Group communication is an extension of interpersonal communication where more than two individuals are involved in exchange of ideas, skills and interests. A group is a number of people with a common goal who interact with one another to accomplish their goals, recognize one another’s existence and see themselves as part of the group. Groups provide an opportunity for people to come together to discuss and exchange views of common interest. There could be many different groups for as many different reasons. For instance, casually formed groups with friends over a drink, coffee break, games, dances or religious gatherings have a different purpose than that of groups attending a meeting or seminar to help fight AIDS or interacting with committee members to draft a proposal.
Communication in a group, small or big, serves many goals including collective decision-making, self-expression, increasing one’s effect, elevating one’s status and relaxation. Group communication is considered effective as it provides an opportunity for direct interaction among the members of the group; it helps in bringing about changes in attitudes and beliefs. Group communication has limitations too, as group interaction is time consuming and often inefficient, especially in an emergency. Besides, imbalances in status, skills and goals, may distort the process and the outcome sharply.
Groups have been classified as small groups and large groups. A small group comprises of three to seven members. Small groups are informal and less structured. Larger groups adopt formal rules to maintain order. There is more chance for individual participation in small groups. Also small groups are easy to manage and are more efficient in accomplishing tasks and making decisions. Most researchers define a small group as having at least three and no more than twelve or fifteen members.
A group needs to have at least three members; otherwise it would simply be a dyad. With three members, coalitions can be formed and some kind of organization is present. Too large of a group (more than twelve or fifteen members) inhibits the group members’ ability to communicate with everyone else in the group. Members must be able to communicate freely and openly with all of the other members of the group. Groups will develop norms about discussion and group members will develop roles, which will affect the group’s interaction. A group must have a common purpose or goal and they must work together to achieve that goal. The goal brings the group together and holds it together through conflict and tension.