GD Strategy & Tips

What are the blunders in a GD? What are the popular "Don'ts" in a GD?

When proposing an idea or argument, you must be very clear in your communication and thinking. Your proposal should be structured and systematically put across to others in the group. Charm and personality takes you up to a certain point but after that it is simply your intelligence, thought process and command over the language which pulls you through. After proposing your idea, your must put forth a question. The person who answers the questions will have to look at you while answering, giving you a chance to intervene with another idea. Once you learn to handle the group discussions in a scientific way, there is no need for you to resort to techniques such as shouting, hammering your fist on the table, etc. Whenever you face a tough situation, go back to basics and that is where you will find the answer. Remember your movie or picnic venue discussions. What works there will work here also.

  • Be Yourself:
    The most important mantra to ace GDs is “Be Yourself”. The more you change things about yourself, the more trouble you would find yourself in. The best way to go about things is to be natural and make sure all your responses are natural and spontaneous. To ease the burden of yourself, see a group discussion as an extension of your everyday conversation. This would enable you to think straight, and make sure you do not let negativity cloud your thought process.
  • A Group Discussion is not a seminar:
    The most fundamental principle of participating in a Group Discussion is that you need to speak; there is no escape to this bare minimum requirement of a group discussion. Even though it is stating the obvious, yet students at times go in with a mindset that is not best suited to a group discussion. One simple task that you can do in a group discussion is take notes and generate a list of points on the topic when it is first given to you. Unless or until you are specifically asked by the invigilators not to take a pen and paper inside, you can do so. On the rough sheet of paper, prepare a small little framework analyzing the topic from every angle and ensuring that you have understood the multiple facets of the topic that are generally there. In case the discussion begins while you thinking, you can ask the others to stop but do remember that it is advisable that you do your thinking work while the discussion is going on. The success of an interjection depends not only on assertiveness but also on the receptiveness of others. If you interject when someone else has just begun speaking is unlikely that he will let you have your way. On the other hand, if you wait till he has made at least some of his points, he will be more amenable to letting you speak. Generally, GDs are free-flowing exercises where in the exchange of information happens in a continuous and unorganized manner. Speaking in turns leads to the creation of an unnatural discussion and this should be generally avoided. Generally chaos is prevalent in all GDs and you might be tempted to suggest that speakers should take turns. Do not do so as such suggestions are generally not viewed favorably. A discussion has to flow naturally. Group members, most likely will ignore your suggestion and try to speak when they have something to say. A discussion has to flow naturally. Group members, most likely will ignore your suggestion and try to speak when they have something to say.
  • Prologue and Epilogue:
    A lot of students generally think that opening the GD is the best way of entering one. But do remember that this approach is fraught with dangers, and the risks and rewards of doings so are generally very high. As far as time to speak in a GD goes, the opening speaker has the best chance to speak for the longest duration of time. During the time the opening speaker speaks, the others are still grasping the issue and coming to terms with it, and this gives him a chance to dwell on the topic and illustrate his viewpoint. This also means that the evaluators get a good look at time and can clearly listen to his views.But the greatest challenge with opening a discussion is that the speaker needs to do it well. In case he does a good job and provides logical content, he gets the credit for setting-up the discussion and giving it direction. On the other hand, if he fails to deliver quality content, he misleads the group, as well as he earns negative points from the evaluators as full attention is placed on him. All of a sudden, he would be typecast in the discussion very early and would be viewed as someone who jumps the gun and does not provide topics the kind of rational thinking they require. In a nutshell, speaking first has its rewards but only if done well. If you make a meal of it, you are bound to entertain the wrath of the invigilators. Only start if you are sure about the topic and if you have relevant content for the topic. At the end of the discussion, you should try to provide a balanced summary of the discussion, and include all the dissenting viewpoints as well. If the group could not reach a final conclusion, you can state that in your summary. But make sure you do not try to force your viewpoints or a consensus when you are providing a summary of the discussion.
  • Taking the Stage:
    The key challenge that any student faces in discussion is entering it. In a hostile environment, with a number of speakers putting across their points in a vociferous manner, it becomes hard to enter a group discussion. The solution to this problem is not a cut and dried one, and it requires a lot of practice to get over this problem. In such a scenario, where you are stuck in the middle of a very aggressive discussion, it becomes vital that you participate in a discussion and make sure you speak. Making your presence felt is absolutely essential. Here are some of the things that you could do in a loud group discussion:
    • Enter the lows- GDs are peculiar in the sense that move like a wave, and have their highs and lows. As an educated GD participant, you are advised to note these patterns, and whenever you find that the noise levels have reduced, that is your moment to enter the GDs. But do remember, at times, you would never get such a chance , and if in the first few minutes of the GD, you observe that there are no lows, you would be left with no choice but to barge your way in .
    • Interjecting in a discussion with a question -An amazing way to enter a group discussion is to ask a question from other participants. Questions are great attention grabbers, and they attract the attention of the group towards you, providing you a vital chance to jump in the discussion and provide your inputs. At this juncture, you could ask follow up questions or give your thoughts on the question that you raised.

