Small Groups Make me feel claustrophobic

Thinking back to as many small groups I can think about, I can now see the underlying structures.

Probably my least favorite small group communication moment was at my last job which can be classified as a ‘work group’, there I was nominated to also become a student councilor of sorts. I would have a list of students that I would contact throughout the semester and offer assistance. As a group we went through a training that would give us a foundation to allow us to talk and console distraught students. During this training we had about 45 minutes of role playing where one person was the student and the other was the representative. This might not have been an issue except that there were a few things working against the group’s success. The room that was chosen was one that had several individual desks, everyone had their own island and had to scream to be heard from across the room. Also, this activity was done with the whole group rather than breaking into smaller groups. The Physical environment, territory and seating pattern was counter effective since almost everyone (a few people thrived during this event).

What happen to our group is what I learned to be social loafing. For the majority of the group we were reluctant to engage in the activity.

While it did make sense I was surprised to read that cooperation with the individuals as a whole decreases as the group grows. I tend to attribute a lot to my introversion however, I can make a connection with how much I communicate when I’m in massive group compared to when I am in a smaller group. I will feel not a part of the conversations and almost afraid to say anything in a large group. The interesting part of this is when in a group that’s four or lower I would dread being a part of it also since I would be sure to have to communicate, rather than hide away.

While I think that we all strive in our own personal small groups to have a communication network that is ‘All-Channel’, I think that the ‘Y’ network is far more common and likely to be a part of more groups. I am not sure that an ‘All-Channel’ network is viable above five people. I also can see where these different networks would be beneficial in different situations.

I can see the Wheel Communication as one incorporated in a one – on – one training environment.  The person in the center of the wheel would be instructing and the people getting the instruction does not necessarily even have to know each other. I can see Eddie using communication network for his business.

The Chain might be used in an assembly line type environment where the only thing that matters to a given person is what was done before their step.

The ‘Y’ I see as the most common since you have sub groups in most groups.

  4 comments for “Small Groups Make me feel claustrophobic

  1. February 11, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    I definitely prefer smaller groups to large groups. When you have a large group, there tends to be a lot of disorganization and under-utilization of each member’s ability to contribute. I liked that you brought up that seating and physical environment can be just as limiting to the available communication networks as the size of the group.

  2. February 11, 2016 at 7:09 pm

    Jason, I enjoyed reading about your past experiences and seeing you apply the concepts in the chapter to those experiences. I certainly agree that those conditions were not conducive to effective learning. It seems that with something as important as counseling distraught students, every effort would be made to have the counselors participate in effective training. I was also very interested in how you examined the size of different groups through the lens of an introvert. I am also an introvert and I used to not like being in smaller groups than about five for the same reason. Over the years, I have found that a lot of people feel that way and it is sometimes just easier for everyone if someone takes leadership of the group, even if that person is me.

  3. February 24, 2016 at 7:27 am

    Great read Jason. I especially love the part where some guy named Eddie made a sneaky cameo in your blog post this week. On a serious note, I’ve used the wheel on occasion but being the introvert that I am, I don’t particularly being the center of attention at all. I’m shocked to read about your Student Counselor training exercise where seating pattern was contrary to what’s expected during a counselling session. I think the side to side would be best for this scenario because the face to face places you (the counselor) in a position of power over your student.

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