Communication is essential to a productive and harmonious work environment. In this lesson, you’ll learn about the different skills and activities that can foster effective group communication.
What is Effective Group Communication?
Before we talk about the different skills and activities that can be used to foster an environment where groups of all sizes communicate well, let’s first talk about some terms we will use in this lesson.
Group communication can be defined as more than three – but less than 20 – people having a conversation. It differs from a dyad conversation , which is when two people have a face-to-face conversation with one another. We won’t spend any time discussing a dyad conversation in this lesson, but it’s always good to cover the basics.Ok, so, we’ve all been there. You’re assigned to a group or team, and required to communicate and work together to reach a desired outcome.
Working in groups can be a nightmare if effective communication isn’t exercised. There always seems to be one or two people that take on the majority of the work, while the other team members contribute the bare minimum. A lot of companies recognize these issues and work with their Human Resources department to train employees to work more collaboratively.Effective group communication can occur in many forms, but you will see the best results (especially in large groups) when there is a leader or facilitator running the conversation. It’s not necessary, but it does make things a lot less chaotic. Group members will benefit and participate more if they feel included in the conversation and there is a general respect among the conversation participants.Some crucial things to watch for when observing a group conversation are both verbal and nonverbal cues.
Nonverbal cues are the most important to look for because they’re silent representations of how people are feeling or perceiving a message.Some examples of nonverbal cues include:
- How someone sits
- Gestures or facial expressions
- Nuances in voice tone and style
- Eye contact
Other cues to look for also include written and interpersonal skills, or the basic life skills you use every day to communicate with people. Effective group communication isn’t always just about talking.Another aspect to consider is how the group is organized during a discussion. Seating can play an important role in creating an environment where people feel safe to share their thoughts. Organizing a group in a circle formation is the optimum structure to get the best interactions.
Important Group Communication Skills
Effective communication only occurs when you clearly deliver a message and that message is received and understood. Taking the time to learn the skills necessary to communicate effectively can help people resolve their differences and build trust and respect. Everyone has areas they can work on to improve their communication skills. Some of the most important things a person can do to be an effective communicator are:
- Be a good listener
- Be aware of nonverbal cues in yourself and others
- Keep your emotions and stress in check
- Work to understand and empathize with others
The ideal group environment doesn’t just happen overnight.
To have a positive atmosphere where employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas and working together takes work, and only after trust is gained and cooperation is learned can an organization benefit from groups working together. Thus, trust is something that is necessary for people to work productively. Lack of trust can drive a wedge between employees and create an environment of hostility. Trust is often based on respect and being able to rely on a coworker.One activity that’s a great way to build trust between peers and allow them to evaluate their own as well as others’ verbal and nonverbal communication struggles involves leading a blindfolded person to certain objects or around specific obstacles.
Here’s how it works:
- Assign each person a partner and have the group form a large circle.
- In each set of pairs, blindfold one person.
- Place miscellaneous items within different areas of the circle.
You can also add roadblocks, such as a chair or table, that the blindfolded person will have to navigate around.
- Have the person who is blindfolded follow directions from his/her partner to locate the items within the circle.
- Have the pairs switch roles. Replace the items and repeat the exercise.
- Come together as a whole and discuss what types of communication issues were recognized and how it felt to be in each role.
The Benefits of Cooperation
Cooperation is another key element to effective group communication that goes hand in hand with trust.
Being able to cooperate requires employees to be able to resolve conflicts among themselves. It also requires them to express themselves so that coworkers can listen to what they have to say and be able to understand their needs and/or wants. If you cannot express yourself, how can you expect to be heard by the group and effectively communicate?These skills can be difficult to learn as adults as they are often basic skills that are a product of someone’s earlier experiences. One way to teach these skills is to have a group workshop on conflict management where you also work on self-expression and confidence. In the workshop, utilize both large and small discussions in groups, along with giving employees the opportunity to practice these skills in role plays, which will help personalize the topics.
In addition to collaborating, brainstorming, problem-solving, and debate are all additional ways to further develop communication in a group setting. These are all great ways to put a team to work on a common goal. Whether it’s in a real environment solving a business problem or in a workshop with a case study, all of these tools will help bring your team together in a way that will benefit them and the business.
When your employees can trust each other and cooperate, effective communication is a natural result. Effective group communication is based on mutual respect and understanding between peers. It will come about if you encourage an environment where people are aware of their communication style, and where you continually work with them to develop better communication skills.
Applying these skills not just to group communication, but to everyday communication as well, can improve people’s relationships with family and friends in addition to coworkers and management.