A group is as a system of different elements connected together.
The different elements are the members of the group itself whereas the connection is the relationship, which is the essential basis of their interacting within and beyond the group. Each member with his own personality, experience, knowledge and culture gives his own original contribution expressing it by using words, looks, actions as the features of the role that he plays in the group.
The group is a whole whereas the member is its functional part: the collective level and the individual level are joined together by the same goal.
The group needs variegated persons different each other and having an effect on one another as building materials sharing a common interest and purpose, that is the construction of the building itself.
The main ideas as the group content are based on the ideal of the respect of human rights. The procedure adopted, the how the group ideas are discussed during the first or building-up phase of the group, is not very complex but just based on a respectful and democratic way of thinking and acting – the goal of the members at the moment is one of aggregation, getting to know one another, to rely on one another and reach group coherence. The group as a collective one with the purpose of communication aims to share knowledge. The members, in their joining the discussion on a particular subject learn how to understand and to be understood, how to listen and to be listened to, how to transfer their message as addressers to an addressee and how to receive it as addressees from an addresser. The rules to control behaviour and action are established by written suggestions put in the “suggestion box” and discussed collectively.
It is decided to elect a Coordinator, by voting him, to present the topic of the day and to balance the discussion between the parts. Obviously the discussion discloses the activeness or passiveness of the members or their inclination to talk or keep silent – to confirm or contradict, to be introvert or extrovert persons.
A Note-taker by raising hands is also chosen, to keep a journal of the group experience by recording the different points of view of the members allowed to speak one at a time without being interrupted. The word dynamic does not imply conditions or states but the production of motion through action: the how group dynamics work in the forming phase or stage foreshadows the how they will work in the following stages with the roles played by the different members, and the roles may sometimes shift.
The group is as a big living creature as it is composed of smaller living creatures who choose to behave in different ways according to the different stages of its growth and evolution from childhood to adulthood.
The behaviour in the group is to participate in conversation and flexible to suit conditions in accepting others’ contribution. The way of expressing one’s own opinion is a way of introducing oneself to others, to an audience, to the group, and the way in which the opinion itself is expressed defines the member’s role day by day: the member speaking in an assertive tone, having and showing a great deal of confidence is able to gain followers as a potential Leader; in his speaking he earns admiration and respect for his thinking and acting, as well as he conquers his place inside the group.
The non-speaking members as potential Scapegoats or Silent members who cannot defend themselves, through not speaking lose their right to say what they want, together with their place which is taken by the others in the group.
The workshop of the group during its “youth” are a sort of showroom in which everybody has the chance to disclose competence, ability and moods to conquer his own future position by storming and fighting.
Conflict might start between the members of the group having similarities in behaviour and purpose: between the Chatterers, each of them wanting to talk all the time in spite of the others; between the Experts each of them wanting to be the first and the best; between the Dominators wanting to impose their power without paying attention to the others; between the Philosophers wanting to defend their own ideas ignoring the others’ practical conclusions; between the Co-leaders wanting to earn the leader’s praise and so on …
Complementary might exist between the members of the group having differences because acting as the separated parts of a unit which is complete with the two parts put together.
The Silent member has two complementary members: the Catalyst, in his starting discussion and the Chatterers in their continuing the discussion itself. The Dominator has also two complementary members: the Supporter, the “yes-person” in his accepting the Dominator’s ideas and the Empathizer, in his listening and understanding without speaking, which might seem to be silently accepting.
Group dynamics are based on forces of attraction and repulsion between the members who arrive at an unwritten agreement to accept or refuse the member’s desire for his own role by judging him from his words and deeds in giving him a powerful role, as a reward or a powerless role, as a punishment.
The member’s way of acting paves the way for the group choice concerning his collocation in the group.
The Leader the wisest of the group, or a person with great culture, experience in life and self-esteem as well as a charismatic, skilful orator, is chosen collectively and silently to guide and represent the group itself and to make the right choice: the others recognize his value, admire him with subjection and awe for his skill and behaviour as a reliant dominator who does not impose but persuades.
