Discussion is an exchange of knowledge; an argument an exchange of ignorance. Robert Quillen
As each sport and game has its own rules and tips to help you navigate it successfully, the same goes for group discussion too. The general tip is that you follow the rules, gauge your opponents’ strengths and weaknesses, work around their strengths, tap into their weaknesses and you can sail through with the perfect image in group discussions.
Rule 1: Prepare
Work begins long before you sit for the group discussion. Your performance is as good as your preparation. Half the preparation is about knowledge. If you think you can wing it with aggression, you are mistaken. Find out the kind of topics that are given at the institution or company you are applying for.
Prepare well in time on as many topics as you can, not just the ones given in the past, but related ones too. You never know when the subject would be changed. Get into the habit of active reading. It’s different from passive reading. Passive reading is where you read merely to understand the subject. Active reading is where you not only understand the subject, but also begin to raise questions and voice your opinion – positive, negative or neutral about the subject. This is critical in the group discussion to counter or support others’ points of view.
The next part of rule 1 is to have mock group discussion, preferably with differing groups of friends. The point is to train your mind to think of any given topic’s pros and cons in a dynamic situation where you can’t predict the person’s response. More importantly, it is about looking at all the possible angles to the topic. This shows your logical mind, creativity and also your ability to think on your feet which comes with preparation.
Rule 2: Know the Participants
Carry a notepad and pen to note down your discussion points as soon as the topic is given. Most people who attend GDs are as focused on their performance as they tend to be. Take a deep breath and when the team introduces itself, note down the participants’ names.
In the heat of the discussion, calling out the person’s name is a good way to get their attention. All of us respond instinctively when our name is called out, so use this technique. Not only does it get you their attention, it also shows your people skills and presence of mind.
Rule 3: Take Care of your Posture
Your body posture reveals your state of mind. At the same time, it conditions you to a particular way of thinking. Don’t lean back or lean forward. Find the balance.
Let your body posture be of polite intensity so that you come across as a balanced individual with plenty of energy. This also shows empathy and respect to others when they speak and is an asset that brings you additional points.
Rule 4: Take Charge
Take charge of the group discussion right in the beginning. It shows your leadership capability. Introduce the topic by setting the framework for the ensuing discussion and state your opening point before leaving it to the group. Further, when it comes to conclusions, many GDs fall through and participants don’t make good use of it although it brings points.
Conclude the discussion by summing up if you can. To do this, listen actively throughout the discussion and note down the key highlights – say, in columns of negative and positive points on your notepad or any other format that suits the discussion.
Rule 5: Retain Your Balance
During the group discussion itself, give your logical counterpoint without aggression when there is a disagreement. You are not there to prove that your stand is right, but to show your maturity and logical thinking. When the discussion drags over a point, it is time for you to interject and turn the discussion in a new direction, either with a related point or with an opposite view.
Be to the point and intervene when another candidate is taking all the airtime. When they pause for breath, it is the right time to take your chance, state your point and then, pass the chance to someone who hasn’t had their say.
Rule 6: Follow your Domain
Keep the domain in mind while projecting your image. Let’s suppose you are facing a group discussion for a sales function, you may have to take a more aggressive approach whereas a marketing function could veer towards the creative and the practical approach in assessment.
Group discussion is as much about your knowledge and point-of-view as about how you handle yourself and others. Do these right and you will have projected the right image.