If You Want to Ace Your Group Discussion, Don’t Forget to Listen
By | Abhijit Bhaduri | Founder, Abhijit Bhaduri & Associate
A group discussion simulates a typical meeting-like environment that these students would experience at their workplace.
For this reason it can be a great predictor of leadership styles. Having orchestrated many group discussions over the past 25 years, I have seen all kinds of participants. Some just want to hog airtime, while others remain quiet wall flowers. While most students believe that group discussions help recruiters evaluate how articulately someone speaks, in fact most employers use group discussions to identify a very important leadership and team-management skill: listening.
The Greek philosopher Zeno of Citium had said,
“We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say.”
This is true in a group discussion, as well. When you listen keenly, you can exercise good judgement while making your point, instead of simply saying something because you want to make sure you’ve said something (and have been heard) during the exercise.
This group I was listening to was no exception. As soon as the topic was announced, there was a young, enthusiastic man ready to share his views. He completely ignored the needs of others who required a minute to think about the topic before they shared their views. After speaking a few sentences, the first speaker realized that no one was listening to him because they were still gathering their thoughts. So he stopped and waited until everyone else was ready to participate. There were some others who repeated exactly what a colleague had suggested a minute ago. That was clear indication of poor listening skills, no matter how vigorously the speaker had previously nodded his head to show interest in others’ ideas.
…most employers use group discussions to identify a very important leadership and team-management skill: listening.
While most people will elbow each other out to get more airtime, the one who listens to others, evaluates what they say carefully, and then speaks is often the one chosen for a follow-up interview.
Here are four tips on how listening can benefit you in a group discussion:
- Gives you time to gather your thoughts: In this setting, being the first person to speak has no real benefit. When I conduct a group discussion, I don’t give you an extra point just because you spoke first. If you have a fact or a data point that can strengthen the debate, then share it. Without a strong point, don’t just jostle to be the first speaker. Take a few seconds to gather your thoughts, make a clear case in your head, and then speak at an appropriate time.
- Helps you borrow expertise if you don’t know the subject: If you’re not very familiar with the topic or are unsure of what stance to take, listening to a few people can help clear your doubts, create a perspective and give you time to put together what you’d like to say.
- Helps you notice the flaws: Listening is a great way to notice the flaws in what others are saying. You can then frame your response to address some of those flaws and make a great point.
- Helps you influence the group: When you listen, you can find commonality with your audience, in turn making a point that other people in the group will agree with. Demonstrating influence in this setting is useful, because it shows the recruiter that you have the power to get people to trust you.
Listen-speak-listen is a great strategy to follow during a group discussion. It is an even better style of leadership to adopt when you get that job.