A group discussion is used widely as a variant of personality test for evaluating several candidates simultaneously. In fact, it helps to shortlist candidates for the final interview or to select personnel for the administrative posts in the armed services, for the executive cadre in banks, financial sector in private and public undertakings, and also for the award of national and international fellowships or for admission to prestigious professional institutes. Its potential was grasped initially by the defense forces who incorporated it into their battery of test for recruitment of officers. Since then, group discussions have become immensely popular with different recruiting bodies because of their simplicity, ease, and time-plus cost-effectiveness. It is considerably different from public speaking, a general debate, and an interview.
Here the audience merely judges a speaker without competing with him. It listens to what the speaker says but does not discuss the subject simultaneously with the speaker.
A chairman presides over a debate, giving it a shape and direction. The speakers are normally divided in two groups - one speaking for the motion and the other speaking against the motion.
Usually a board consisting of several members evaluates candidate’s suitability for the concerned job in the course of an interview. Personal interviews or research interviews are tools for gathering information.
A group discussion, in contrast to the above, is a leaderless group; all the candidates are competitors who have to join the discussion without the presence and participation of the examiner. The examiner standing away from the group evaluates the leadership level and personality traits of the several candidates who constitute the group.
A group of eight to ten candidates are seated in a circle according to given chest numbers. A topic is announced and also the total time for discussion which is normally 30 minutes. Each candidate has to voice his opinion and offer counter arguments. The examiner watches the discussion from behind a screen and evaluates the candidates for the final interview on the basis of their personality, knowledge, communication skill, and leadership traits.
There are essentially four components of a group discussion test:
- Personality manifestation
- Communication skill
- Knowledge, and
Appearance and bearing matter much in conveying an impression upon the first cont act. A favourable first impression helps to win over others easily and quickly just as, it is tough to correct an initial unfavourable impression. You can impress people even before you say a word. Your movements and posture must be active, positive alive and responsive enough to make the group and the examiner take to you immediately. Your body language should reflect your confidence, openness, readiness and a sense of being cooperative attitude. Your eyes should radiate sincerity, friendliness and positiveness. Your voice should be warm and your knowledge wide, so that you can draw everybody’s attention the moment you begin to speak.
Your clothes play a vital part in casting a favorable first impression. While the clothes need not he costly, dazzling, new, or of the latest fashion; they should be clean , neat and well stitched. Apart from affecting others positively, a well-dressed candidate will also feel confident. On the other hand, if you arc not suitably dressed for the occasion, it could nag at the hack of your mind disturbing your concentration. Footwear too must he paid attention. They must be polished, neat, and clean. Your hair cut and style should match your personality. You must brush your teeth and ensure that your breath is clean and fresh.
Body language is a non verbal communication skill, a face to face encounter, It gives cues to a person’s frame of mind. Postures arc said to divulge what is in on one’s mind. Appearance is determined by your conduct and by the manner you move and act. For instance, slouching while walking or sitting does not create positive impression You must walk briskly, head held erect, meet the other person’s eye with warmth and friendliness. Let the eyes radiate and reflect confidence, not uneasiness, discomfort and disinterest.
Tone and Voice
Your personality and the ability to influence others depend greatly on using the right tone and voice, More than words, it is the tone that conveys the message. A tone that orders or commands. hurts the listener’s ego and self-esteem. Everybody likes to he requested; everybody likes to confer a favor than obey an order. So it is essential to cultivate a voice that is lively and cheerful and conveys a request.
A cheerful countenance is most important for a good appearance. A ready pleasant, and spontaneous smile invariably conveys friendliness and creates a favorable impression. Self confidence, optimism, and amicability automatically create cheerfulness and bring happy smile to the face.
It is one's manners that leave Ii lusting impression on others, There arc people who stand out nut for their intellectual abilities hut for their good manners. A courteous, helpful. polite, and interested person automatically draws people to himself. ‘the first favorable impression is extremely important since It helps a lot.
