Characteristics of Group Discussions

Here are some features of discussion groups which will enable you to know what discussion is and how it operates.

  1. Cooperation is stressed in group discussion–cooperation and not competition–are the attributes of good problem-solving discussions. Here, the members have gathered together because they share a common concern and it is this concern that stimulates a spirit of cooperation. While arguments and disagreements do occur, they focus on ideas and content, not on personalities.

  2. Analysis and investigation are part of the discussion process. To find the best answer to the given problem the members must be willing to analyze and investigate the issues involved (all sides of the issue). Members should be open-minded and not fearful of giving all points a fair and just hearing. The person who has all the answers does not belong in the group for it is the analytic and systematic search for the answers that gives the problem-solving group its investigative spirit.

  3. Discussion is a method of reflective thinking. Rather than engage in random and aimless behavior the problem-solving group follows a thought process that is purposeful, systematic and organized. The most common pattern of group-reflective thinking is a) defining and limiting the problem, b) analyzing evidence for the causes and effects of the problem, c) proposing solutions for the problem, d) evaluating and analyzing all solutions, and e) deciding on ways to put the chosen solution into operation.

  4. Discussion groups attempt to strike a balance between the emotional and the rational. This balancing of feeling with logical arguments is essential if the group is working toward the resolution of real-life problems. This blending of what you feel and what the research says is one of the essential components of successful problem-solving.

  5. Sincere skepticism is encouraged. Although the group strives for a high degree of solidarity, individuals should feel free to question and criticize ideas they believe are weak or insubstantial. A group of individuals who spends all its time nodding heads in agreement ends with rather shallow conclusions.

  6. Group cohesion is an important element in successful problem- solving groups. Although group cohesion may appear to be an extension of cooperation, it is much more complicated than simply trying to cooperate. Cohesion is the special ingredient that molds a group of individuals together as a unit, it tends to be contagious and, once trust is established, cohesiveness permeates all of the group’s activities.

  7. Group norms form the basic standard of behavior for the members of the group. Norms tell the participants how to act. Each group, as communication patterns evolve, establishes various rules of conduct, these guidelines are both formal (a specific person to start the meeting) and informal (people talk whenever they have something to say). These rules/norms help members decide how they should behave. Norms are parameters that all members of the group should clearly perceive. These norms also contribute to cohesiveness and increased productivity. Samovar and Mills


Samovar, Larry, and Jack Mills. (1992). Oral Communication: Message
and Response Eighth Edition. Debuke, IA: William C. Brown.

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