Interpersonal and small group social skills

Develop decision-making, consensus building, communication, conflict management, trust building skills.

A smoothly working group can help all its members immensely by providing you with opportunities to discuss work, help one another in time of need, and keep you up-to-date with material. But it takes an effort by all its members to make a group succeed. The main characteristic of a successful group is that everyone contributes to it, although not necessarily in the same way. Each person has different strengths and weaknesses and by pooling your resources and by being cooperative, you can build on your strengths.

This requires each person to take responsibility for the harmonious working of the group, share decision-making and leadership roles, keep the communication channels open and free, build trust among members, respect one another's views even when you disagree (put-downs are never helpful!), and learn how resolve conflicts without ignoring them.

These are not easy skills to master but they will prove exceedingly valuable, not just in this course, but in your future careers. In the world of work, how well you work with your peers is as important a quality as what you know. You should use the group work in this course to help you learn the material better as well as learn these vital collaborative skills.

Groups that work collaboratively, productively, efficiently, and without friction require its members to have developed certain social skills. The following are the specific skills that the instructor should help students to develop for successful group work to occur:

  • The ability to make decisions after a full discussion of the issues.
  • To be able to forge a consensus even amongst people who might hold widely differing views initially.
  • Maintain full and open communication amongst all members of the group so that everyone is up-to-date on all matters and no one is left out of the loop.
  • Manage conflict so that people can retain good working relationships even if they are strained occasionally by personality or policy differences.
  • Be able to build trust amongst all group members so that each person is confident that the others will do their fair share of the work and uphold their responsibilities. • Have each and every member be able to explain to others outside the group how the group's conclusions were arrived at.
  • Constantly check to make sure everyone has agreed to consensus and that no one is being left out or allowed to fall behind.
  • Encourage everyone in the group to participate.
  • Listen accurately and respectfully to the ideas of others in the group.
  • Not change one's mind unless persuaded by evidence and arguments. Have the courage and be willing to stand up for one's beliefs and submit or tolerate minority reports if consensus cannot be reached.
  • Know how to criticize ideas and not people.