“Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument.”
Group Discussion or GD as it’s popularly called is a communication methodology where a group of people known as participants share their opinions and views with the other participants, and collaborate on their shared ideas to work together towards a common objective. A group discussion facilitates the flow of information, questions are raised and answered and analysis of an issue is carried out by a team to figure out a solution. In an interview process with a company, a group discussion is a means to shortlist the probable candidates to a select few.
Being a part of the group discussion
Before getting into the details of group discussion, let us first see what is the basic requirement to participate in a group discussion. Knowledge of current events, general knowledge, and issues. In addition, if the group discussion is technical, then you need subject knowledge to contribute effectively to the discussion.
Purpose or objectives of group discussion:
- To shortlist candidates for the next level of the selection process.
- Assessment of communication and technical skills in one go.
- Getting fresh input and ideas.
- Identify the solution(s) to any issues.
In the context of working in a company, teamwork becomes essential as they require a diverse workforce and personnel who work well in a team and produce results. They use group discussion for processes like hiring to troubleshooting.
There are various phases of group discussion
Orientation: The initial phase of group discussion. The participants get together and wait for the guidelines to be given. The candidates are unsure as they don’t know who will facilitate the discussion and who will initiate it. Anxiety and nervousness are commonly felt at this stage of group discussion. The tone of the discussion is set here for the preliminary discussions.
This phase is about deciding the next course of action, points to take action on, discussion of major milestones etc., A general understanding of the participants and their views can be obtained from this phase.
If you decide to initiate the discussion, you have a 50-50 chance. You have to be armed with the subject knowledge, be clear with your facts, and communication skills, you will be able to catch and maintain the attention of the team and the judgement panel. But if you do it for the sake of doing it and just being first, it will reflect equally poorly in the eyes of the team and the panel. initiating a discussion is a critical task and has to be treated as such. Give quotations, definitions, statements, anecdotes in addition to facts and figures.
Conflict: A power struggle is inevitable when two or more people are involved. Group discussion is no exception to this. With conflict at its peak, group members will challenge each other with data and facts. Controversial issues are brought up, faction begins to form with some people supporting and some people against the views expressed. This power battle will lead the discussion into a high strung debate and everyone gets involved. There is a clear demarcation between the few who are proactive, the ones who are dominant, and the one passive players, the ‘YES’ man, and those who are passive participants and don’t contribute to the discussion. with a heated debate in progress, there is a chance that the discussion will veer off course.
In this situation, the best approach is to stay calm and emphatic. You can express your creativity in this phase along with your problem-solving skills. Try to ensure that you draw passive participants into the conversation.
Teamwork: This is a phase of collaboration. once the pecking order is identified, the members wind down to a calm and collaborative mindset. The team members begin to communicate openly and conflicts are relatively easy and quick to resolve. Information flow attains its zenith in this phase of group discussion. Leadership skills are still relevant here. The participants learn to appreciate each other’s competency.
Performance: The stage where a participant proves themselves. Attitude and aptitude shine through in this phase. Evaluation of skills like teamwork, decision making, and problem-solving is done in this phase. Once the participants of the group discussion are all talked out, certain common points and solutions begin to emerge. Now the focus shifts to an in-depth discussion on these selected points and their dissents. The members are eager to attain their goal. As such, from a fruitful group discussion, there is no need to force and declare the solution; instead, the participants tend to gravitate towards the most reasonable solution through collaboration.
Conclusion: The final phase of a group discussion. A strong decision has been made though there will be dissenting voices. The points put forth by the opposing participants will be noted and they will be looked into. Though the decision is almost never unanimous, it can come pretty close to it. Usually, the facilitator will summarize the entire discussion including noteworthy points and dissents. In this stage, no new ideas or angles will be deliberated upon.
How to participate in a group discussion?
Preparation: Review the topics and the available material. Make copious notes and highlight issues. Be ready with comments or question that you want to make.
Arrive early: This gives the impression that you are dedicated. Being highly organized with your time will help you meet other participants and will also give you time to bring your feelings under control and project confidence.
Speaking the right way: Avoid tags and don’t seek the approval of others. Don’t question yourself with “I think..” and other qualifiers.
Use the correct tone: Modulate your voice and don’t bore others by being monotonous. Don’t come across as harsh or too soft spoken. All of these factors affect your credibility.
Be polite: Always acknowledge the contribution of others in the team. Then you can go ahead and present your version and state why that might be a better alternative. Never downplay anybody’s contribution to the discussion.
Keep focused: Never wander away from the topic of discussion. Personal forays into la-la land should also be avoided. Be attentive, be a good listener. Even in the case of an ongoing debate, ensure that the points are relevant to the topic at hand.
Elaborate: If the points you prepared are being put forward by another person, don’t hesitate to give additional points towards it.
Body language: Ensure you project an open, receiving, friendly yet assertive stance and discuss with confidence. Make eye contact with the others in the group periodically. Avoid slouching, wincing and fidgeting which project a negative impression.
Skills required to be good at a group discussion:
Assertiveness: Do not be dominant. Be assertive- be self-assured and confident.
Reasoning: Logical or critical reasoning is tested. You are expected to interpret patterns, sequence and be able to isolate the issue in the given context.
