The clock is running faster than usual, one person in the group is speaking while others are waiting for him to take a breath for they are all set to cut him short and throw up some or the other thing to make the coordinator a note of them. Seems like a Group Discussion is on. Amid of all, you are not even blabbering. Your head has so much been bombarded with ‘Rules of cracking group discussion’, which you either read on internet or in some book, that you are just sitting there and mulling over them one by one. The coordinator hits the buzzer and that’s it. You lost your chances for making it to the next round.
Let’s get out of some of the stereotypes that are falsely branded as the rubrics of cracking the group discussion and be practical about discussing something in a group.
- Sit the way you like: We read at lot many places about proper sitting postures during Group Discussion. No matter how “proper” you are sitting in the Group Discussion but if you don’t hash out your views in front of others you won’t be qualified for the next round. The purpose behind group discussion is to assess your leadership skills, communication skills, your behavior with others and especially your listening skills. It has nothing to do with the angle of your spinal cord. Hence stop worrying about your sitting posture and gear up on exchanging quality points.
- Be loud: Imagine your friend staying on the top floor of the building and you are asked to call him down. Would you be all assertive in calling him or be loud so that he could take a note of you. In the same manner, once in a group discussion make your presence felt to other. Be loud whenever you speak. But make sure you keep a foot on ‘Don’t be aggressive’ rule too. Be shrill but don’t get rude or mad with anyone.
- Don’t speak first: The topic doesn’t ring a bell in your head but since you have been told to ‘Always start first’ you do the same and you miss the meaning of the topic. In such an odd situation let others start the discussion first, try to catch those sub-topics which you are aware of, from the discussion going on, and then hit the hammer. You would surely be able to give a new direction to the entire discussion.
- Switch Sides: There is a thin line of difference between group discussion and debate and that is you cannot switch side in the latter. If you feel that the entire group has nodded on something then that is the right time for you to agree to disagree with them. Hop the side and discuss the issue from opposite angle. Not only you would be blowing life back to the discussion but you would also grab brownie points under the leadership column.
- Flow in the opposite direction: Somewhat similar to above point and a bit contradicting too. Rather than switching side in between, it would be better if you chose a side, not taken by anyone else in the group, from the very beginning. No matter how much favorite that side was to you or how much knowledge you had about that side but if majority of people has taken it in the group, switch to another. For instance, the coordinator has hurled a topic ‘Blue Ocean Strategy or Red Ocean Strategy’. You are all prepared to talk about Red ocean strategy but when majority is speaking in the favor of it make sure you contradict them by putting on the table the cons of it or the pros of blue ocean strategy.
- Don’t define the topic: You grasp at once every word of the topic written on the board and you also manage to get a chance to initiate the discussion. Don’t define the topic unless the topic is listed under the dictionary of rocket science. Defining an obvious topic harms in two ways. You define it and lose a chance to speak further because someone else takes it from there and secondly, you could not take a positive or negative stand on the topic because you were busy defining it. And hence the coordinator doesn’t know your point of view on the topic till you get a second chance to speak about it which by the way is not a walk in the park.
- Cut others short: If you notice someone who is nowhere near to give up on speaking, interfere by raising a rhetorical question (Yes break this stereotype too of not asking questions in GD) and then put your point in the discussion. If you would not take this initiative someone else would. Then the whole process of ‘Let-him-finish-then-I-will-speak’ would start all over again. If you believe that cutting someone short in a GD might reduce your chances of making to next round then remember that someone else too cut you short while you were speaking to put his point.
- Make the heads nod but keep yours stable: Sometime it so happens that you hold a similar view as your group mate and you nod as he speaks. Not only you but others also do the same. The entire group might end up agreeing to what that one participant said. This makes you contribute zero from your side. Rather than practicing this keep a poker face while listening to that person. Don’t give him a clue about your stand on the topic. But contribute strong points in the discussion and make others to nod on your point.
- Don’t rush to summarize the discussion: You hear the buzzer sound again and the desperation to summarize the topic takes a toll on you. You performed well in the entire discussion but in this hurriedness of summarizing if you goof up then chances are high that you spoil the entire impression on the coordinator. Let others complete the discussion and when the coordinator asks you to summarize then buckle up with your concluding lines.
- Be diplomatic in the last 30 seconds: As mentioned before that there lies a distinction between group discussion and debate. Keeping this in mind, towards the end when you are asked by the coordinator to conclude the topic do not give aone sided answer on the topic. In fact, there are certain topics which never demands for any perfect answer. Give a mixed response while concluding the topic. End your part in such a way that everyone leaves with a thought in their mind.
Lastly, the take away from the above points is that there are no specific rules when it comes to Group Discussion but casual guidelines have been designed to make us follow the protocol when we are a part of such discussion. It is an on the spot activity where your presence of mind, flexibility on the topic, pressure tolerating ability and other traits & skills used in corporate world are judged.
Contributed by Hasan Ali Gumani (Class of 2014, IBS HYDERABAD)