Communication Behaviors for Effective Small Group Work

Successful working groups are marked by a range of different communication behaviors—actions people do with words and gestures, which they can practice and improve over time.

Among the behaviors you should practice this semester are:

  1. Listening: hear and make sense of what your colleagues are saying; use good, active non-verbal behaviors like looking at people when they speak, nodding your head when you agree with something, and sitting forward to show involvement.
  2. Making clarifying statements: offer an explanation of a concept or issue the group is trying to understand.
  3. Deliberating and discussing: respond to other people, don’t simply push your agenda regardless of what anyone says; engage them by agreeing and extending what they say or by respectfully disagreeing with it and offering reasons.
  4. Keeping the discussion on task: if the conversation drifts, bring the group back onto task.
  5. Eliciting viewpoints from others: ask people who haven’t spoken what they think about an issue.
  6. Offering feedback: give a colleague constructive comments on a project they did.
  7. Mediating conflicts: if there are disagreements and conflicts, try to find middle ground that satisfies everyone.