GD Basics – How to initiate a Group Discussion

How to initiate a GD

How to initiate in a Group Discussion?
In a GD, if you are the first person to speak, then you are initiating the Group discussion. If you are initiating a GD, you are playing a vital role in the success of the GD. Remember; GD scores in my opinion have two components, the group’s average score plus or minus your points based on your relative performance in the group. The groups average score takes into consideration the group dynamics,; How did the students behave throughout the discussion; How did they interact with each other; Did they have a conciliatory approach or did they have a confrontational approach; Did they allow every one else also to speak or was every one trying to hog the limelight for him selves?
A good initiation has its own plus points If you are good at initiating a GD and get an opportunity to do so, you are indirectly indicating  your leadership skills, your ability top organize your thoughts and  your ability to provide a holistic perspective to a GD. All these traits also indicate that you are a – “Manager Material”. At the same time if your initiation is done poorly, it is an opportunity lost for you.
So, how do you initiate a group discussion? Are there standard ways to initiate? Can anyone with a reasonable command over English language initiate a GD? The answer to all these questions is a “BIG YES”. I propose three ways to initiate a group discussion –
1.       Balanced approach
2.       Rhetorical approach
3.       Definition or concept approach
What is a balanced approach?
Let us understand this with an example – Let’s say the topic provided for the discussion is as simple as “Should dress codes exist in colleges? “  - Most students who initiated this topic at a recently conducted workshop in a leading college spoke directly about whether the dress code should exist or not. If you initiate a GD, you ensure that you provide a broader perspective to the topic before you present your opinion.
For example an example of   the introduction could be
“Dear friends, dress codes have existed in many colleges in India and recently they have been in news because in many colleges men/ women are not permitted to wear certain kinds of dresses which are deemed abusive/offensive by the college administration. Those who favour dress codes  are convinced that dress codes  bring in identity and more importantly uniformity to the heterogeneous group of students and  at the same time there are those who feel that their sense of dressing is a way of expressing themselves and hence should be left to their discretion. Education in India has always been associated with some kind of discipline and hence dress codes have always been a part of education system in INDIA. Even the ancient gurukuls had a dress code. These ideas had been a part of an era where there was general illiteracy and narrow mindedness all around. Today’s youth I guess is more informed and more matured as compared to their counterparts even a few decades back. Moreover, Colleges are a stepping stone to the society and hence must prepare students to grow up..And being able to dress the way they want, I believe, is one of the learning they must acquire. SO in my opinion – dress codes should not exist in colleges…”
What did the speaker do above? The speaker introduced the topic by relating it to something happening in the present, then he presented prevailing opinions for and against the topic and then he presents his own view stating his logic for his point of view… an ideal introduction. So, the balance approach to introducing a topic comprises three things
  1.    Introduce the topic and relate it to current issues
  2.     Present both prevailing opinions- for and against
  3.     Build your case by providing logic/facts/ examples for what you have stated..e.g. in the above case the logic of the speaker is that the youth of today are much more informed and much more mature and that college prepares students for actual life and hence students must learn to dress appropriately …. And so on
Apart from this you should also have a ready bank of general quotations which you can use as and when required. For example two quotations that can be used in the above topic are –T
here is no such thing as a moral dress It’s people who are moral or immoral. – By Churchill Jeanette
 you must dress according to your age, your pursuits, your object in life. -Disraeli, Benjamin
Another thing that you might find handy is facts and figures that are relevant. Something like – friends none of the IITs IIMs or Harvards and Stanfords have any dress codes, yet they are respected all across the globe for the learning opportunities that they provide.
Balanced introduction is one of the better ways to initiate a GD and should be used by you if the topic is controversial, which many topics provided for GDs are.

Group Discussion Basics

GD Basics

In India traditionally, the education system has emphasized learning by cramming. The classroom environment discouraged questions or discussions on the subject taught or even issues pertaining to the subject being taught. Very rarely on Indian campuses do you find discussions of any substance taking place.

NO NO ! I am not trying to put the blame on someonee and least of all talking about “the deteriorating standards of education in india”, I am only stating something factually without feeling happy, sad or guilty about it.

