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Group  Discussion

Main Topics Guidelines Elements Agenda Doubts Assessment


UNDERSTANDING THE ELEMENTS IN A GROUP DISCUSSION

In order to be able to take part in a successful group discussion it is necessary to understand the elements to understand the elements/ features of interaction. They are :

1. Verbal Communication : This feature is arguably the single most important influence on how a group operates and what it achieves. Talking and listening are the substance of problem solving. However, the quality of talk cannot be gauged merely by the level of participation. While it is true that in most cases productive group members are the ones who talk the most, at certain time conversational bullies and time wasters too take up a lot of time. Furthermore, a focus on talking alone does not take into account the importance of listening. Both quality and quantity of participation are important and listening too is recognized as an integral part of communication. Relatively equal participation of all members is necessary so that
(a) maximum ideas are brought up and discussed
(b) This leads to greater satisfaction amongst group members
(c) Finally if there has been effective participation the likelihood of a consensus is also higher.

2. Non- Verbal Behavior : Non - verbal messages which are sent without or in addition to words form a major part of communication. Behaviors of face and gestures of the hands and body can very easily befriend or antagonize others. This is true because 65 to 90 percent of emotional meaning is transmitted through non- verbal messages. Facial gestures, physical position, eye contact and tone of voice indicate feelings and levels of interest. For example, boredom is suggested when a member turns away or looks aside when someone else is speaking. Conversely keen interest is indicated by a member who sits erect, faces the speaker, and maintains direct eye contact. Sometimes non- verbal clues are complete messages in themselves. A nod of the head signifies agreement whereas shaking of the head signifies disagreement

3. Norms an Conformity: Norms are standardized patterns of belief, attitude, communication, and behavior within groups and grow out of member association. What would be the norms of a group discussion? Certain norms of individual behavior such as being polite, listening to others points of view, not being too overbearing, giving people a fair chance to participate, etc. should be kept in mind.

4. Power : In the organizational situation, power comes from occupying a position in the hierarchy. Power can also be earned by a demonstration of efficiency and competence in the discussion. It is important to note that all members in our situation have the same amount of power to begin with. But during the course of the discussion some members earn more power by their ability to contribute more meaningfully thereby gathering the support of others.

The advantage of having power in a group discussion is that powerful members (those who have earned more power) are the centers of communications in a group - they talk more, and most importantly, other talk more to them than to people with lesser power, There seems to be a reciprocal relationship between participation's and power. Interaction of forces within a group system renders peoples with little power to unable to participate, which makes them even more marginal until they break off from the group or become hostile to it. This harms the group as it eliminates a potential contributor.

5. Cohesion: This refers to team orientation and the feeling of "we-ness rather than 'one-ness'. Generally groups should pull together and agree on major issues such as the 'nature of the task' and the 'goals' they hope to achieve. The options on how to go about achieving these 'goals' may differ and each alternative may be discussed at length but when a goal has to be reached and everyone is clear on that, it will ultimately be arrived at. Cohesion can come about only when
(a) members are willing to sacrifice personal opinions to uphold group norms
(b) there are shared needs, interests and goals.

6. Decision making styles: There are three distinct ways by which decision can be made.
a) Consensus: It means a unanimous agreement by all members. This form of decision making will, in all probability, not be possible in a situation such as ours as it requires too much time (which is not available to us) and may also involve too many compromises (which again may not be healthy).
b) Negotiation: It involves bargaining among members to build a solution that honors each personís position on particular issues. This form of decision making is less time consuming and makes bolder decision, as all members need not fully agree with the decision. One drawback is that there is a tendency to arrive at piecemeal solutions.
c) Voting: The obvious advantage of such a decision making process is its efficiency. It is the quickest and most decisive way of settling issues. However, voting may Create divisions, polarizing winners and losers and generating resentment and frustrations.

 



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