A Tale of Two Groups

I’ve had a wonderful, refreshing break, and I’m baaaaccck!  Picking up where I left off, the topic is still the mystery we call  groups and group process.  This weekend I had the chance to observe groups at work.  I was struck by these two in particular:

GROUP 1: The 10 group members were excruciatingly polite, walking on eggshells, careful not to offend.  Some focused on making themselves known while taking up quite a bit of airtime; others held back, waiting for a place to jump in.    Some made little speeches, advocating their point of view.  Some talked about their feelings.   Those who advocated a point of view did nothing to invite others into dialog with them.  Those who talked about their feelings did not ask others how they felt.  It was like the dialog in a Woody Allen movie:  serial presentations that do not relate to the presentation that went before it.   They looked at each other, then looked down at their copy of the article they were discussing.   They wanted to connect, or so it seemed.   Their process began to look excruciatingly political:  12 people looking for a leader, or permission to become a leader or perhaps vying to become a leader.  It was hard to tell.    At the 20-minute mark, each of them closed the magazine with the article and began to focus exclusively on each other.  At the last minute, one group member posed an open ended question to the group and didn’t answer it herself.   The timekeeper signalled the end of the meeting.

GROUP 2: The group of 3 was busy deciding what to write on the flip chart.  Each of them was clear what was expected of their group:  To tell the rest of the group the key points of the article they’d read the night before.  They were all looking primarily at the flipchart one of them was writing on, and they were contending with each other.  Their progress was rapid, their interactions crisp and focused.  They contended easily and openly about the meaning of what they’d read, and about which points to convey.  In 10 minutes, they were finished with their task, energized and a bit feisty.

I wonder if you’ve seen – or been in – groups like these two.  How do you account for the differences between them?  You can let us know in the comments below.  Thanks for chiming in.

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