Effective communication is a salient feature of a group discussion. An idea can be appreciated only when it is expressed eloquently and effectively. A leader, an administrator, a manager or an erudite scholar must possess the skills to put across an idea in the clearest manner.
A study of the lives of great leaders will reveal that practically all of them have been good speakers. Even though they may not have been born orators nevertheless, they acquired the art in the process of becoming leaders. Shakespeare’s Mark Antony could transform a hostile mob into a quiescent crowd with his words. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill inspired his country with his oratorial skills to continue their fight during the darkest hours of the second world war. The ability to share ideas with millions of humble commoners enabled Mahatma Gandhi and Jawahar Lal Nehru to lead an unarmed fight for India’s independence against the mighty British.
Effective communication is not an inborn trait; it can be learnt and mastered. Demosthenes, a great orator of the ancient Greece, was initially one of the worst stammerers of Athens. In order to get over the problem, he would go to the beach daily, put a few pebbles in his mouth, and address the waves. His indefatigable effort and rigorous practice made him a legendary orator.
Mahatma Gandhi was also a very shy person till the he jumped into the political fray. Abraham Lincoln, one of the world’s greatest speakers, spent his boyhood splitting wood and selling groceries. Though, initially he had neither the education nor the opportunity to address the public, yet his world of freedom and hope at Gettysberg is widely read.
Thus, if you are friendly, sympathetic, understanding, considerate, appreciative, ready to talk and listen, then there will always be people ready to listen to you.
The word communication has been derived from the Latin word communis which means common. Communication, therefore, refers to the sharing of ideas, facts, and opinions. In fact, communication is the process of passing information from one person to another. It is essentially a bridge between people. Communication is different from simple transmission of information or data.
One-way Communication: Sometimes communication is a simple one- way process that occurs between an information sender and an information receiver within a given context.
Two-way Communication: Most communication is a two-way process. So it is in group discussion too. The information sender not only provides the information required by the information receiver, he also gets a reaction or feedback from the information receiver regarding the information sent.
Effective communication is often distorted by certain barriers. Almost all the components which comprise communication - sender, message, channel, receiver, and feedback - are susceptible to distortion In a group discussion, three kinds of barriers - personal, physical and semantic - can be identified.
Personal Barriers: Prejudice and bias distort independent thinking. You should develop a rational stance and an empirical approach to matters. An emotional or sentimental disposition is also an obstacle to the free flow of communication. You should develop a thought process that is logical, systematic and pragmatic.
Physical Barriers: Stammering, weak voice. mannerisms. and physical debility could affect voice and expression. These should be either taken care of or compensated by another trail which hides the limitation.
Lack of active listening is a recurring barrier. Ii has been estimated that almost seventy per cent of our communicating time is accounted by the process of listening. Since the average rate at which people can listen (about 400 words per minute) is about twice as fast as the rate at which words can be spoken. it is understandable why attention wanders while listening. Further, only about 50 per cent of an oral communication is retained immediately after the communication. Therefore, improving one’s powers of listening can be of great relevance and use. The Commandments for becoming a good listener is to stop talking. be attentive to what is being said, put the talker at ease, show Interest, remove distractions. empathise with the speaker, be patient, control your temper. and go easy on arguments and questions.
Semantic Barriers: Words can convey different meanings in different contexts. l3adly chosen words and phrases, careless omissions, lack of coherence, poor organization of idea. vagueness in expression and inadequate vocabulary lead to a lack of clarity and impair communication effectiveness, These need to be overcome for success in a group discussion.
Knowledge is power, it is said, One may forget Alexander, Napolean, and Hitler, but not Aristotle, Plato, Rousseau . and Gandhi.. Their ideas are part of human consciousness. In a group discussion, knowledge of the subject concerned, backed by common sense will help you deal with any situation and win laurels. The greater your knowledge of the subjects. the more interested, enthusiastic, and confident will you be and the more fluent and forceful would be your speech and contribution to the discussion. Your discussion of the subject must be relevant, rational, convincing and above all, interesting and appealing to your listeners. An ignorant candidate will either beat around the bush or keep repeating himself or become tongue-tied.
