps reduce initial tension and improve your ability to adapt to the situation.

g          Goal Clarification Checklist:

1.           What are your goals in this group?

2.           What motivates you to be a member of this group?

3.           How well is the group meeting your goals?

4.           What are the individual goals of other group members?

5.           What are the goals of the group?

6.           How compatible are your individual goals with the group goals?

7.           What are the organizations goals and expectations for the group?

8.           How well is the group meeting its own goals and the goals of the organization?

C         Research and Preparation

a          Having a group of individuals who are adequately prepared to participate can enhance the groups efficiency dramatically.

b          Groups goal and agenda provide direction for starting the research.

c          The nature of the task dictates the type of information needed before and during group decision-making.

D         Considering the Approaches

a          Following a structured approach appears to have several advantages.

1.   Members have clearer picture of where the group is and where it is going.

2.   It is easier to tell when the group is diverging from its format.

3.   The probability is greater that each necessary step will be covered.

4.           Time spent in deciding what comes next can be reduced.

5.           The efficiency of the group is generally improved.

b          The Reflective Thinking Process.

1.           Define, locate, and describe the problem.

2.           Analyze and explore the problem.

3.           Establish explicit criteria by which to select the best solution.

4.           Develop a list of solutions.

5.           Evaluate the possible solutions by applying the criteria.

6.   Select the solution that seems to best meet the criteria and that fares best in comparison to the other solutions.

7.   Plan how to implement the solution and how to evaluate its effectiveness.

8.           Implement the solution.

9.           Evaluate the solutions effectiveness.

c          The creative problem-solving sequence.

1.              The sequence of discussing solutions first and then the criteria is called a creative problem-solving sequence.

d          Brainstorming.

1.           Put aside judgments and evaluations.

2.           Adopt a “try anything” attitude.

3.           Use each idea as a catalyst for other ideas.

4.           Encourage piggybacking on each others ideas.

5.   Recognize that once an idea is presented, it no longer belongs to the individual but becomes the property of the group.

6.           Make sure that all ideas get recorded.

7.           Make sure that everyone participates.

8.           Encourage and reward the most off-the-wall ideas.

9.           Brainstorming success is measured in quantity, not quality.

V      Being an Effective Team Member and Leader(Back to Top)

A         Essential Group Communication Skills

1.              Some skills are needed by all participants if a group is to be effective.

b          Providing appropriate input and information.

1.              The full potential of a group is met only when every member contributes.

2.              The nature of the task will determine the type of contribution that you can make.

3.              Some of your contributions will be in the form of information based on the knowledge you have acquired through your experiences and studies.

4.              Participation can come in the form of asking for more information, seeking clarification, and keeping the discussion focused.

c          Listening actively, objectively, and critically.

1.              Making appropriate contributions depends on maintaining an awareness of the group interaction.

2.              Listen actively by asking questions, seeking clarification, displaying attentive behaviors, and providing confirming responses.

3.              Each member has a responsibility to play an active role in understanding what the other members are saying.

4.              Listen objectively by seeking to learn the information that the other members have to offer.

5.              Try to learn and retain information that will help to contribute to informed group decisions.

6.              Listen critically is to be able to provide immediate feedback and constructive criticism.

7.              It serves as the basis for one of the important qualities of group interaction.

d          Being flexible and adaptive.

1.              Group success depends on a cooperative spirit.

2.              Cooperation requires flexibility in the way members approach both the issue under investigation and the group.

3.              Flexibility means adapting your communication behaviors to meet the changes in the group.

4.              Part of being flexible involves balancing cooperation with resistance to conformity.

5.              The groups goal should come ahead of your individual goals.


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