Group Communications Essay
Three videos of different group and team interaction will be reviewed for this paper. After they have been viewed they will be discussed on matters of the relationship between group members, member diversity and communication style.
The first case study to be reviewed is: Helping Annie. In this video a school nurse has called a meeting with a psychiatrist and a social worker to discuss the case of a High school student, Annie, who possibly suffers from depression and an eating disorder. Right off the bat the school nurse is interrupted by the psychiatrist before she can finish giving the background information on Annie. He wants facts immediately not “impressions.” He makes a quick decision as to her problem and her treatment within minutes of their meeting and seems to believe that they are done, no more needs to be said.
The Social worker does not agree with his decision and offers a counter solution but is again interrupted by the psychiatrist. The psychiatrist wants to use medication and the Social workers wants to first talk to Annie and see if they can understand what the teenager is going through. The psychiatrist sees this as a total waste of time. There does not seem to be any real facilitator of these meeting, and no one points out the psychiatrist’s constant interruptions of the social worker but the social worker herself. The school nurse is totally intimidated into silence by both of their behaviors.
The psychologist seems to have the communication traits of what the test calls thinkers, and the Social worker has the traits of a feeler. According to the text, Thinks are task-oriented. They take pride in their ability to think objectively and logically, regardless of if those thoughts are correct. (Reeve, 2007, Ch. 3, pg.69, para.2) Feelers are people-oriented. The psychologist is very direct and analytical. He seems to want to remove any feelings or humanity from Annie’s case while the social worker is taking a more subjective, humane approach to Annie’s problems and is obviously more concerned with the girl’s well-being than a quick fix.
The diversity that exists in this group is both gender and class. The group consist of two women and one older man, the older man, the psychiatrist, seems to believe that the social worker and school nurse are not in the same class as he, his age, experience and profession making him superior to them on all levels, therefore, their opinions are not worth considering. This diversity is a hindrance in their communication because the psychologist is not listening to the two women and continues to interrupt them because “he doesn’t have much time here.” If using a high context perspective the viewer could draw the conclusion that the psychologist does not agree with the social worker by watching his nonverbal behavior such as his gestures and facial expressions.
In a high-context culture little meaning is expressed through words. Meaning can be conveyed through status such as age, gender, education or title. (Reeve, 2007) One method that could have been used to improve communications would have been to have a facilitator present to ensure that each party had the same amount of time to express his or her opinions. Another improvement would have been a change of setting from the informal setting to a more professional seating arrangement that may have helped foster communication between all parties present, such as a round table or face to face seating.
The second video reviewed is: Planning the Playground. The group consists of three males and two females; three Caucasians and two minorities. The video case opens with two new members, one a younger male, Ray and one older woman, Betty, meeting the team for the first time. There seems to be two slightly awkward moments when Ray first only offers to shake the hands of the men at the table and when he has trouble pronouncing the name of the minority female Iesha. The moment was defused quickly when Iesha decided to make a small joke about her name to ease the tension and held out her own hand in greeting. Betty seemed uncertain about speaking and said she only joined the team to make friends. Communications between the team started out stiff and slow but by using “team talk,” (the nature of the language that group members use as they work together.
Not only does team talk enable group members to share information and express opinions, but analysis of team talk also “reveals where the team is coming from and where the team is headed.) (Reeve, 2007, Ch. 5 pg. 124, Para. 2), team leader David kept the discussion flowing and moved it to the reason they were there. The role the diversity of the group played in their communication was the different experiences each had to bring to the discussion. Iesha obviously liked research and set numbers and offered not only a sound dollar amount to strive for but reasoning behind it. Ray countered that he thinks the amount should be higher but offered no real reason as did Phil who wanted the amount lower. After deciding to compromise they moved to fundraising. The immediate response to Betty’s suggestion of having a Bake sale was obvious. They did not take her input seriously at all but again the team leader chimed in before their dismissive attitude could be considered rude and insulting. Diversity was also not a strong hindrance to the group even though the potential was there.
Conflict management techniques were used by the group by expressing interest in solving the problem and keeping their tone and language non-threatening, using phrases like “well, yes but let’s look at it from a different angle” or “that’s a good idea but may not be exactly what we need now.”The use of team speak was a very effective communication tool that kept the team focused and on track. Another important tool that was used was nonverbal. The seating arrangement at the table permitted members to have their personal space but still be able to have direct eye contact. According to Reeve, each person’s choice of seating position in groups has a direct effect on interaction and influence. A number of studies have demonstrated that group members prefercorner-to-corner or side-by-side seating for cooperative activities. Such an arrangement allows them to be close enough to share materials. (Reeve, 2007, CH. 5 pg. 138, Para 1) The team in this case study did show good communication skills on the whole but the one improvement would have been to ensure that before the meeting took place, that each member understood what the reason for the meeting was.
The last video reviewed is Virtual Communication. This video is a presentation of three people meeting as a team via conference call. The third unseen member is not listening to what is being said by the manager or his coworker. This is obvious because when they ask him a question he pauses or stutters, then repeats something that neither of the other participants actually said. Listening is important in any group so that you can be sure to get all the available information as well as know exactly what is expected of you. This is even more so in the virtual business work when team members are not actually sitting face to face. Charlie is neither listening to what is being said or to the messages that were contained in Ellen’s email or voice mails to him. According to the text, Effective listening in virtual groups requires adapting to a different medium of expression Your only adaptation is making sure that your microphone is on or off at appropriate times. In an email discussion, however, you can neither see nor hear participants, but you still must “listen” to their messages. (Reeve, 2007, Ch.6, Pg,.168)The disadvantage of group meetings using a virtual medium is that you can fake listening by answering “I agree” or a non-committal sound. You can also pretend you didn’t hear something that you don’t want to address as Ellen does in this video when Charlie tries to place the blame on her.
Charlie did not effectively use any of his listening skills while on this call. It was apparent by his distracted “non-answers” that he was not listening. The entire fault is not necessarily Charlie’s; it is not known if he ever fully understood what was expected of him from the first meeting. If he had at any time used one listening skill such as paraphrasing he might have had enough clarification to get his assignment done in time.
Paraphrasing is a form of feedback that one lets the speaker know you are listening and gives them the opportunity to clarify their statement. Paraphrasing can be used for multiple purposes such as: To ensure comprehension before evaluation; to reassure others that you want to understand them; to clear up confusion and ask for clarification; and to help other’s reach their own conclusions. (Reeve, 2007)
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