 Even the work environment does not promote discussions. I vividly remember my days working for a corporate, when we used to routinely gather for discussion and the only way we used to discuss was by nodding and saying yes boss! No wonder! Then, that Indians are on back foot when asked to discuss anything. (My sincere apologies to those 1 % or less Indians who don’t belong to the above category.)

Over the years as a trainer for CAT and other major MBA entrance exams I have interacted with thousands of students and working executives who for one reason or the other had “butterflies in the stomach” on the mere mention of the word GD. I don’t know what help an article can be to such candidates but this article -definitely- will answer fundamental questions on group discussions. So let’s start with the first questions …..

What is a GD?

GD or group discussion is generally used when a large number of candidates appear for a test and around 50 to 60 % of them need to be filtered out of the process. Candidates are made to sit in a comfortable arrangement and then made to discuss a topic. The topics may vary from current, to abstract to general and even technical depending upon the level of the exam. Examiners observe the students in the course of discussion and rate them for selection or rejection depending upon the contribution made by the candidates during the discussion. The duration for which a group discussion is allowed varies from a mere 5 minutes to around 40 minutes.

Types of GD’s

A discussion is a discussion is a discussion,- how can it have types? Well I have tried to categorize GDs with the intention of helping students organize the information pertaining to the variety of topics on which a discussion takes place.

  • First and foremost there are general topics eg – “Management is only for men”, or “Engineers are better managers”, or “Exams must be banned” or “IT does matter” etc.. These are topics which have been around for a while and most of the students already have an opinion on these issues.S
  • Then there are abstract and “arbit” topics eg- “walk and talk or walk the talk”, “pink pajamas on the red fort”, and “geography is history” etc. These are topics on which most of the students find difficult to handle, but, with some preparation, are in fact the easiest to handle.
  • And finally there are current topics eg – “Global warming is heating up the intercontinental relations”, “Good Bye – Recession”, “Are we ready for commonwealth games?” etc. These are issues that are currently being debated and discussed on the print as well as the electronic media.

What is being assessed in a GD?

Assessment in a GD is a subjective process and therefore there are no objective criteria of assessment developed so far. But, in any team process, the three most important skills are Communication skills, Leadership skills and interpersonal skills. Hence, examiners who are considering a candidate’s aptitude for team work generally assess the following abilities-

Communication skills – Many candidates aspiring for CAT, MBA Entrance Exams, BBA entrance exams, IBPS and Bank PO exams, and Campus Recruitment tests, assume communication to be the art of getting across their point of view by any means. Personally, I believe that this is not entirely true. I mean, getting across your point of view is important; but it is not the only important aspect of a GD. Communication is a three stage process; you speak, you listen anD understand, and then you respond. Each element is important from the examiners perspective. So, that brings us to a logical question, “Practically speaking what an examiner looks for when he is considering the communication skills of a candidate? I think the following parameters give examiner a cue

  1. Ability to articulate a point
  2.  Alertness throughout the discussion
  3.  Ability to listen patiently
  4.  Response to the points being made
  5.  Spoken skills in the relevant language
  6.  Body language

Leadership Skills – Most of the group discussions nowadays are leaderless discussions. And unless specified otherwise, candidates are allowed to speak in a random order just like a normal conversation. But, someone with a potential for leadership shows the potential for leadership naturally. Look around for someone with a flair for leadership and you will see these traits almost instantly. I think the examiners look for the following when they look at the leadership potential of any candidate-

  1. Clarity of thought
  2. Ability to withstand criticism
  3. Confidence
  4. Ability to give direction to a GD
  5. Problem solving
  6. Knowledge of the subject
  7. Ability to persuade
  8. Ability to initiate a GD

Interpersonal skills – The term interpersonal skill refers to an individual’s ability to interact effectively within a group. Interpersonal skills are all about working with other people. Quite often interpersonal skills are assumed to be equal to communication skills. This is more so because of the importance of communication in developing interpersonal skills. Interpersonal skills however are much more than mere communication. They include being able to support and encourage others, being able to give and receive constructive criticism as well as being able to negotiate. These also include the ability to listen to and to value other’s opinions, and the ability to convey your points to a group. The examiner would look for the following when considering the interpersonal skills of an individual –

  1. The tone of the candidate
  2. Body Language
  3. Ability to network with others
  4. Level of aggression
  5. Listening skills
  6. Choice of words used by the candidate