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Working in Groups

by Pauline Maskell

This resource focuses on the group as a whole. The material described will show how a group can often achieve results that each individual could not achieve alone.

Full Description:   

This resource focuses on the group as a whole. The material described will show how a group can often achieve results that each individual could not achieve alone. It explores the criteria which makes a group effective; it identifies the individual roles and skills that produce a successful group and techniques for building trust, support and feelings of positive self-esteem.

Contents include: Characteristics of successful groups, clearly laid out skill training sessions, suggesions for effective journal keeping, activities to discover personal qualities needed for groupwork, games to help build confidence and promote ideas that get the most out of a group, examination of important group skills such as communication, empathy, assertiveness and relaxation through activities and games.

Sample Activity


Anger can be extremely disruptive in a group if it is suppressed and diverted. However, it need not be a problem if it is acknowledged and handled skillfully. We generally try to control angry feelings and encourage others to do the same. Anger is a difficult emotion to manage, as we usually neither acknowledge it nor understand it. This desire to bottle up anger can often result in displacement behaviour: instead of expressing their anger, people may:

  • Shout at or get irritable with another person who was not responsible for the anger.
  • Become physically restless-getting up, walking around, tapping their hands or feet.
  • Moan to other people during or after the session.
  • Blame someone else for making them angry.
  • Feel guilty for not being able to cope with their anger.
  • Become excessively charming and polite to those they feel are responsible for their anger.
  • Ignore their anger and frustration and pretend that it never happened.
  • Walk away-physically distance themselves from the people and the situation.

We may feel virtuous because we have bottled up our anger instead of just letting it go. The one thing we have not done in such a situation is to explain assertively why we feel as we do to the group or the individual involved: we do not acknowledge our responsibility for our own anger.

    Anger has two levels:
  1. Top Layer

    This is made up of past and present hurts and frustrations. We feel trapped, and two sorts of feelings result: a need to tear down the walls we feel are hemming us in, and despair because it seems nothing can be done. We tend to swing from one feeling to the other. We want to hurt the person who has hurt us. When we have hurt them by words or actions we feel remorse, guilt and possibly fear. This exchange of aggressive then passive responses does not move us forward; in fact, it damages our self-esteem and our relationship with the other person.

  2. Lower Layer

    Although we sometimes feel consumed by anger, deep down we want to survive our angry feelings and change, so that we can overcome our difficulties. We plot strategies to control ourselves, to relax, to assert ourselves with confidence, and to choose how we respond to the type of situation that tends to mak us angry. We believe that we can acknowledge our anger, look at it without blaming ourselves or others, and express it clearly, without allowing it to take over.

    The aggressive response to anger is usually a quick flare-up, an overreaction without waiting to find out more about the situation. We attack before we can be hurt any more. Afterwards we may be agonised by guilt and remorse.

    The passive response may involve moaning. The person claims they don't have the energy to make a fuss any more. They become silent and try to ignore the people they feel have caused their anger. They avoid physical contact of any kind and avoid sharing their thoughts and feelings with others. They withdraw into a world of their own and dwell on their misery. They may attempt to manipulate others, so as to punish those they blame for their anger through second-hand illwill.

    The assertive person acknowledges their anger. They examine their feelings to see if they are caused by the present situation, or linked to previous situations. They decide if their anger is reasonable, or whether there are other reasons for their reaction such as tiredness or tension. If possible they find out more about the other person's thoughts and feelings. Finally, they think out what they will say and explain what has upset them without getting carried away by emotional overtones or blaming the other person. The other person may or may not understand, but they will not feel devalued. The cause of the anger may not be resolved on that particular occasion, but the basis has been formed for further negotiation.

    If it is not possible to reach a state of relaxation at the time, it is better to just breath deeply and, when you have gotton rid of the stored-up tension, come back and explain your feelings clearly.

    Dealing with anger

    Aim:To explore anger and its effects.

    Method:Work with a partner. Draw up a grid like the one on Handout 35.

    List five things which make you angry, be specific, then rank them from 1 to 5, using 1 for the one which angers you most. Next to each one write down the main reason why it makes you angry. Finally, write down next to each one what you do when you are angry in such a situation. Include your physical responses as well as what you do and say, discuss your list with your partner. Work with your partner to see if you can think of an alternative assertive response to each situation.

    Time:30 minutes or longer

    150 photocopiable masters in a 11 X 12 hard cover ring binder

      Acknowledgements IntroductionUsing this resource
    • Chapter 1:Ideas about grouup development and operation
    • Chapter 2:What is a group?
    • Chapter 3:Group building
    • Chapter 4:Group maintenacne
    • Chapter 5:Motivation and Empowerment
    • Chapter 6:Interpersonal Relationships
    • Chapter 7:Skills
    • Chapter 8:Cohesion
    • Chapter 9:Communication
    • Chapter 10:Conflict and Negotiation
    • Chapter 11:Empathy
    • Chapter 12:Coping with Stress
    • Chapter 13:Goal-setting and Decision-making
    • Chapter 14:Leadership
    • Chapter 15:Anger
    • Bibliography:Resources, Books and articles

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