It continues to amaze me how every group has a different chemistry. Often the presence or absence of one person can make the difference. Yesterday I had a troika that began with three men, who began to carry on a fairly high powered business conversation. A woman joined the group, and the tone immediately changed to more personal level. In this case the woman assimilated herself into the group, but changed the tone. There are many factors that determine the ways in which a group can change. Some are: age, gender, dominance, interests, listening skills, and chemistry. The homogeneity of a group is also quite important. A department meeting or a discussion among lawyers will change with the addition of “outsiders.” Many business people fail to account for group dynamics as a major factor in how a particular group functions. Pay attention to this factor and how you might influence the chemistry of the various groups in which you are involved.
There can be a substantial difference in the dynamics of a group depending on its size. With a dyad (two people) there is usually the possibility of a more intimate exchange of ideas and information. In fact, this format favors quieter people in many cases. When a group goes from two to three, the dynamics are likely to change in some way. You have probably experienced this when you are talking to someone one on one and a third person enters the conversation. When a group goes from three to four, the dynamics change yet again. In this case there are more possible variations. There could even be two separate conversations. One person could feel excluded or other possibilities can occur.
As the size of the group continues to increase, the discussion is likely to become less intimate or personal in nature. A dominant person might monopolize the conversation. There could be two or more separate conversations. One person might hold forth with stories, opinions or jokes.
These phenomena are extremely critical to understanding how we make connections. Some people will only really connect one on one and avoid larger groups. They are “two’s company, three’s a crowd” people (exclusive), while others tend more toward “the more the merrier.” (inclusive) We might be asked, “Do you mind if Joan joins us?” Your honest feeling is that Joan will change the tone of the group because she is a dominant personality tending toward telling the same stories over and over again.
In terms of your networking, it is quite useful to know which size groups are more conducive to establishing relationships. If you are an extrovert who loves large parties, you should seek those large festive events because they favor your style and personality. On the other hand, if you are more of an introvert you will be better off one on one or in smaller groups. Ask yourself the question: What size group do I feel the most comfortable and have the most success? Then seek those situations while learning to function better in less comfortable situations.
It can be highly beneficial to meet with people in smaller groups, especially if you are more of an introvert. Large groups have certain benefits, but much of the important networking activities take place in smaller groups.