Group Participation

Group Participation is the first step to Leadership

When you are meeting people and making new friends, you are using many of the same skills as you would use when working with others in a college organization, in your family, or  in the workplace.

Important Skills you need to Develop

  • Good Listening Skills: You need to listen to people and understand what they are saying and how they feel.
  • Good Communication Skills: You need to express your ideas clearly and persuasively.
  • Good Observation Skills: You need to understand the social and political relationships in the group.
  • Good Group Skills: You need to work with others to make decisions and get work done.

With Interpersonal Relationships, the goal is to meet people and make friends. In Organizations you also need Teamwork, planning a meet people and make friends but the focus is less on personal relationships and more on finding ways to plan, organize and work together to work toward goals.

The students in the picture are planning a fundraiser. They want to raise money to send food and other necessities to a nearby town hit by a tornado.

Why do you want to join an Organization?

  • As with most of what you do, you need to be intentional and that includes being clear about your goals.
  •  Are you going to join an organization as a way to meet people?
  •  Are you joining because the organization is something you are really interested in or feel strongly about?
  • Are you joining an organization in order to learn more about working with other people?
  • Are you joining an organization because you’d like to eventually become a leader in this group?

Being clear on your goals will help you select which organization to join. If it is related to your interests, you might visit several groups that seem important or interesting and choose one. If you want to meet people, it is also best to focus on groups that are interesting to you because it will attract other people with interests like yours.

If, however, you want to learn more about working with other people, you want to avoid the groups that invite a guest speaker each week. If the groups never works in small groups to accomplish something, they will not help you learn to work with other people.. You might talk to several people in each group. Ask what kinds of things they do. Ask about the leadership. Were they chosen because they were most popular or because they knew how to get people to work together?

Prepare for your first meeting

Learn as much as you can about the organization. If there was information handed out at orientation, read it carefully. Check the college website to see if it includes information about the various organizations. Talk to juniors and seniors to see what they know or have heard. If you manage to talk to a few members, that will be helpful.

First impressions are important

First impressions are important. I saw something on television recently about ordinary people watching a video of teachers in their classroom for only 30 seconds and making a judgement whether that teacher is poor, average or an excellent teacher. They are correct 80% of the time.

First Impressions when Making Friends

How do you decide who you want to talk to? Other people are looking at you the same way. They look at your appearance, at how you are dressed, at how you stand and walk, at your expressions. People often decide if they want to talk to you before you’ve said the first word. While we may not realize what we are doing, when we cross our arms, people interpret this to mean that you don’t want to talk to anyone. Keep those arms uncrossed.

First Impressions In Class

We also make quick judgements about our professors based on how they are dressed, how they walk and sound, and the expressions on their face.

Your professors take a quick look around a class and get a good idea of what the students are like.. They notice who is sitting near the front of the class (a sign that you are interested and eager to learn.  They will notice your posture. If you lean back in your seat and yawn, they assume you are not interested. If you lean forward slightly and watch them as they speak, they see you as an eager student. They  notice if you arrive on time or often come in late. They know which students are paying close attention and taking notes and which students are talking to other students or using their cell phones to text.  When you turn in homework or assignments, they notice neatness, spelling and grammar. They also know which students ask intelligent questions… not just “Could you say that again? I didn’t get it.”

First Impressions in an Organization: In a Group

When you walk into that first meeting, you will check out the group. You hear someone speak and think, that’s one smart woman. I’d like to work with her. Or you might think, just listen to that blabbermouth. I hope I don’t have to work with him. You might, of course, decide later that your first impressions weren’t accurate. You might really enjoy working with the man you thought was a blabbermouth.

You notice the students who are sitting alone, waiting for the meeting to begin, not speaking together. Are they coming to their first meeting? Are they shy? Do they have problems getting along with others in the group? You probably don’t want people to see you that way.

You should notice who is talking to a large group, to people who are paying close attention. This might be the president or it might be a member with a great deal of influence. You want to know who this person is.

You might see a number of students helping arrange the chairs, putting out refreshments, or doing other tasks. Be sure to ask if they could use your help.

Otherwise, you should walk up to someone or a small group and introduce yourself. Have a few questions ready. “How long have you been a member? What kinds of things do you do in meetings? or “This is my first meeting too. Why did you decide to come to the meeting. Tell me about yourself. …

Others in the group will be forming their first impressions of you. They will be aware of

  •  How you walked into the room: Did you look nervous or confident and outgoing?
  •  Your attitude: Did you smile at people and seem eager to get to know other members?
  •  If you are a good listener: Were you interested in what people had to say?
  •  If you seemed interested in the group: Did you ask about their activities?

Members of the group will look at you and wonder how you will fit it. Are you a person who can be depended upon to get a job done, who has consistently good ideas, who is able to work well with others?

Take your time trying to decide who you’d like as friends and who you’d prefer to work with. Get to know most of the people in the group before making any decisions.

Recommended Books:

1. Daniel Goleman:  Working With Emotional Intelligence.  1998. NY,  NY: Bantam Books.
2. Daniel Goleman:  emotional Intelligence: Why it can Matter more than IQ. 1995. NY NY: Bantam Books
3. Daniel Goleman:  Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships. 2006. NY NY: Bantam Books


Communication Skills for working in groups           Team Building

Conflict Resolution                                                  Leadership Skills

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