There are two major types of small groups, primary and discussion groups. The primary group is more informal in nature. Members get together daily or very regularly. The primary group is less goal-oriented and often there is conversation on general topics and not discussion on specific topic. Primary groups are not bound by any rules and are highly flexible.
Discussion groups are highly formal. These are characterized by face-to-face interactions where group members respond, react and adapt to the communication of other participants. A discussion group has one or more leaders. Members of discussion groups have common characteristics-geographic location, social class, economic level, life style, education level, etc. finally, members of a discussion group have a common purpose or goal. The strength cohesiveness and longevity of the group depends upon the type of goal. One important type of discussion groups is the problem-solving group. Such groups are of four types depending upon the tasks they perform:
- Fact finding group
- Evaluation group
- Policy making group and
- Implementation group
This kind of division occurs only where the group is big and the problem is complicated.
Participation in small groups
Participants in small group communication have certain responsibilities these are:
- Having an open mind towards the issue or topic being discussed and other members of the groups
- Having an objective mind and
- Showing sensitivity towards other’s sentiments and moods.
These responsibilities fall under two categories:
- Communicating and listening and
Group communication includes:
- Speaking or interacting with others with accuracy, clarity and conciseness.
- Avoiding speaking when you have nothing to contribute
- Addressing the group as a whole and
- Relating your ideas to what others have said.
These practices help make the interaction more fruitful. Listening and feedback are equally important as speaking. Some suggestions for effective listening include:
- Consciously concentrating
- Visibly responding to the speaker
- Creating an informal situation
- Listening to more than just words
Development of a small group
Individual members forming a group are different from each other as they have different personalities. It takes time for the members to learn how to fit into the group and contribute in the best manner. In fact, researchers have identified the following stages of small group development.
- Grouping or trying to find out how to work with others
- Grasping or understanding other members and the situation
- Grouping or getting together and development of bonding
Group action or increased participation with each member playing constructive roles.