Not everyone is a fan of group discussions, but most would agree that group communication is an important form of communication in academic, professional, and social context. Your contribution to the discussion and the way you communicate with others define your role in the group and affect how other members perceive you.
I used to be one of those people who feel uneasy in meetings and not sure what to say in discussions. But I know in order for people to get my ideas heard, I have to have a voice in those meetings. Merely telling myself to be confident and speak up is not enough. Over years, I have used some practical ways to be more open and effective in group discussions.
If you are looking to improve your group communication skills, here are my tips for you:
1. Be thoroughly prepared
First of all, you need to review the topics and materials to be discussed. As you are reading those documents, make notes about your thoughts and the questions or comments that you want to make. In addition, for a small group meeting, make sure you read through the agenda and are aware of who attendees are.
2. Arrive a few minutes before the meeting
According to Lifehacker, showing up five minutes early will give people the impression that you are organized and dedicated. Arriving early will also allow you to meet and greet other attendees in advance, so you will feel more relaxed and confident during the meeting.
3. Speak confidently
Don’t often use qualifiers such as “I think” and “I feel” in your sentences because they imply your uncertainty in what you are suggesting. Also, avoid tag questions, such as “It’s our best choice now, isn’t it?” This type of sentences is seeking approval from others and making you sound less confident. (Learn more about how to sound confident)
4. Use an appropriate tone
A tone that is too soft conveys doubt and lowers your credibility. A soft tone may also not allow everyone in the room to hear you clearly. You voice should sound firm but not aggressive and unfriendly.
5. When confronted by others, focus on the issue under discussion and remain polite
First, acknowledge the value in the other party’s ideas or opinions. For example, “I see your point in …” or “Jason provided a very interesting perspective…” Then, you can provide facts, data, or other evidence to explain why your recommendation is more desirable for the current circumstance. Even if your idea is not accepted, at least you make it heard – that’s the most important.
6. If your idea is stated by others first, don’t feel there is nothing else to say
You can express your support for this idea and if you have additional thoughts about it, share with the group to have further discussion. For example, “I like this idea. By doing …., we might also be able to tackle….” “Great idea. We might also want to consider… to further expand …”
In addition to the tips above, we must also pay attention to basic communication techniques, such as active listening, eye contact, open gestures, etc. When you build up your confidence and are well-prepared, you will enjoy participating in a group discussion and sharing ideas and thoughts.