The Importance of Socialization in Small Group Communication According to Dictionary.com, socialization is defined as “a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position”. Although this definition could also apply in some ways, there are, however, more specific definitions of socialization when referring to small group communication. In order to understand how socialization works, and why it is important in a small group, I must first describe the various definitions that exist:
1. “When newcomers become part of the group’s patterns of activities.” 2. “As a reciprocal process that affects both individual members and the group as a whole.” 3. “As a two-way process of influence and change whereby group members use verbal and nonverbal messages to create a new and unique group culture.” I should also explain the different models of small group communication. “In 1999, Carolyn Anderson and her colleagues introduced a model of small group socialization by using five phases to illustrate how communication influences socialization processes”.
I found that these five phases are similar to Tuckman’s five-phase model of group development. They are sequential, but unlike Tuckman’s, focus on each individual within the small group and help to illuminate how he/she may be feeling throughout the group process. The first phase in the models of small group socialization is the antecedent phase. In this phase, “researchers seem to agree that whether you’re entering an existing group or a new group matters not; what you bring to a group-beliefs, attitudes, and communicative and personality traits-will influence the group’s culture and members”.
For me, in the antecedent phase, I felt mostly negative toward group work. I did not have much positive experience in prior groups, therefore, I assumed that this would be no different. The antecedent phase is important to small group communication because it clarifies how individual members may feel before actually meeting with the group, but after determining or discovering that he/she will be involved in group work. The individual’s past experiences, values, and personality will also likely effect the attitude and feeling that he/she may have toward working in a small group.
The next phase also occurs before the members of the group actually meet; it is referred to as the anticipatory phase. There are several different aspects to this phase. Firstly, it is the phase “in which individuals decide what they expect from group membership as well as each group member”. The next aspect applies to new members of the group: “existing groups form expectations about new group members”. I can relate to this aspect on a personal level. Unfortunately, I was not present at the first few of my group’s meetings.
This made me feel more anxious about working in a group, mostly because I felt that the group would have negative feelings and expectations of me, due to my absence. The last aspect that relates to the anticipatory phase is how “members of a zero history group (i.e., a group whose members never worked together before) harbor preconceived expectations for the group”. The group that I am involved in, The Magnificent 7, would have been considered a zero tolerance group at the beginning of the semester because we had never met each other, let alone worked in a group together.
Overall, the anticipatory phase illustrates how prospective members of a group have expectations for that group, and the individual group members. This is significant in small group communication since it will help to determine the amount of motivation and encouragement held by each individual member, which is needed for the group to succeed. The third phase in the models of small group socialization is called the encounter phase. During this phase, “individuals usually come together for the first time” and “begin establishing group goals and roles”.
This, again, was a phase that I was not present for. It affected me in the aspect that I was going into the group a newcomer and was not part of the initial establishment of group roles and goals. It made me feel as though I was stuck with whatever goals and roles were already in place. Lucky for me, however, I quickly learned that my group had the same goals as I did, in reference to the group work and course as a whole, and they were all very accepting of me. I also learned that the Magnificent 7 did not assign specific roles.
Through the first meeting, as well as talking with outside of class, it was clear to me that Evelyn had become our unspoken leader. Although she stated that it was not her purpose and she did not want to be the leader, I pointed out to her that it was to the group’s benefit to have someone like her to “get the group going” and lead in the right direction. The encounter phase is essential to small group communication for the purpose of getting to learn about each members’ goals, as well as to start the actual communication process.
It is crucial to “balance personal, group, task, and relational goals for successful socialization”. This means that there should be an equal balance of importance between each member’s goal, and the entirety of the group’s goals. In the assimilation phase, the fourth phase in small group socialization, “the ‘we-ness’ or feeling of ‘group-ness’ occurs”.
This phase occurs when each member of the group becomes more comfortable with the group as a whole. For the Magnificent 7, there could be conflicting opinions on when this occurred. I could say that we were an actual group before we did our volunteer time, but I do not think that we all really felt that “we-ness” until during and after our volunteer work.
“Successful assimilation occurs when each member sees his values and interests coinciding with those of the group”.The service learning project really helped our group to become one and realize that we all did have the same expectations and want to succeed. The assimilation phase is critical to small group communication in order for the group to continue to effectively communicate, work together, complete tasks, and reach goals.
The fifth and final phase of the small group socialization process is the exit phase. In this phase, the group as a whole ends, or it can also occur when a member leaves a group. The Magnificent 7 has not yet disbanded and reached this phase. It is a phase that “group scholars are beginning to focus on because they are thought to influence attitudes about future groups and behaviors in them (Sinclair-James & Stohl. 1997)” . I would agree with this statement.
Personally, I have a different attitude towards working in small groups due to working in the Magnificent 7 group. Going in, I encompassed a small to moderate amount of grouphate. I was not looking forward to working in a group due to my prior experience. However, (so far), the experience that I have encountered within the Magnificent 7 has positively influenced my opinions of working in a small group. Going forward, I now have more knowledge and positive experiences to take with me to future small groups that I may be a part of.
The assimilation phase is imperative to small group communication because this phase shows how each member feels when leaving the group. If a group member had a positive experience within the group, he/she will more than likely leave the group with a good feeling about working in small groups. On the other hand, if a group member had a negative experience with the group, he/she will more than likely feeling unenthusiastic about working in future small groups.
In closing, socialization is important in the small group communication process. It acknowledges that groups progress through communication in a certain order: from the beginning phase, (the antecedent phase), when members have not even yet met each other, until the final phase, (the exit phase), when the group as a whole displays cohesion.
A positive outcome of socialization is successful group cohesion. “Group cohesion is a phenomenon that determines how well a group holds together. When cohesion is strong, a group will remain stable, but when it is weak, the group may fall apart” . The Magnificent 7 has evolved in the few months of being together and now exhibits a great amount of group cohesion.
Bibliography Anderson, Scott A. Myers and Carolyn M. The Fundamentals of Small Group Communication. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc., 2008. Chapter 2. Conjecture Corporation. wiseGEEK. 2003-2013. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. n.d. Random House. 27 October 2013. . University, Old Dominion. Old Dominion University. n.d. odu.edu. 25 October 2013.