The Diplomat has great knowledge of human behaviour to compromise conflicting views outside and inside the group and as a constructive critical he gives judgement of the quality of the group activity in seeing its defects and faults to improve it to reach the best performance.
The members are used to adopting the following skills: Active Listening to understand human situations, Questioning to have explanation, Supporting to provide hope for a better dialogue, Restating to write and speak in different words and Empathising to share the others’ feelings and moods, to understand them
In the norming phase the members of the group write the rules of behaviour to work on goals according to an ethical code as a system of norms and moral principles, that all the members of the group should accept and that may be summarized into the following words: Respect, Loyalty, Common Interests.
The members are very tactful in handing people and matters successfully without causing any offence.
The Leader chooses the best setting arrangement to communicate in the best way: a circle which is made up of a lot of circular rows with the Leader as an element of the circle itself, sharing common physical position and common purpose.
The Leader balances both person-centred and task-oriented behaviours and while speaking he looks for nods of approval or smiles among the public to share them together.
Regarding person-centred behaviours the aim is to communicate and to elicit the people’s sensibility and pride in saying that each person, with his unique, peculiar background and qualities, with his value is precious to the group which needs his support and co-operation, both individually ad single individuals and collectively as associations made up of single individuals.
The debate is the most important moment as the audience’s feedback as the positive or negative response to the Leader’s asking for attention.
During the debate, being asked for clarification, the Leader restates in a simple way or being given a different opinion he does not show disapproval, tension or antagonism, by being flexible to accept suggestion, improving communication: the goal is “to put together as many persons as possible” in sharing ideas but using empathy, as human beings have the same values and problems, to obtain the solidarity necessary and useful to reciprocal helps, based on mutual contribution in terms of experience, culture and support.
Regarding task-oriented behaviour the Leader’s aim is to co-ordinate the people as the group needs their support in terms of human resources and to suggest to them the way in which they should organize themselves.
He asks to forget rivalry and to organize public meetings, showing union and agreement to spread the desire for communication.
It is possible the integration and completion between all members of the group to exchange reciprocal messages with each other, to reach the “complicity” in doing well which is necessary firstly to share opinions and secondly to act according to the opinions shared.
The awareness of communication makes the members better persons, able to see others peculiarities in terms of chance for personal enrichment: communication is the instrument to improve the group process in the sense that each member should have the humility to limiting him in the act of listening to the others and accepting their moods.
The process of evolution of every group, improves every time, if its members become parts of the evolution itself as open-minded persons accepting their own limits and at the same time others’ contribution.
When the member overbearingly overwhelms the others, there are no groups but individuals, not altruism but egoism. Living in a group is integrating, joining as a part into a whole, not being rigid but changing as group dynamics involve changing in roles and relationship, and limiting one’s own behaviour in order to allow the expression of the others’ behaviour. There is not a standard of behaving, such as the authoritarian or democratic way and there are not definite skills of acting, such as Confronting, Supporting ad Facilitating to use all the time. A clever person should use the “force of his personality” according to the situation, when the context requires it, at the right time and place.
A “lifelong learner” man needs to be versatile by using his faculties as his weapons and changing them according to changing situations, because life itself is a process and an evolution and man should process and evolve with it.
The members’ strengths in group functioning may be commitment and very hard work, if it is necessary with passion and sacrifice, to transmit a positive message to the people around to accomplish tasks in a successful way to reach personal and collective fulfilment, to take initiative and so solve problems. The weakness in group functioning may be that the members behave in a respectful way and they cannot stand people who are not respectful, so they find it very difficult to work together with a person who does not attend to others, not listening and not paying attention to them. It is hard to imagine a group as a sample of society without such a human behaviour and so every group member should learn to manage with it, to learn life.
Alessandra d'Epiro Dusmet de Beaulieu
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