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Definition and Disadvantages of Small Group Communication

In this article, we are going to define small group communication and some related terms. We are working out of Beebe and Masterson's book on small group communication called "Communicating in Small Groups". So first, let's define small group communication.

This is communication among a small group of people who share a common purpose, who feel a sense of belonging to the group, and who exert influence on one another. That's the basic definition of small group communication, and we're gonna be breaking that down and explaining it a little bit more as we go. So now, the term communication is one aspect of that bigger definition of small group communication.

Communication's a process of acting on the information. That's very basic, but human communication is the process of making sense out of the world and sharing that sense with others by creating meaning through the use of verbal and nonverbal messages.

Definition and Disadvantages of Small Group Communication
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So clearly, in a small group, there are people involved, and it involves all that back and forth where we are creating and sharing that sense of shared meaning with each other through our exchange of verbal and nonverbal messages. So the communication process has various parts that were just in that definition. We're gonna break down these five of them.

And the first part of the process is about making sense, and that means that we interpret what we see, hear, touch, smell, and taste. And by making sense and interpreting, we mean that we are looking for patterns and structure in our experiences. So, as we're taking in all the stimuli around us, our brain is making sense of it by looking for patterns and structure, and it can come at us in a very confusing fashion, and so we're looking for a way to sort it out in our mind.

The second part is that we are then sharing that sense. So, we share what we experience, and we express ourselves to others using verbal and nonverbal messages. So we're taking it all in and then we're sharing it with others around us, and they are doing the same to us as well. So we are hearing their interpretation, their sense-making about what they're experiencing. And it's about the creation, then, of meaning.

So number three, creation, it's about meaning creation, and that's where we make meaning together in our hearts and minds as we interact. As we talk to each other, we collectively create that meaning together. I put my ideas with your ideas and then sometimes we make something new, sometimes we meet in the middle.

Number four, it's about verbal and nonverbal messages. So obviously, words and nonverbals are all symbols that communicate our thoughts and meanings. So even if I'm in a listening mode and I'm not the one actually speaking, I'm still giving off a vibe through my nonverbals, affirming or disconfirming what other people are saying in that way, and so I'm still contributing to the sense-making process.

And it is, of course, transactional, number five. We are sending and receiving messages simultaneously at all times, even if we are not actively talking. So even if it looks like you're drifting off or you're on your phone, that's still sending off a message. You're still not just receiving, you're sending a message while you are doing that without realizing it. 

Some additional features of the communication process are that it includes several elements, and this is in almost every basic text in communication. There's the source, the message, the receiver. That message is going through a channel. There's sometimes some noise that interferes with the sending and receiving of that message.

And there's also feedback that we exchange, and there's a general context that we are communicating. And that's a model that you're gonna see in most introductory textbooks. This may involve mediated communication via technology, so like we're doing right now, there's some mediation between us. 

Even though I'm talking to you, I'm not in the same room as you. It could be over email, texting, or what have you. That mediated communication can hypothetically enhance group communication. You might be in the same room and use some information technology, or you may be separated. It doesn't always enhance the group dynamics.

You read online all the time about what people are doing instead of actually communicating when they're in an online group. They're doing other things, they're multitasking, but it can, their technology has the potential to help. And communication is essential for effective group outcomes.

It's not the only ingredient for successful group outcomes, but it really is a major component of how well groups work together. If groups are not communicating well, then you're not gonna get good outcomes. When they are communicating well, you have a much better chance of successful outcomes.

Disadvantages of Group Communication

  1. Unnecessary group formation
  2. Difficulty coordinating schedules
  3. Difficulty with accountability & social loafing.
So those are some terms and definitions about communicating in small groups and all the individual parts of that. Question of the day, I would love to hear your reaction to this. What, if any, of these definitions stands out? Which ones do you relate to? Which ones do you want to hear more about? I look forward to reading your comments below.