Tips for participating in a group discussion:
1. Prepare

If you know what the topic of the discussion will be, there is a lot you can do to prepare in advance. You can read round the topic to make sure you are aware of the main issues and arguments, and spend some time deciding what your own position is. If you can find any English-language audio or TV materials about the topic, make sure you watch it! You can also do some vocabulary research around the topic so that you can talk about it confidently. Make a list of the nouns, verbs and adjectives that you think will be useful and practise their pronunciation. A lot of online dictionaries have pronunciation help.

2. Listen

An effective discussion is one in which people listen to each other. Listening is a very important discussion skill: make sure you listen and respond to what other people have to say. A good discussion is one in which people share and talk about different opinions and viewpoints. It's not a competition!

3. Don't dominate

Many people make the mistake of thinking that in order to be effective in a discussion, they have to speak a lot. In fact, this isn't the case. In discussions, quality is more important than quantity: in other words, what you say is often much more important than how much you say. If you give other people a chance to say what they think, and then respond with a polite, intelligent comment which you are able to back up, you will gain the respect of your colleagues.

4. Back up your points

If you make a point in a discussion, you may be asked to explain or support it. You can do this in a number of ways: by providing facts or statistics to support your idea; by quoting expert opinion; by referring to your own experience or simply by explaining why you said what you said. But make sure you are prepared to support what you say, and try to avoid making 'empty' points.

5. Learn some useful phrases

There are lots of useful phrases that you can use in discussions. Here are just a few of them:
o Agreeing: You're absolutely right about that.
o Disagreeing: I'm sorry, I don't see it that way at all.
o Interrupting: Sorry, do you mind if I say something here?
o Dealing with interruptions: Could I just finish what I'm saying?
o Asking for an explanation: Would you mind telling us what exactly you mean by that?
o Asking for more information: Would you mind saying a little bit more about that?
o Adding more information: Another point I'd like to make is... There are many more phrases you can learn and use to help you feel more confident in discussions.

6. Be polite

The words argue and discuss in English have different meanings. People may get angry and behave rudely or shout or get aggressive in an argument. In a discussion, especially one with colleagues, it's important to stay calm and be polite, even if you feel strongly about the topic under discussion. Using words like please, thank you, I'd like to... May I...? Would you mind...? Could you...? Make you sound polite and respectful.

7. Take / make notes

It's a good idea to have a pen and paper handy. You can jot down any useful or important words or ideas that might come in handy later in the discussion - or afterwards.

8. Speak clearly

Most people are happy to forgive a few grammar mistakes when they are talking to a foreigner. However, they have much less patience when they can't understand someone because they are talking far too quickly, or much too slowly, or when they have poor pronunciation. So, practise your pronunciation and speak clearly and confidently. If you need time to collect your thoughts, you could say something like Hmmm... just let me have a minute to think about this. Or you could say Could you just repeat that please? to get a bit more time to think.

9. Relax!

Remember, a discussion is not a competition: it's an opportunity to share ideas in a positive environment. If you are relaxed, you will be more likely to feel confident and enjoy the discussion - and the best way to make sure you are relaxed in a discussion is to prepare for it! Preparing for a discussion can make the discussion a lot easier. You'll be able to spend less time trying to think of vocabulary and ideas, and more time listening to others and participating in the discussion. Speak slowly and clearly, don't worry too much about little grammar mistakes, and remember to listen and respond to other people.

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