Twelve Angry Men: A Case Study in Negotiation Techniques


At the beginning of the film, the jury is instructed to consider whether an unnamed defendant is guilty of first-degree murder. As the judge also instructs, a guilty verdict should be rendered if all jurors find that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The film soon reveals that the case is about a young adult who allegedly murdered his father. In order to begin assessing the defendant's guilt, the jurors discuss the mitigating and aggravating factors about the case. The defendant's state of mind is the first topic that is discussed in some detail, with attention paid to the boy's background in the slums. The defendant also had a rather chaotic life with his parents, with no mother in his life and his father in and out of jail. When the father was out of jail, he abused the defendant regularly and it seemed to have a direct effect on the defendant's criminal history.
Nonetheless, the majority of the film's negotiation tactics center around the "aggravating" factors about the defendant. There is testimony from neighbors at the scene of the crime stating that the defendant could be heard arguing and threatening to kill his father. Furthermore, a woman provided testimony stating she witnessed the murder itself from a window of a moving train. The police also provided testimony which seemed to nullify the alibi of the defendant. Furthermore, one of the central arguments about the defendant's guilt was the "unique" switchblade that was used to murder the father as well as the trajectory and depth of the stab wound.
In order to prove that the defendant was guilty, the jury would likely need to prove two components: the defendant's presence at the crime and that the defendant committed the crime.
JURY MEMBER No. 8 (Played by Henry Fonda)
Juror 8 is a quiet negotiator, who approaches discussions with careful and rational thought. Juror 8's negotiation style is calm, assured and balanced. Juror 8's process is similar to the scientific process - he hypothesizes his conclusion about the guilt about the defendant and then takes in the points of other jurors to confirm or reverse his hypothesis. At the same time, his quiet demeanor ensures that that the deliberations will remain calm and rational. This demeanor is highly beneficial, as juror 8 likely recognizes his opinion - not guilty - greatly contrasts with the opinions of other jurors in the room. This situation is a textbook dispute, where an opposing opinion is presented that is, in this case, universally not accepted by others (Ury, 1988).
Right at the start of the negotiations, Juror 8 is making a compromise. Juror 7 remarks on how he wants everyone to vote guilty so that he can catch the baseball game at the end of the day. Juror 8 likely recognizes this to be problematic and asks for an hour to discuss the case and prove that Juror 8 should be not guilty. In reality, as a rational and calm thinker, Juror 8 would likely prefer more than 1 hour but acquiesces so as not to alienate the other jurors. After all, Juror 8 understands he must reconcile and appear sensitive to the interests of the other jurors. Otherwise, he may risk alienating them altogether. The first negotiation technique - creating leverage - is veiled in this compromise (Lewicki, 2015). Juror 7 and Juror 8 are on opposite ideological spectrums when it comes to their desired transaction costs. Juror 8 proposes "meeting in the middle," but it would seem that he is receiving much more reward than Juror 7 by getting this concession. Juror 8 is also employing technique 2 - the far-point gambit - by only asking for an hour, it conveys that Juror 8 not only has indisputable evidence but the conclusion is also quite simple. The use of the far-point gambit has been defined as asking for a "reasonable" caveat in response to an exploding offer (Lewicki, 2015). Juror 7's desire for a quick verdict is similar to an exploding job offer because it is meant to ensure that Juror 7 maintains leverage and power over the proceedings. By publicly asking for an hour, Juror 8 has captured the attention of his fellow jurors.
Juror 8's negotiation style is quite brilliant in this sense, as he knows that as he makes progress he will gain more time with the other jurors. While this is not necessarily conveyed by the other jurors, Juror 8 likely hopes that each of the jurors has high perceived importance of outcome in the verdict. The revelations made by other jurors later in the film only serves to hammer home at this point. The initial vote and subsequent actions of Juror 8 reveal his preferred negotiation style. Juror 8 recognizes after the initial vote that he is the sole voter for not guilty. The third negotiation technique that Juror 8 employs is to reconcile the interests of the other jurors. By calling for the vote, Juror 8 has reconciled the interests of the other parties involved in the dispute (Ury, 1988). Juror 8's preference for rational assessment is countered by the varying profiles of the other jurors. Some of his peers are quick to anger, some short-sighted, and others simply want him to flip his vote so that they do not have to deliberate for a long time. In order to begin his dispute of the perceived guilt of the defendant, he carefully unpacks the aggravating evidence against the defendant. Juror 8's negotiation style is filled with checks with the other jurors. He does not want to be perceived as stepping over the interests of the other jurors, and typically interjects after he finds out the results.
