1. Characteristics of a group

1.5 Communication

It is through communication that members of a group learn to understand one another and to influence, or be influenced by, each other. Yet communication is not just a matter of expressing ideas clearly. It is often suffused with unintended effects, fears and dislikes, and unconscious motives. Often the non-verbal part of communication is the most eloquent. A great deal is revealed about what a person is really thinking and feeling by their facial expression, posture, and gestures.

The content of communication is important too. In every subject area there is a specialised vocabulary which a newcomer may find off-putting. A clique within the group may sustain a private joke which intentionally excludes the rest.

For any communication to take place, speaking must be complemented by listening. Students may often, through preoccupation with their own thoughts or scorn for another's opinions, fail to hear what is being said. Ground rules in which each speaker in turn has to summarise what the previous one said can encourage more purposeful listening.

Questions about communication:

  • Were members expressing their ideas clearly?
  • Were they evidently listening to each other?
  • Did they make connections to or build on each others' contributions?
  • Did they check for understanding or ask for clarification when they were not sure of what somebody else meant?
  • Was there good eye contact round the group?
  • Were feelings as well as thoughts communicated?

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