Forming in Group Process
STAGE I: INFANCY
Regardless of what events give birth to a group, as it begins, it has to form, to come together. The behaviours in Stage I are initially polite and superficial as each person seeks out similarities or common needs. While introductions are made, each individual is testing the amount of compatibility of her or his reasons for being there with the stated reasons of other members. Confusion and anxiety abound as different styles and needs become evident. The goal for the individual is to establish safe patterns for interaction. The group issue is the establishment of basic criteria for membership.
Interpersonally, each individual is working at varying levels of intensity on the issue of inclusion. Some questions raised during infancy are: “Do I wish to be included, here and with these people?” “Will they include me, accept me as I am?” “What will be the price and am I willing to pay it?”
The first stage reflects dependency with regard to leadership. As confusion, ambiguity, and anxiety abound, individuals look to whatever leadership exists in the group of the environment. Whatever the direction or information provided, it is grasped for guidance.
Where there is no response from the designated leadership, written descriptions or charges to the group may become a substitute. For example, “The training description says…” If this sort of thing is also lacking, the absence of direction itself may be brought forward as a direction and guidance. For example, “Since we are getting no direction, we must be expected to proceed ourselves and take responsibility to…”
Depending on the similarities in style and needs that exist in the group, and depending on the tolerance for ambiguity that exists in the group, this first stage may be smooth and pleasant or intense and frustrating.