The first action is the production of an identical knife to the supposed "unique" switchblade that served as the murder weapon. Juror 8 explicitly states that he believes that this alone evidence constitutes reasonable doubt. A key part of dispute resolution is to determine who is right (Ury, 1988). This is the fourth technique that Juror 8 employs in his negotiation style. The goal of Juror 8 is to illustrate reasonable doubt that he sees to the other jurors. Juror 8 sees significant reasonable doubt to a variety of factors, but he recognizes that his negotiation style must address each individual piece of evidence in order for maximal returns.
While Juror 8 sees this as a reasonable doubt, he has to see whether others believe that he is right. The fifth technique employed by Juror 8 is to determine who is more powerful, and factor that into the decision (Ury, 1988). Outnumbered by 11 to 1, Juror 8's preferred negotiation style is to act like he is "folding." He then concedes that if the votes remain the same, he will vote guilty to create the required unanimous verdict. At this point, Juror 8 likely realizes that if he cannot move opinions with his example of the knife, he will be unsuccessful in other points as well. Consequently, one could conclude that Juror 8's negotiation style is also economical - he will not invest time if he does not see a potential reward. Furthermore, Jury 8 displays that the transaction costs - in other words, the costs of continuously disputing and arguing - are too great to continue (Lewicki, 2015).
The decision to opt for a new vote is quite intriguing in how it suggests Juror 8 has become ambivalent. Is the importance of the outcome of the dispute in the vote important to Juror 8? It certainly seems that he has identified the transaction costs of argumentation and does not wish to engage with them. By folding, it gives the impression to other jurors that he values his relationship with them and does not want to waste their time. The sixth technique is the strategy that Juror 8 employs in his negotiation style. Consequently, given the chart Lewicki provides in "Negotiation Fundamentals," one could argue that Juror 8 falls under an accommodating negotiation style (Lewicki, 2015). At the same time, Juror 8 is engaging in the basic dispute process by disguising his motives - his importance of outcome is tremendously high from the onset of the film.
Juror 8 is a gifted speaker, and thus his negotiation style centers around re-framing and clarifying his points to others. Juror 8 is able to re-frame Juror 9's points in such a way that he has taken an apparent odd comment into practical proof for why a key witness cannot be considered reliable. The seventh technique that Juror 8 is reframing (Lewicki, 2015). Juror 8 spends significant portions of the deliberations discussing how the statement "I am going to kill you" can be unintentionally ambiguous. Juror 8 argues, to seemingly little success, that one can make that statement but not actually want to kill that person. Juror 3 seems to prepare to attack Juror 8, stating "I will kill him!". Juror 3 utilizes the irony in the statement to point out that Juror 3, while infuriated and embarrassed, probably did not truly want to kill him.
By this point in the film, Juror 8 has seemingly convinced others of his negotiation style in order to convey his importance of the outcome to everyone else. The conversation has shifted from a distributive, win-loss scenario into an integrative process where all points are being considered (Lewicki, 2015). Thus, the eighth technique of utilizing an integrative negotiation style emerges. The other jurors, previously ready to run out of the room with a guilty verdict, now truly weight all of the evidence and points that Juror 8 is bringing up. Instead of a distributive process of a win-loss form, the negotiation style has become integrative - each point is being debated for its merits, with a careful concern for the guilt or non-guilt of the defendant (Lewicki, 2015). The final technique that Juror 8 continuously employs is the salami technique (Lewicki, 2015). Juror 8 knows that he is perceived to be right and is slowly gaining power within the room. The salami technique is paired with an incremental closing technique as his final part of his negotiation style and strategy. While Juror 8 does not know how many voters may be swayed by a particular opinion, the unpacking of each problem with the purported "aggravating" circumstances slowly leans the room in Juror 8's favor. With each individual detail, he sways more voters and eventually convinces the room for a not-guilty verdict.