To aid and support your knowledge of a specialized field, a few lessons in human relationships are necessary. Commonsense as well as knowledge of men and matters can be acquired by a systematic reading of books, periodicals, and daily newspapers.
An avid interest in national and international activities, political, scientific, economic, cultural, and sports must be cultivated to be able to participate actively in conversations. You can then make intelligent and useful contribution to a conversation by expressing some reasoned, logical and convincing views.
Besides reading, a great deal can be learnt from the talks by and speeches of experts. A keen observation too enhances knowledge considerably. So does travelling.
Man is gregarious by nature: he cannot, normally, live alone. I-Ic lives in a group whatever its sire and name. Living in a group invokes coordination and cooperation among its various members. The success of the group depends, to a large extent, on it's leader. A group cannot exist for long or carry on its assigned activity without a leader. In any leaderless group, a head will emerge. There can be only one leader in a group. Others are all followers.
Leadership has always been an elusive concept. Political thinkers, sociologists, and psychologists have tried to define it in various ways. There are three major approaches to the concept of leadership.
The Great Man Approach: Thomas Carlyle once remarked, “The history of the world is but the biographies of great men.” Specific examples of men who seem to have changed the course of history come readily in mind are Jesus Christ, Alexander the Great, Napolean, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill, Adolf Hitler, Charles de Gaulle, and Mohandas Karam Chand Gandhi. According to this approach, effective leadership can be learnt by making a study of the lives of great persons.
Personality Trait Approach: According to this approach to leadership, there are certain personality characteristics essential in a person in order to become a leader. These traits are supposed to differentiate leaders from non-leaders. Important traits that have been suggested are courage, integrity, loyalty, charisma, ambition. intelligence, honesty, clairvoyance, persistence, arrogance, good health, political skill. confidence, and vision.
The Leader Behaviour Approach: What is it that leaders actually do? This approach shifts the emphasis on actual behaviour or dimensions of behaviour that will be used to identify leadership. The main emphasis is not on who the leader is but on what a leader does. “Leadership behaviour” includes making decisions, giving directions, showing identity with the group and loyalty to the organization, planning, scheduling work, and accepting personal responsibility. To achieve success in a group discussion a combination of the personality traits approach and the leader behaviour approach will be meaningful. You should, ideally try to cultivate some of the essential traits of leaders and reflect them in your behaviour. For example, if you reflect the qualities of courage, integrity, intelligence confidence, and vision as well as identifying with the group, having a Sense of direction, decisiveness and a keenness to accept personal responsibility, you are bound to do well.
Leadership qualities can be categorized under two subheadings: Functional ability and Coordinating ability.
- Functional Ability: Functional ability means an ability to work in an exemplary manner. It involves several elements.
- Knowledge: A leader must have the power of knowledge. Leaders are men of imagination and vision. An ignorant man does not know what he wants. He may miss the essentials and cling to worthless things. A person with knowledge can identify problems and anticipate difficulties. He can find workable solutions to overcome the problems. He can even prevent them or, where necessary, meet and master them. An efficient leader also has a greater sense of responsibility. He displays initiative, seeks more and greater responsibilities, shoulders them cheerfully, and discharges them effectively.
- Energy: A leader has the mental and the physical energy to work for longer hours without feeling tired.
- Emotional Ability: A leader possesses self-confidence, does not get angry easily, thinks clearly, and takes decisions on a rational basis. He is not whimsical but consistent in his actions because of his emotional stability. According to Koontz and O’Donnel, “Leaders cannot afford to become panicky, unsure of themselves in the face of conflicting forces, doubtful of their principles when challenged or amenable to influence”.
- Objectivity: A leader’s approach to any issue or problem is objective and not based on any pressure, fear, bias, prejudice, or preconceived notions. His decision is based upon reasoning, facts, and careful analysis of a problem.