Thinking: Think before you speak. This is an underrated but very appreciable trait.
Team player: Do you have the patience to listen to another person’s point of view? and doing that without interrupting them when you dissent.
Speaking: Your ability to hold clear conversations and your ability to communicate effectively is considered as a must-have skill.
Presentation: Your ability to demonstrate, inform, inspire or persuade is all included in the presentation skill set. A must-have skill and one which can be easily developed.
Creativity: Your innovative skills and your ability to assimilate them into the real world is a useful skill to have.
Time management: Everyone at a discussion gets a limited amount of time, so you need to be well prepared and deliver your stuff at a good pace.
Summarizing: If you are a facilitator or a proactive participant, paraphrasing and summarizing are great skills to have. As the name implies, you need to be good at giving a concise and summarized version of the entire discussion in a few lines.
Group discussion tips
Prepare well and have good subject knowledge Prepare notes on current affairs, the latest technological advances in your chosen field. try to memorize some facts and trivia as well. Showcase your vocabulary skills but avoid jargons unless they are technically proper and don’t speak in chat language.
Speak only when relevant Don’t interrupt a speaker and always stay with the topic when in an argument with peers at a group discussion.
Be a leader You can be a leader throughout the group discussion. You can start the group discussion which will give you an added advantage in a group discussion. Draw others in by making a statement but don’t let things get out of hand.
Observe and be a good listener Observe and listen to what other participants are saying. Make eye-contact and acknowledge by nodding.
Improve your communication skills: Find a good rhythm and practice speaking in front of mirrors. Make sure that you don’t stammer or hesitate while putting forth your ideas.
Body language: You non-verbal cues are equally important. Never stare, and glare. Don’t slouch or tap your fingers. Sit up straight and make eye contact. Nod when required. Ensure that your body language says that you are interested in being here
Don’t dominate Don’t bully and/or dominate the discussion. Give fair time for others to present their points.
Don’t be aggressive Don’t engage in arguments just for the sake of it. Don’t shout or raise your voice against your team members.
Don’t play for two teams- for and against Ensure that your ideas are not all over the place. Most topics given will be easily debatable. So decide if you want to talk for or against the idea. If you field ideas on both sides, it creates a negative impression that you are not convinced about your idea.
Don’t give up your speech time While it is not mandatory that you have to speak many times during the course for a group discussion, don’t be happy with a minute and a half worth of speech time. take the floor multiple times, reiterate the key points, express your opinions on other’s point of view and keep in the loop.
Don’t be a part of the melee There comes a time during the group discussion where everyone will be talking at once. But no one will be listening. Don’t be a part of that. To make a statement in that noisy environment, slightly raise your voice and then complete presenting your idea.
Facilitators in a group discussion
The role of a facilitator is to make others talk, draw their knowledge out. It is the responsibility of a facilitator to keep things going smoothly. The facilitator must also have thorough subject knowledge and be unbiased. The facilitator needs to ask the right question at the right time and should keep the conversation going. The facilitator also may have to focus on the conversation flow and bring a balanced discussion to the table. The facilitators of a group discussion session are expected to be excellent at summarizing and moving the conversation towards the next topic. The role of a facilitator dictates that they should remain neutral and conduct the discussion without steering the group towards a particular outcome.
How to facilitate a group discussion?
Prepare: Decide on the discussion flow process. Be prepared with your set of ideas and questions. Use these to prompt another round of discussion in case there is a dip in meaningful conversation from the participants. Pose a question to get the group to think and respond when they are talking in circles.
Engage: If possible engage with the participants beforehand which will put them at ease and will help them take part faster. Structure the discussion and guide the flow rather than allowing the tide of conversation to carry it away. Ensure that all participants get their turn at presenting their ideas and opinions.
Guide: Check if the discussion is going on time and on track. Be factual, and avoid criticism. Explain what is happening and seek confirmation from the participants if their experience is on par. Give a high-level summary after every topic. Then if you pose a question to the group, introduce the participants to it in a clear and concise manner. Ask open-ended questions to instigate more discussion.
Record: The group discussion participants should be aware that the discussion is being recorded. It should be done in a visible way. Use flip charts or projectors for the same. Whenever possible, use the participants’ own words while recording. The recorded visuals will help the group be aware of its progress. Remember that this is different from minutes and can be used to supplement it.
Productivity: Get the participants to agree on the agenda, the timings and other necessities. Refer back to this whenever the group seems to go off track. Smoothen out any conflicts by stating the facts and helping the other look at it objectively. Don’t let the argument grow bigger to the point that everyone is shouting and there is absolutely no productivity. Look for common ground and work towards it. Try to include everyone in the conversation and give each person ample time to put forth their ideas. Ask for feedback and help the group achieve its goals.
Summarize: Give a concise summary of the group discussion. Don’t introduce any new ideas or opinions in this. Include the learning from these sessions, the solutions discussed and the proposed action plan.
The group discussion can be a great medium to develop and improve leadership and overall communication skills along with showcasing your subject knowledge. This is the reason most companies have a group discussion session as a part of their hiring process. Your overall personality and knowledge-based skill level will be judged by evaluating your performance in a group discussion. So prepare well and with confidence, get ahead in your career with these group discussion tips.