Technique 1
The first technique that I will analyze is the reconciliation of interests in the opening parts of a dispute. I would apply this concept in the business world, especially when I am interviewing or interfacing with other clients. My negotiation style is rather similar to that of Juror 3. Juror 8 is balanced, smart and considers all of the points. I tend to get very A dispute naturally occurs when someone feels that they are not having their interests considered. A dispute, in the interviewing sense, might be whether a hiring manager feels that it would be worthwhile to invite a candidate in for an in-person interview. Another way of reconciling the interests of the other party is to put me in their shoes - what would the interviewer be looking for in a candidate? A negotiation style that displays enthusiasm, a willingness to learn, effectiveness, and problem management seem to be the best places to start. The dispute, after all, is whether I am fit for the position, not the other way around.
An effective outcome for an interview is to either get the job or go deep into the interview process. The concept of the wisdom of the crowds is that a group of people will be accurate about predictions than a single man. There may be some opinions about interviewing that promote extreme honesty about one's character and experience, rather than bending the truth in the interview process. In the end, the wisdom of all of the people who have gone through the interviewing process surely yields some credence to the idea that the tactic of reconciling interests is important. There are situations where despite interviewing well, I will not receive the job. In some ways, I must learn to shape my negotiation style to that of Juror 8 - I can only exert so much control in the interviewing process and trying to negotiate my way into a job.
Technique 2
The second technique that I will analyze is the salami technique in closing a dispute. A negotiation, by nature, is often long and very exhausting. Many people will forget the points that have been made, and thus it is important to slowly unpack arguments with other people. One of the ways to apply this is with my significant other. My negotiation style with my significant other is rather chaotic. I spend a lot of time with them and it gets frustrating sometimes when we devolve into arguments. Arguments and negotiation styles between people who love each other can often be short-sighted because they focus on one issue. Recently, we fought about my decision to take more hours at work in the evenings.
A successful application of the salami negotiation style is to resolve arguments quickly and to potentially lessen their frequency. The "salami" negotiation style of unpacking each individual layer is successful when the other person completely understands each individual point or part of the discussion. For example, a successful discussion about working more would entail all of the different areas of wellness, such as occupational, emotional, physical and financial wellness. While a successful negotiation does not have to go in my favor, understanding all of the viewpoints serves to deepen and enhance one's relationship.
Technique 3
The third technique that I will analyze is integrative negotiation. I think that utilizing and embracing an integrative negotiation style is part of becoming a better leader and understanding how to resolve disputes with others. For this technique, I would like to discuss it in a professional sense. I often feel that I am a very absolute thinker, and often find it difficult to consider the points of others. Integrative negotiation styles ultimately can help me and others in the professional sphere, as careful consideration of all points of a dispute leads to more effective outcomes. Too often, leaders are accused of being too strict or ignoring the points of others. This leadership strategy can often be problematic, as it promotes dissent and ultimately provides more risk to the leader than simply taking the time out to hear other people.
I think that a successful integrative negotiation style is marked by a process. If I am thinking within a process of considering the positives and negatives of a decision, I know that I am employing an integrative negotiation style. For example, I might be in a dispute with my supervisor about how to handle a request from a client. If I am considering my leader's needs and the client's needs, I am practicing integrative negotiation styles. In other professional spheres, I can practice integrative negotiation styles in how I solve problems for anyone in the office. Whenever I am handed a job, I am entrusted with fixing problems or disputes that might emerge for a business. As a result, I must employ integrative negotiation styles to be successful in this transforming job market.