- Empathy: A leader looks at matters objectively and from the point of view of others. He respects other’s rights, beliefs, and sentiments. In other words, he can meet the challenges emerging from the actions and reactions of other people.
- Communication Skill: A leader can talk and write clearly and forcefully. He has the ability to persuade, inform, stimulate, direct, and convince his followers to cooperate with him in the performance of his task.
- Integrity: A leader’s sound character ensures his integrity, loyalty, and dependability. A candidate in a group discussion who intends to act as a leader must reflect all these characteristics so that the other members of the group feel a spontaneous sense of dependence on him.
- Moral Courage: A leader has the moral courage to do what he believes in. He can stand by his decisions. According to Field Marshal Slim, “Without courage, there are no virtues; for faith, hope, charity, and all the rest do not become virtues until there is courage to exercise them.”
- Coordinating Ability: A leader could be best in his profession or chosen work field. At the same time, he is a master of the art of getting with others along as well as getting the best out of them. To put it differently, he is able to motivate and influence others. For example, in a cricket team, a certain person may be an excellent batsman, bowler, wicketkeeper, and fielder, 1-lowever, despite being an allrounder, he may not prove to he a successful captain if ha cannot promote cooperation, understanding, team spirit, and high morale in his team. This coordinating ability is not an inborn trait: it can be acquired and developed. The study of the lives of famous, self-made, successful men all over the world highlights one very important leadership attribute. They were all experts in the art of getting along with other people. They could sell themselves to everyone (hey came into Contact with. They could kindle an interest in people. This art of leadership essentially involves the following traits.
- Social Adaptability: This is the ability to adjust with other individuals in the group, to fit in harmoniously in a group. The leader thus reconciles his personal aims, likes, dislikes, hopes, and aspirations with those of the group as a whole. He serves as the cohesive force that hinds the group into a single unit instead of a collection of people.
- Motivation: Both social adaptability and motivating others require understanding others and creating in them a desire to do what is required of them. A group leader, therefore, has to understand the psychology and the needs of those around hint, essentially every individual is more interested in himself than in anyone else and craves for importance and recognition. He wants someone to show an interest in him and in what he does, He wants to be recognized and appreciated: he wants affection, warmth and friendship. lie likes to be heard, He reacts favourably when someone displays a genuine interest in him. fly creating a rapport, a leader can arouse a desire in the other person to do what he must do. Professor Henry A. Overstreat remarks that a person who wants to motivate or influence others must “first arouse in the other person an eager want. He who can do this has the whole world with him. He who cannot, walks a lonely way”.
The Role Players
A group discussion is essentially a process of interaction among various participants consequently, it assesses the overall personality which includes physical appearance mental potentialities, knowledge, powers of communication, and leadership abilities of the members of the group A good candidate is one who is vested with all these qualities. Various roles have to be performed simultaneously. The following import ant roles can be identified.
A good candidate should be able to initiate the process of discussion. A group discussion being a leaderless exercise, a participant with some amount of confidence can bring the group to order. He an guide the group in the way to begin and complete the discussion process.
A good participant must have sound general knowledge. Only then he can provide the required information on any given topic to the group.
A good participant must be able to elaborate or clarify’ points made by others. make them relevant to the given topic, and develop his own opinion.
A good participant must be able to harmonies the discussion process. He must be able to bring the dissenting members of the group to some kind of agreement and be able to make them participate in the discussion in a disciplined manner. He must also gather the divergent points raised by different participants and relate them to the given topic.
A candidate who possesses good leadership attributes keeps the group directed towards its goal. He displays his skills. of organization through this role. Such a candidate has the potential for helping to run an organization.
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Vikash Singh on 2008-12-14 22:25:13 wrote,
It is good that you have provide in this. I want to know about some common topics that is running for GD nowadays.
Rajesh Kumar Gupta on 2008-12-15 07:17:51 wrote,
Suresh Chhatwani on 2011-06-18 03:28:21 wrote,