    How to start when the previous speaker has completed his/her point in a GD?
    • Enter after a person has made his point -

      It is vital for you to understand that interjections need to be made at the right moment. For example, someone has just started with his points and you try to cut him short. Majority of the times, you would be hard-pressed to leave an impact and it is rare that the other person would give you a chance to cut him short before he completes his points. On the other hand, is you allow the other person to make some of his points, and then enter the discussion by interrupting him, there are greater chances for your success.

    Tips to enter the group discussion
    • Enter with a supportive statement -

      A street-smart way off entering the discussion could be by supporting the point of another person in the discussion. Generally, whenever we make an entry in a group discussion, we do so by interjecting the other person and contradicting his viewpoints. But an easy way of doing it could be by lending support to the person with whom your views match. By using statements such as “I agree with what my friend says and I would like to add…” or “ I think an additional point we could add here..”, you can find a relatively easy way of entering the discussion

    • Enter by increasing volume -

      The way adopted by most to enter a loud GD is to increase their volume. Though a method that comes almost naturally, and one is prone to shouting in such an environment, this may contribute to the melee itself. It is in your best interest that you combine this method with other mentioned in this section so that you are able to make an impact. Also, make sure that even though with a raised voice, it does not pass the impression that you are shouting.

  • Generate supportive data:
    Use facts and illustrations in the Group Discussion (GD) to add value. However, be very sure of the validity of any statistic you quote. If you mention a wrong figure, someone else in the group could point out the mistake. If that doesn't happen, the evaluators might notice the mistake. A fact or a statistic cannot be an argument in itself. It can only support a point you are making. So do not quote a fact and let it land follow it up with some sort of inference or conclusion that can be drawn from it.
  • Be an active listener: Listen carefully to others' contributions to avoid pitfalls. Listening will benefit you in the following ways:
    • It will prevent you from repeating something already said.
    • It will give you new areas to think about since a participant may have introduced an excellent point, which you had not thought of.
    • It will help you take the discussion forward, taking on from where another participant has left off.
    • It may even help you understand a topic, which you were ignorant of, before the first speaker defined it.

Being assertive v/s aggressive in a GD
  • Be assertive, not aggressive:

    It is a myth that successful managers are aggressive. They are not aggressive, rather they are assertive. There is a fine dividing line between assertiveness and aggressiveness. An assertive person is someone who puts forward his point hand, tries to dominate others. He raises his voice, he does not listen, and he does not seek to understand other people's points of view. He gets emotionally involved in his arguments. He takes it as a personal affront if others disagree with him. He ends up offending others. So do not be aggressive in your next GD. Instead, be assertive.