Technique 4
The fourth technique that I will analyze is reframing. As someone who is guilty of being absolute, I have a tendency of trying to force other people to understand my viewpoint through words. I neglect, more often than not, to employ other strategies in order to promote a better understanding of what I am trying to say. I will return to the example given earlier regarding the recent dispute between my significant other and I. Instead of framing the choice as one to earn more money, I might be best off changing the perspective - by asking my significant other what she would do if she were in my situation. By doing so, we emerge into a potential resolution rather than in disagreement.
Ultimately, my significant other and I get into arguments frequently because we find it difficult to connect with what the other person is saying. If a dispute emerges, it becomes difficult to reframe by simply re-wording the same sentence over and over. Negotiating requires imagination, as providing a different means of analysis can often be the solution for the dispute at hand. Often times, by reframing the argument, my significant other and I no longer have to continuously fight over something the other person might have said. Words, after all, have a tendency to be misunderstood or a source of further fighting.
Technique 5
The fifth technique that I will analyze is the far-point gambit. It seems that the far point gambit is a very risky strategy by nature because you are dealing with irrational actors. In a perfect world, the responses are similar to how Juror 8 was able to reverse the verdict of the case. Nonetheless, I think I will employ the far-point gambit in response to hiring managers or recruiters for firms who have a lot of candidates. I think that in general, the far point gambit can be effective in this instance given that the interested firm does not show a genuine interest in many of your qualities. Often, they might present an exploding offer, and the best response is to test their extremism by providing a rational requirement for accepting an offer of employment. If they reject the requirement, it is quite easy to see that the job might not be worthwhile.
The technique of a far-point gambit in the job search is very difficult. If I do not have many offers, it takes away my power in the job search to negotiate for the best possible conditions for a new job. It also suggests to others that I am weak, as I will take the job and that the company has all of the power in the employment search. A successful application of the far point gambit is rather binary - if they deny a reasonable request, one immediately knows that the job is not worth the investment. Furthermore, if they accept the reasonable request, one might be inclined to believe that this particular job might be worth hanging on to.
Juror 4's negotiation style is the ideological antithesis of Juror 8. While Juror 8 finds the defendant not guilty, Juror 4 sees the presentation of aggravating circumstances as irredeemable proof that the defendant is more than likely guilty. Juror 4's negotiation style tends to lean towards integrative bargaining, as he makes numerous comments throughout the film disapproving of the brash styles of others. He cites how they should be like "gentlemen" in how they argue with one another. Juror 4 seems to not give much consideration to the potential mitigating circumstances for the defendant. Juror 4 voices significant doubt in the presentation of the alibi, as he seems unable to fathom that the defendant claimed to be at the movies but could not remember the pictures on the screen. Many of his opposing jurors seem to follow the opinions that have been voiced by others in the group, rather than thinking for themselves.
Juror 4 also seems to be someone who is limited in the scope of their considerations. For example, Juror 8 went through an extensive, slow negotiation style with each of the individual members of the jury. Juror 4 has an impressive recall of the facts from the trial, citing specific details about the testimony which places the defendant at the crime. With such an expansive recall of detail, Juror 4 seems to appreciate the level of recall that the witnesses provided which placed the defendant at the crime scene. It would seem rather curious that Juror 8's comments about the defendant's innocence are always rather certain. Juror 4 utilizes assured diction and seems to speak with a rather condescending tone, indicating a level of confidence in his own opinions. Juror 4 seems to fit the textbook's definition of negotiators who fall into conflict as Juror 4 displays qualities of "framing... [and] overconfidence" (Lewicki, 2015).
The main negotiation styles that were utilized by Juror 8 on Juror 4 was re-framing. Juror 4 is likely the archetypal person who would need someone to re-frame arguments in order to better consider them. Juror 4 is an opinionated person and is not afraid to share his criticisms of the other misbehaving jurors in the room. Juror 8 likely recognized that Juror 4 was rational in his decisions. Juror 4 did not factor in extemporaneous factors such as race, class or background that could potentially bias his decision. As such Juror 8 probably realized that flipping Juror 4 would require re-framing his consideration of certain key factors.
