When it comes to communication, Stewart L. Tubbs has recognized that there are six relevant background factors that people should keep in mind when working in small groups with others: personality, gender, age, health, attitudes and values. Depending on the situation, these factors have varying importance in how they affect the group dynamic. Understanding how these factors play into the different groups you will be a part of in your lifetime is key to being able to increase the effectiveness of your communication skills. Let’s take a look at some of the ways that I have dealt with these factors and also discuss my personal take on how these factors matter.
Everyone should understand that it is very rare that two people will ever have the exact same personality. Even if two or more people are quite similar, there will be something that sets them apart from one another. Because of this, personality is probably the strongest influence on the ability to work in a group, because with so many different personalities in the world, conflict is bound to occur. It is how you choose to work with those differing perspectives that will make or break communication in a small group. One useful way of learning to work with different personalities is by analyzing the results of personality tests, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. While tests like these mostly generalize people into categories, they can still help you get a feel for the people you will be working with and be able to put yourself in their shoes a little better.
Communication between genders is a surprisingly difficult concept for many people to grasp, and the thought that this is an issue that people have is a surprisingly difficult concept for me to grasp. I understand that historical gender roles play a huge part in why this is such a big deal, but I have always liked to view all people as equal as possible. Because of this, I try to talk to all people on the gender spectrum in the same manner, the only differentiation coming from trying to match the personality that one might have or the relationship that I have with them.
From what I have experienced, I find it easier to work with people who are older than me than those who are younger and I even have varying levels of difficulty working with people who are around the same age as me. From what I have gathered, most older people tend to have a more grounded work ethic and thus understand the importance of working together to achieve a task. Younger people and sometimes people around my age lack that same drive and rather avoid dealing with work if they can. Let’s just say that working at a part-time job with teenagers in high school was a surprisingly unwelcome experience after working with nothing but other adults because the job location included a bar.
I don’t have much personal say on the relevance of health when it comes to working in groups, but it is definitely an important factor. Working with unhealthy group members can slow the group’s production rate, because the healthier members will have to pick up for the slack left by those who couldn’t participate as much.
I also don’t have much to mention about the relevance of varying attitudes that come into play when communicating in groups. From my own experience, I have been able to adapt to the situation I was placed in, in order to keep the group working as strong as possible, sometimes even taking a mediating stand to do so. I understand that not everyone is equipped to handle communicating with others like that, so it’s up to you to figure out what works best for you when you encounter conflicting attitudes.
Lastly, understanding the values that people hold is another key to being able to successfully communicate within a small group. As Tubbs says, “Being aware of such differences will help group members learn the best way to respond to one another.” All in all, the important thing to remember is that each member of the group holds a part of the key to the group’s success.