How To Learn Discussion Skills

Last Updated on February 22, 2022 by Estrella

How to learn discussion skills
How to learn discussion skills. Photo by Sarah Pflug from Burst.

Is it possible to learn discussion skills if you did not grow up with them in your native culture? I believe so. I have seen international students and immigrant employees learn this skill, and quite well too. The skill of discussion and participation is an important one to learn when attending universities in the U.S. and working in some U.S. companies. So, here we go. Here are some suggestions on how to learn discussion skills.

Why learn discussion skills?

One of the reasons this skill is important when you are attending universities in the U.S. is because it can count up to one-third of your grade. If this is not a common practice in the educational system you came from, it feels like a disadvantage, even though you are doing everything else well.

In the workplace, the reason why participation skill is important is that some companies are interested in employees’ input in fine-tuning a product or a process. Those who share helpful ideas may even be seen as having leadership skills. This can in turn lead to potential promotion when the opportunity comes up.

Developing participation skills

So here are a couple of ways to develop this skill. Is there a TV show you enjoy? Perhaps a comedy? Such as the TV series Friends? Or How I met your mother? Maybe a political discussion held by journalists? Particularly the ones held by journalists. Watch how each person jumps into the discussion. How do they interrupt another? What is their body language to get the floor?

Observe body language of participants

With the TV shows you like, observe the ease of people joining in a discussion, a casual chat on a topic. There is a flow to it. It’s fluid, smooth, natural. Feel that. You may think you have to force yourself to practice. But if you would do these other things first, you’ll be more equipped by the time you actually jump into a discussion. It’s the mental readiness. Feeling the ease (at least copying the ease of others.) Perhaps imitating the body language of the journalists while you are watching the show, so your body knows what it feels like.

Apply what you observe in live situations

After you feel confident and comfortable with the above, you can take your skills out for a test drive. Start small. Have coffee with your English-speaking friends who are born in this culture. Choose 2 or 3 you feel comfortable with. Let the conversation flow naturally. Join in when you want to share something. Practice participation in this group until you feel confident about the skill. Then add 1 or 2 people you don’t know very well. Ease yourself into this self-training process. In time, you’ll feel more confident and comfortable jumping into a discussion.

So, to recap, observe others who are good in participating in discussions. Choose a TV show with plenty of examples. Watch their body language. Imitate the posture. When you get quite good at this, move onto live discussions with people you already know and are comfortable with. Then add a few people you don’t know well. And keep expanding from there.

If you find this article helpful, here’s one on Career Advancement Tips for Immigrants.

Estrella Chan coaches immigrants and international professionals in English fluency, interview skills, and public speaking.    To schedule a session with her, please email

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