Juror 8's strategy would likely center around disproving one of the main witnesses that placed the defendant at the scene of the crime. The likely suspect would be to cast doubt on the female witness who placed the defendant at the crime and alleges that the defendant murdered his father. Ironically, Juror 8 does not create a sufficient opening, as Juror 9 is the one who begins to sway Juror 4. Juror 9 gets frustrated with Juror 4's constant fiddling of his glasses, and then realizes that the female had marks on her nose from wearing glasses. The female witness did not wear glasses to the trial, which illustrated some doubt about her reliability. If she did not wear glasses when she needed them, how could someone believe her testimony? Juror 8 seizes the opening by utilizing the salami technique. Each individual part of the testimony should be accurate, and Juror 8 points out how it would be impossible for someone who needed glasses to grab them and simultaneously witness the crime occurring.
Juror 3 seems to be the most assured of the defendant's guilt from the start. Juror 3 is very similar to Juror 4 as they are both very uncompromising in their negotiation style. Of the five different approaches set out by Lewicki, one could argue that Juror 4 likely falls under avoidance (2015). His perceived importance of the outcome is very low, as he is completely swayed by his own experiences. Much like Juror 4's overconfidence and limited framing, Juror 3 is assured of the boy's guilt because he has been assaulted by his own son in the past. As Juror 8 opens up the discussion into an integrative negotiation, it seems that Juror 3 will not change his mind regarding the guilt of the defendant. Juror 3's negotiation style is more distributive, as he sees the bargaining about the defendant's guilt to be absolute in nature. Due to his past experience with his son punching him in the face, Juror 3 seems to be certain that this defendant must be guilty. Despite Juror 8 systematically reducing many of the aggravating circumstances against the defendant, Juror 3 remains steadfast in his beliefs.
The cinematic technique of juxtaposing Juror 3 to calmer jurors such as 4 and 8 illustrates how Juror 3 is immune to Juror 8's tactics of communication. One can confirm that Juror 3 is someone who falls under avoidance because he displays a clear disrespect to other jurors in the room. Juror 3 and Juror 8 are constantly at odds with one another, with Juror 3 often mocking Juror 8 for a perceived "sympathy" for the defendant. Juror 3 also makes several racist remarks and lacks the calm demeanor of Jurors 4 and 8. He even resorts to violence and readies to attack Juror 8 out of frustration, until he stops himself. In many ways, Juror 3 is setting himself up to be a part of his own "coalition" in this multi-party negotiation.
In the latter stages of the film, there are three remaining guilty votes that must be switched to not guilty for a unanimous verdict. Juror 4 marks this incident off by stating that he thinks the witness who identified the defendant as the murderer proves the guilt of the defendant. Juror 3 serves as a sounding board for Juror 9, who mentions how the female witness had marks on her nose from wearing eyeglasses. Juror 3 interrupts Juror 9's explanation, questioning why the marks could be such substantial proof for doubting the witness. The contrast between Juror 9 and Juror 3 during this explanation is stark - Juror 9 is calm, collected and assured; meanwhile, Juror 3 is yelling, out of control and confused. During this conversation, the remaining guilty jurors other than 3 - 12, 10 and 4 - all make various points that continue the line of inquiry that Juror 9 suggested. As a result, 12, 10 and 4 all convince themselves that the female witness who placed the defendant as the murderer can no longer be considered valuable testimony. Jurors 12, 10 and 4 all have come to the conclusion on their own, by re-framing and clarifying the points made by Juror 9. Juror 3's omission of both of these processes in his negotiation styles creates an antagonistic coalition, where Jurors 12, 10 and 4 no longer view Juror 3 as a reliable part of the negotiation. As a result, Juror 3 quickly folds as the last juror for "guilty" after revealing his own personal reasons that had nothing to do with the case.
Lewicki, R. J., Barry, B., & Saunders, D. (2015). Negotiation: Readings, Exercises, and Cases. Homewood, Illi.
Ury, W. L., Brett, J. M., & Goldberg, S. B. (1988). Designing an effective dispute resolution system. Negotiation Journal4(4), 413-431.
November 24, 2019 — Daniel Edomwandagbon

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