Friday, July 29, 2005

Breaking Up Cliques in Small Groups

A clique is defined as anything that excludes rather than includes others. Teenagers are not the only age groups that can have a problem with cliques in small groups; adults may have the same issues. If you are a small group leader or facilitators here are ways you can help to break up cliques and to become a group where everyone feels welcome and at home.

Shuffle the seating. By moving the seating around, or having the group members change where they sit from time to time, you will immediately be able to separate those who have become “attached” or are a clique. Another benefit to shuffling the seating is that everyone will have an opportunity to talk with one another instead of just seeing another group member sitting at the other end of the table or row of chairs. Depending on the purpose or focus of your small group, one fun idea would be to have a “special” comfy chair that is given to a different member each meeting, or a drawing to find out who is “special” today. By rotating who sits in the special chair you will also find that the group members rotate where they sit as well.

Always be aware of “closed” or “secret” conversations. Avoid talk or conversations that leave group members out. Also, stay away from “code talk” during conversations or “secret” words or comments that only a few individuals know about. If you find a couple of small group members carrying on a side conversation during your meeting, you can also break this up simply by asking one of them a question, they will be sure to “snap out of it” if their whispering is called to the group’s attention. Finally, if you find one or more group members are routinely carrying on sidebar conversations, you may speak with them outside of the meeting one day and ask for their support to be “inclusive” and to avoid the appearance of cliques.

Be frank and open. Most people will never intend to be exclusive. If you are aware of a problem in your group, mentioning it by either a private conversation or talking about it generally with the group can often solve the problem without any difficulty.

Facilitate “pairing-up.” Instead of saying “let’s pair off” and letting group members find their own partners for activities, assign group members who don’t know each other to be together. Or, you can use some sort of drawing, or other fun way to assign people together. For example: if someone’s name starts with the letter “A,” pair them off with another who starts with the letter “B,” or the next letter in the alphabet, etc.

As a facilitator or leader of a small group, you will need to develop an awareness of the group dynamics as they unfold around you. Whatever you do, always take a kind, gentle tone with the group members but do not be afraid to find ways to break up the cliques using creative and fun ideas. As a leader it is also your responsibility to make sure that everyone in the group is included in the discussion and activities, even if they are the “quiet type.” Everyone should have the same respect and opportunity to participate.

About the Author: Michele loves learning about leadership and management skills and styles and likes to share this with others using
Online Learning Tutorials.

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Copyright 2005, Michele Webb. All Rights Reserved.

1 comment:

Daniel said...

Thanks for your advice. I never thought of some of these methods. They seem like they will really work.