  • Make Friends:

    Make friends to ensure that your arguments get a positive response from the group. Building allies is often an important aspect of a GD. Being heard is one thing and getting a positive response to your arguments is another. Get people on your side and ensure that they are receptive to your arguments. They will not only allow you to interject in the discussion, but they will also support your arguments. When supporting someone else's arguments does not just say "I agree," try to add value by adding points of your own that extend the argument. You could build allies by giving others a chance to speak when they are in agreement with you (but only after you feel you have made your point). The final weapon at our disposal is your body language. Try and appear friendly, not intimidating. Smile, it often works! Speak clearly, speak sense and also let others speak. In a GD, you must speak, but you must also be heard by the other participants. Other participants will listen to you IF:

    • Your voice is audible and clear
    • Your contribution is relevant and made at the appropriate time.
    • You listen to others, let them speak and are not too aggressive. This does not mean that you should only let others speak. You must let them speak and also speak yourself.
  • Quality of content:
    More important than the amount of time you speak for, is the quality of what you have said and the impact that it has had on the group. You do not have to dominate the GD by speaking for a long period of time. You have to influence a group by providing it direction, by highlighting the crucial issues and putting forth persuasive and cogent arguments. There is no formula to calculate the right duration of participation in a GD. In a 15-minute GD in which there are 12 participants, if you are able to speak for two minutes spread across four or five occasions, it should be enough.
  • Value-Additions: You can value to a discussion keeping the following in mind:
    • Provide a structure that enables the discussion to carry on
    • Provide analysis that helps in distilling the discussion.
    • Provide new facts and details that help the discussion to move forward.
    • Your examples should be crisp and clear.
    • Make sure that you add meaningful points that add value and give direction, avoid flimsy repetition of thought.
    • Make sure you do not lose focus and discuss trivial issues rather than the central one.
    • Try to provide a summary to the discussion.

There are a number of candidates who commit common blunders in GDs. Going through the following section, you can explore all the common problems and make sure you do not commit any such error. Some of the most common blunders are:

Don'ts in a group discussion
  • Aggression:

    Over-aggression is one of the most common blunders in GDs. In trying to make your presence felt and entering a GD, students commits the mistake of being over-aggressive in the GD. Actions such as over-animation, dramatizations, banging the table, entering in one-to-one discussions or criticizing others unfairly are some of the misplaced manifestations of aggression. Why does this happen? Most students think that aggression is considered a virtue and hence must be displayed at any cost. It needs to be clearly understood that aggressiveness in thinking is required, not in behavior. A candidate who is polite but firm wins the day.

  • Negativity:

    The words you select to express yourself are indicators of your personality. A negative approach is highlighted by negative words and body language. Of course if you have observed yourself using negative language a little too often, you need to do some self-analysis and sort out your attitudinal problems. Nervous body movements, having your hands folded across your chest, carrying skeptical expressions, constantly moving and fidgeting, evasive eye movements etc. are all indicators of a negative personality and should be avoided at all costs.

  • Unfocussed Behavior:

    Trying to fit your example/knowledge of data to every GD topic; Using examples that have no relevance to the discussion can only lead to a negative assessment. Quoting facts, figures and data that no relevance to the current discussion can actually lead to messy situation and ensure that you lose the respect of your fellow participants as well. Try to avoid jargons and technical language that seemingly makes you learned; these can only do more harm than provide any extra brownie points.

  • Telling Wrong facts:

    One thing about factual data is that it can provide extra-points to you but if you get a fact wrong, you can be stuck with some very explaining that you need to do. In case you are not sure about something, you can always say that your quoting that piece of information approximately. You could use phrases such as: “I think” or “Probably/Approximately” or “If I remember right”. Do not jump the gun and in haste make a blunder that you cannot correct. A related fallout of the same situation is that you should not judge someone who has made such an error, do not jump into the discussion and start berating him. If you need to make a factual correction, do so in most polite and humble manner

  • Being Highly Individualistic:

    Being a strong independent personality is a good virtue to posses, but you should remember that the hallmark of a good manager are the interpersonal skills he possesses. Make sure you provide a good account of yourself in a group as your social interaction is being evaluated. The goal has to be achieved in teams and therefore your interpersonal skills are extremely vital. In fact, one has to strike the right balance between individual performance and group excellence.

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