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My thoughts on the movie - 12 Angry Men
The movie started off with what seemed like a courtroom debate amongst 12 jurors on a surefire guilty verdict of a young defendant charged with the murder of his father. However, upon the call for the first vote to see where each one stands, juror #8 - who was portrayed as the true protagonist - was discovered to be the sole holdout (much to everyone else’s shock and frustration), and thus began the heated debate. Indeed, while there may be a few possible interpretations and principles to take away from the film, there was an aspect of the film that was actively at play, and from which we can all learn; negotiation. The film highlights that tension comes from personality conflict, dialogue and body language, and where logic, prejudice and emotion struggle to control the field.
In the film, juror #8 was portrayed as the successful negotiator, while the others represented unsuccessful and non-ideal tactics of negotiation. Juror #8 exemplified principled negotiation, which involves objective negotiations aimed to reach a solution based on principle and not pressure; being open to reason, closed to threats. Juror #8 started off as the lone holdoff, with everyone else against him. As if the pressure of standing alone was not enough, the other jurors started to question him in rapid succession, hurling offensive remarks, and urged him to see that the case was straightforward and that he should not be wasting time. While many of the jurors had already arrived at their own conclusions, juror #8 wanted to be objective, and desired to talk it out to discuss the facts with the others. His goal was not to cast faults and make personal accusations to discredit others, but to work toward the objective of their discussion; determining if there is any reasonable doubt about the guilt of the boy. In dealing with the mounting pressure on him, juror #8 recognised that the men were getting emotional and allowed them to let off some steam without adding fuel to fire by provoking them. Especially since he was contesting the validity of the facts of the case – which the men firmly believed were undisputable – he acknowledged their points, and even took them to be true while proposing new logical explanations. He included fair standards to base his explanations on, making sure the men were in agreement. These elements of his argument made it even more persuasive and convincing, and such is an example of negotiation with objective criteria - through which juror #8 reasoned and was open to reasoning.
Throughout this, juror #8 was notably unyielding to pressure against him. While his explanations met with strong resistance and agitation, he understood how the human propensity for defensive and reactive behaviour, is a reason negotiations fail when agreement would otherwise make sense. Instead of souring the relationship further, he worked towards building a working relationship independent of the men’s votes. This was unlike the other jurors, one of whom was unhappy with an opposing stand and said “You voted guilty didn’t you? What side are you on?”. Instead, juror #8 showed that he cared, as seen from his actions to wait for the final juror (who was deeply affected by his soured relationship with his son) to leave the room with him, and even took the initiative to collect his coat from the wardrobe for him. Contradictory to the approach of juror #8, another observation I had was that those who initially voted “guilty” were not benign to one another, and those who had underlying reasons for their vote were trying to dominate the debate by stating how absurd it was to vote otherwise. In one of the scenes of the film, upon calling for another vote which resulted in more people voting for “not guilty”, a juror got frustrated and exclaimed that everyone was “out of their minds”, hurling insulting comments such as “what is wrong with you people?”. This highlights the importance of separating people from the problem and emphasises that when dealing with opposition (and just as how juror #8 worked around the stubbornness of others), we ought to acknowledge that negotiators are people first.
In the process of working toward this objective, Juror #8 did not involve any form of biasness to obscure his reasonings, unlike the others. As the film progressed, it was revealed that among those who initially voted “guilty”, some of the jurors were hard bent on their decision due to personal reasons. For instance, one juror had preconceived notions and stereotypes on people from unprivileged backgrounds similar to the boy’s, while another juror had been drawing similarities between the soured relationship with his own delinquent child, and the boy. This hence discredited their arguments and changed their minds. During a debate, we tend to perceive silence as a sign of weakness and that the other party has the upper hand. However, one ought to learn to be slow to speak, and quick to listen when engaging others in a debate. This not only allows time for deliberation and construction of a sound reply, but also signifies respect given to the other party as they share their perspectives. During negotiation, one should therefore be open-minded, clear of biasness, and prioritise listening over speaking.
Ultimately, I believe that while there is no guaranteed formula for success, negotiation techniques and qualities such as being objective, understanding, composed, quick to listen and awareness of interests at play, make up a good negotiator that would definitely garner respect and make a persuasive case for consideration. By seizing the negotiation as an opportunity to build up a relationship with the other party, the talks can progress amicably and the other party might even be more willingly to compromise on some of their interests out of the respect you have earned in the positive friendship forged.
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Re: My thoughts on the movie - 12 Angry Men
Oh, Don't think we haven't noticed that you stole everything that you thought you could pass off as original. See...we are book readers...we also read book reviews. So...do you like books? Or are you just trying to make fun of us book readers?\
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Re: My thoughts on the movie - 12 Angry Men
Interesting set of issues. I have found myself coming back to this play/movie many times over the years.
The movie's plea for a better hearing is well written, and the approaches taken by the protagonist, Juror #8, are indeed good human relations and good management. In this age of teams, listening, being sensitive to what is shoved aside for the sake of "getting on with it" and caring about fairness even when it is costly are all pretty valuable behaviors.
What I would like to underline is the poor job the system did. The juror is in the position of having to clean up a mess created by a prosecution eager to nail someone, a defense which has not cared about examining the evidence closely because the client is poor and perceived as doomed, and in general, a society happy to find someone to blame rather than to be responsible.
That's part of the message of the movie. Society has structured many of its decision-making processes to pursue goals that are in tension with justice. And the underbelly of motivations for injustice can be pretty ugly. Lynch mobs were often imagined to be punishing crimes. Segregation was often imagined to be protection from evil. Humans are good at rationalizing behavior that is really about tribal advantage.
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