Group discussion is commonly known as GD, as the name suggests, it is a group activity. People are grouped in a bunch for a common purpose:
§ share knowledge
§ exchange opinions
§ brainstorm [find solutions innovative look for improvements]
§ job selection process
It is a systematic purposeful interactive oral process. Here the members of the group share certain common objectives.
It is characterized by the formal and structural exchange of views on a particular topic / issue / problem.
Importance of GD
§ GD is used as a technique for personality assessment of candidate for job selection or admission to professional courses.
§ GD aims at problem solving, decision making and personality assessment
§ Group of 6 – 8 members are formed and are given topic may be an opinion / a problem / a case.
§ Members of the selection committee closely evaluate the different skills reflected by the candidates and those with leadership qualities emerge as natural leader/s are normally short listed.
Characteristics of Successful GD
a) Agreement on group goal
b) Goal oriented interaction
c) Agreement on procedure
d) Co-operative and friendly atmosphere
e) Effective communication techniques
f) Equitable distribution of participation
g) Shared leadership
Areas of Evaluation in selection GDs
a) Subject knowledge
b) Oral communication skills
c) Appropriateness of language
d) Clarity of expression
e) Non-verbal clues
f) Leadership qualities – initiative, analysis, objectivity
g) Team management – adaptability, positive attitude, co-operation
A group Discussion can be categorically divided into three different phases:
i) Initiation / Introduction – quotes, definition, question, short story, general statement.
ii) Body of the GD – develop the concept / core unit
iii) Summarization / Conclusion – emphasizing central ideas (avoid raising new points; avoid stating only your view point keep brief and concise)
Key Points for GD
1) Team spirit
5) Inspiring ability
2) Reasoning ability
Misconceptions: A GD is intended for testing debating skills, and as such they are expected to take control of the debate, thereby not allowing others to voice their views and facts in support of their argument. They also try to contradict the views of other participants, hoping they will be noticed and appreciated.
To make a Successful GD:
Content: Fairly good knowledge of the topic and awareness of the current situation will help prevent ideas from drying up fast and keep the GD alive and lively. If you are unfamiliar with the topic, wait for someone else to come up with important information and facts, then quickly formulate you stance and come with your perspective.
Communication: The language should be simple and lucid, use the right word at the right time that gives clarity to the GD and highlights your role in generating ideas in the group. Not to exhaust your ideas at one go. Every time you contribute, make your talk relevant and brief. It is necessary to listen with great attention and react with pertinent comments.
Constant interruption while others are speaking must be avoided. The discussion becomes meaningless if all the participants speak at the same time. Some candidates try to interrupt and even make fun of other participants. This strategy will adversely affect them.
No points will be lost even if a candidate openly supports or agrees with the views of the other candidates. Valid reasons must be given as to why you support a particular point of view. In case your views are strongly criticized, there is no need to be upset. Criticism taken positively will act in the candidate’s favour.
Thinking: Listen and understand the arguments of other participants and at the same time decide what points you should raise and how.
Group behaviour: Expressing your views emphatically will be appreciated in a GD, it is equally important that you draw the more reticent participants into the discussion and involve them in the decision-making process. The participant should be tactful while contradicting the views of other participants. Blunt statements such as ‘Your arguments are baseless’, or ‘You are absolutely wrong’, are to be avoided strictly. The participant has to disagree without sounding rude by saying things such as ‘I beg to differ’ or ‘Sorry to disagree with you’.
Types of GDs: Broadly divided into two types:
v Concrete and fact-oriented topics, which need factual content in combination with the right perspective to be successful.
v Abstract topics where more than facts, you need interpretations and creative thinking. Here, the perspective from which the interpretation is made and the themes you build into them will be more significant and valuable.
Structuring a GD
The following language may be used in structuring a GD:
Entering a discussion: Make comments on previous contributions and show one’s own relation to them. Change the trend of discussion by agreement, disagreement, and amplification or by restriction.
Some Patterns of starting a discussion:
- We have assembled here to discuss …
- We are here today to discuss …
- Let us get down to business …
- Let’s start how to proceed with the discussion …
- Let’s start off with No.1 …
- Shall we make a start?
- Shall we set the ball rolling?
- Can you please give your views on?
Some patterns for interrupting a discussion:
- Sorry to interrupt you …
- Excuse me, but …
- Could I make a suggestion, please?
- Could I say something ….?
- Sorry to disagree with you …
- If I could make a point here …
Some patterns of ending a discussion:
- I think that covers everything
- It is time to wind up
- Shall we close the discussion then?
What I think is …
I feel that …
The main point I wish to make is …
I agree up to a certain point but …
I must disagree with your opinion …
I would question whether …
It seems to me that …
As far as I am concerned …
I don’t agree with the previous speaker …
Please don’t interrupt. Let me finish
Can you wait till I finish?
I think we are moving away from the main point.
If I may turn now to …
Turning now to …
I want to comment briefly on …
I intend to make … points about …
Now to elaborate on the first point …
I strongly believe that …
With all due respect
I am not in a position to say anything about …
If we look at it in another light …
On the contrary …
I don’t think any one could disagree with …
I can’t help thinking …
Can I finish please …?
A good and successful group discussion is one where the topic has been discussed threadbare.
v Analyse the topic word by word. Identify the frame of reference you would be using during the discussion.
v Look at the topic from the point of view of all the affected parties.
v Look at the topic from all the various angles and all the possible perspectives.
v At the end of a discussion or when you know that the discussion time is almost up, it is necessary to give an appropriate conclusion. To do this, quickly recap the important points that have come up during the discussion, emphasize the points on which there were differences and where there was convergence of opinion and make the concluding remark.
Points to be remembered:
v Prepare well by reading and reflecting on the topic.
v Anticipate the points of others.
v Listen keenly and understand the points made by others.
v Break in and make your point without waiting to be called upon to do so, ensuring relevance to the context.
v Be loud enough to be heard by everyone.
v Make brief remarks often rather than giving long speeches.
v Be open minded and conciliatory rather than dogmatic.
v Try to be group-centred rather than self-centred.
v Avoid personal attacks and name-calling. Accept criticism with dignity and rebut it with strong arguments.
v Back your arguments with evidence and authority.
v Use appropriate gestures and expressions.
v Maintain eye contact with group members.