In this 1957 Sidney Lumet classic, we are presented with the extremely intriguing courtroom drama that is 12 Angry Men. The film follows the proceedings of capital murder case where the jury is deliberating over the innocence or guilt of the 18 year old boy who has been accused for the murder of his own father. The group dynamics of the panic member and each of the personality conflict make this 96 minute film a fast paced piece of art where you cannot look away. The structure and function of the group coupled with how each and every member communicates is what determines the final verdict. In this essay we will use the principles of group dynamics and effective communication to assess the purpose of the premise of the movie- i.e to determine whether the boy is guilty of murder or not?
In this group, it can be observed that Henry Fonda (Juror number 8 ) set the tone for cooperative meeting by integrating opposing views in the beginning despite being the minority. It was his respectful nature excellent listening skills and genuine eagerness about reasonable doubt that convinced the other member to participate in the dialogue (Tjosvold, et al 1991). As the details of the case were being analysed again, this curious stance put forth by Fonda encouraged the others who were not taken aback by personal prejudice to dig deeper.
The discussion was robust with extremely polarising views from every end. The different personality types of 12 men and their personal perspectives created a rather interesting amalgamation of opinions that were slowly and tenuously sifted through to come to a common consensus regarding that defendant’s fate. Juror number 3, 4 and 10 were extremely adamant about their “Not Guilty “stance till the end and it was often observed that Juror 3 would constantly try to provoke or beat down arguments from other jurors. All this was attributed to his “excitable “personality but he demonstrated certain characteristics of someone who exert unnecessary pressure. Fonda used this to his advantage to demonstrate how the temperament of the moment can in fact influence one’s behaviour.
But it was the display of initiative despite the odds by juror 8 that allows the room for discovery of their attitudes and biases through effective communication. The markers of a constructive group dynamics include the capacity for conversation that takes into account the “joys, struggles, aims, doubts and aspirations of the team members” (Marotta,et al 2000). the interactions near the window or the water cooler give us glimpse of how each member is definitely curious enough to not be led by blind faith of their previous judgement. The communication dynamics does not let the group opinion become stagnant and resigned. The reasonable self-assurance showed by juror 3 , the explanation of the case by juror 4 and the personal prejudice of juror 10 bring to light the various facets if understanding group behaviour. Especially of the ones that have such complex personalities.
The goal of this group was to come to a consensus about the decision regarding the defendant. When the meeting started, every juror other than juror 8 was convinced that the defendant was guilty. Base on that the court proceedings they were to make a decision which would be unanimous. The fact that juror 8 was not convinced and wanted to talk more about the proceedings led the entire group to re-evaluate whatever they had heard or seen. The aim was to reach a point where every member was convinced, and the passionate rebuttals and anger directed towards juror 8 finally made room for a more scrutinizing conversation. Here, each and every member inadvertently contributed and news able to see the other side of the argument with clarity. The objective of the group to reach a point where they are genuinely assessing the facts instead of believing what they were told was strong enough to convince each and every juror by the end. The valuable assessment of the data available with impartial perspective and room for discussion made the clear unanimous decision possible. The intricacies of the group dynamics could eb explored only because of the reasoned problem-solving approach employed by the group members (Kiesler, S. and Sproull, L., 1992).
Juror 8, Fonda was the only one with an opposing view when the meeting started. It was the initiative taken by him despite being the minority that forced the entire group to have a second look at their decision. This ability to create a change and to stand firm on hi stance are the true signs of a real leader. Without being disrespectful or provocative, Fonda presented forth reasoning and doubt that created the room for an open-minded conversation. This establishment of a dialogue was the single most important step in this conversation which otherwise would have led to the execution of the defendant on biased grounds. “Great leaders are great learners and keep their minds open about what people can contribute to an enterprise” (Kouzes and Posner 2003).
The integration of opposing views that offered differed perspective helped the group think better and come to coalition that had the best solutions. This was only possible because juror number 8 created the opportunity for that. His positive leadership enabled everyone else to think innovatively and this contributed to the decision making. The fact that juror number 8 could understand the unique nature, temperament and contributions of each member indicates the level of acumen. His alacrity to create room for the individual personalities of the group are indicators of his positive leadership. His patience to see this through is what led us to climax of understanding that the only reason why juror number 3 was this adamant on prosecution the defendant because he, himself had been carrying the baggage of having an estranged relationship with his young son.
The effect of positive leadership and dynamic nature of the conversation made this meeting a successful one. Here, the group could come to a unanimous decision that could only happen through proper dialogue and reasoning. Understanding different personality styles while taking into consideration the various conflicts, shows how the pillar of healthy group dynamics can be handled through joint efforts without affecting the judgement. The group was extremely successful in making an informed decision and it did so with the help of numerous diverse perspectives.
Cogin, J., 2004. Understanding human behaviour and group dynamics. In Nursing leadership. Churchill and Livingstone, Sydney.
Kiesler, S. and Sproull, L., 1992. Group decision making and communication technology. Organizational behavior and human decision processes, 52(1), pp.96-123.
Kouzes, J.M. and Posner, B.Z., 2003. The leadership practices inventory (LPI): Participant's workbook (Vol. 47). John Wiley & Sons.
Marotta, S.A., Peters, B.J. and Paliokas, K.L., 2000. Teaching group dynamics: An interdisciplinary model. Journal for Specialists in Group Work, 25(1), pp.16-28.
Tjosvold, D., Andrews, I.R. and Struthers, J.T., 1991. Power and interdependence in work groups: Views of managers and employees. Group & Organization Studies, 16(3), pp.285-299.
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