Q. If the GD is becoming noisy and degenerating into a "fish market", what should I do?
There are two scenarios:
- If you have started speaking but subsequently, due to noisy interjections, the discussion has become a "fish market", then you can:-
- Try to play the role of a mediator. Try to bring down the tension through statements like "excuse me, can we step back for a moment and revisit the topic?" or “…can you please just hold for a moment?"or “…sir/ma’am, we are coming to your point in a sequence”.
- Let the aggressive go through with their thoughts and then suggest some form of equal participation - such as rotation among the remaining speakers or providing a chance to those who have not spoken by prompting them to speak.
- Use gestures like hand movements to attract attention from where you could provide some discipline.
The above steps may normally not succeed - however, it conveys to the invigilator that you can play the role of a leader when the situation demands. This is all that the invigilators are looking for.
- In other situations, you may not have uttered a word and yet the discussion turns chaotic. In such situations:
- Be patient. The aggressive ones generally run out of ideas soon and there will be sufficient time for everyone to speak. For example, the typical noise levels during the course of the discussion is higher in the beginning and at the end of the GD, but there are also periods in each GD where there is a very brief lull which you could capitalize on.
Whatever be the case, the following are some don'ts:
- Don't jump into the fray yourself - it is natural to want to get started, particularly if your past mild attempts at establishing order had failed.
- Don't make long points - when you get an opportunity, don't be greedy, say what you want to say briefly and hand it over to the next person - this will be appreciated.
- Don't be rude or offensive or carry grudges against those who created the commotion.
- Don’t stand up or use rude gestures like finger pointing and foot thumping.
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Q. If somebody becomes openly antagonistic to me in the GD, and says things directly contradicting my points of view or makes personal attack, what should my reaction be?
It is quite possible that people are opposed to your view point rather than to you, as a person. Also, it may be a genuine opposition rather than an emotional reaction. It is important to keep this in mind. Actually, a situation like this is a good opportunity for you to demonstrate you conflict handling skills and maturity, factors considered important by the evaluators. Be calm and relaxed, and don't let this get to you. If you get aggravated, you will be seen as incapable of handling stress and this might go against you. Consider the following points carefully:
- Is the counter-argument valid? Would you have accepted it if it had come from your best friend? If yes, then concede the point gracefully through statements like "I think you have an important point there that I did not think of".
- If the counter-argument is not valid but the discussion has been going on for some time, then defer the issue in the interests of the group, with statements like "we have discussed this issue and it appears to me that we seem to have some differences…can we defer it for the time being so that we may move forward?" or you can seek others' opinion by turning to others and seeking their opinion with statements like "we seem to have different views here…what do you feel?"
- In some cases, more than one person may be having an opinion different to yours. In such cases, you may want to really rethink your stand with statements like "I see that some of you have an opinion different than mine. While I am not able to reconcile the two immediately, can we defer it for the time being and return to it later?" There is really no point in taking on a group, no matter how strong your point is.
- If the attack is directed against you as a person, then the best strategy is to just ignore it and get on with the discussion, without any animosity towards the attacker. This is hard to do but if you manage, it will be the best advertisement for your maturity.
- Be assured that "losing" an argument is not bad - even if you are convinced about the correctness of your stand, don't stand on it - let the other person "win" it (just say "I know that you may disagree, but my point is….., however, we need not keep debating this, maybe we need to proceed"). Losing an argument does not lead to loss of points. Sometimes, it even helps demonstrate your flexibility and maturity.
Q. Suppose there is a lot of cross-talk, and groups of people talking with each other. How do I deal with the situation?
This could happen quite often, especially in large groups (8+) and could happen due to two reasons:
- The group has finished discussion and is not able to come up with any more new ideas.
You need to play the role of an idea generator - try the structured thinking process and in most cases, you can come up with new angles to the issue. You can also ask each member of the group if he/she has any more ideas - this would help those who are very shy. If this also fails and you cannot get any more ideas generated, then close the discussion with a summary. It is not important to keep the discussion going for the whole duration of the GD. You could also not summarize the discussion yourself - by this time, you would have hogged enough air time and hogging more would go against you. Ask one of the silent members or throw it open to someone to do this.
- No effective leadership and hence the group is directionless
In this case, you can play the role of a mediator. You can command attention by addressing the "leaders" of each of the subgroups and asking for their cooperation in getting the larger group moving. Sometimes, it would be difficult to get the attention of the groups - in such cases, it is important to first establish eye contact with the leader and engaging him/her. You could ask these leaders to summarize the discussions that their sub-groups had and ask other groups to comment on the same. You can also add your views to ensure that your credibility as a leader is maintained.