Communication refers to the process of exchanging verbal as well as non verbal messages. It is a continuous process, whose pre-requisite is a message. The message must be conveyed via some medium to the recipient. It is also important that the message be understood by the recipient in the way the sender intended, within the time frame. Therefore communication is two way process which is incomplete without a feed back. The 12 angry men case presents an excellent case from which to consider the various concepts in interpersonal communication.
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12 Angry Men is about twelve complete strangers who have been together to serve as jurors. The jury has the arduous task of determining whether an eighteen year old accused of murdering his own father is guilty or not. After the court room proceeding ends, the judge gives instruction to the twelve jurists. He reminds them of the fact that they have listened to the testimony and heard the law read and interpreted to them as it applies to the case, and that it is their duty to try and separate fact from non facts. The judge says that if they find a reasonable doubt in their minds regarding the guilt of the accused, then they must table to him a not guilty verdict. If, on the other hand, there is no reasonable doubt, they must find the accused guilty. The only condition is that their verdict must as a matter of fact be unanimous. The accused would be sentenced to death incase he is found guilty.
As jurors commence their deliberations, the vote is initially 11 to 1, in favor of a guilty verdict. The single not guilty vote belongs to juror 8, Henry Fonda. Even though some are hostile and angry with Fonda, he insists that they give more time discussing what they have seen and heard during the courtroom proceedings. The characters in the 12 angry men movie that can best be used to analyze and to support the analysis of the communication concept in the situation includes Jury No. 3, 8 and 10;Lee J. Cobb, Ed Begley and Henry Fonda respectively.
Interpersonal communication is inherently relational and exists on a continuum. It also involves both verbal non verbal messages which can lead to development of interpersonal relationship. Thus the process of listening is an important aspect in verbal communication. It entails receiving, understanding, remembering, evaluating and responding to transmitted stimulus. However as in the case of 12 angry men there are listening barriers that hinder interpersonal communication of the verbal type.
The major dynamics of the interpersonal encounter in the 12 angry exist due to the fact that interpersonal communication does occur. The context in this situation includes a jury’s room where 12 members with different orientations have come together to deliberate the fate of an accused 18 year old of murder. The sender, for instance jury No. 8, chooses the massage to communicate to the context. When he asks the others to defend their reason for casting a guilty vote, he is essentially trying to communicate the importance of being objective in the case. We find that Jury No. three and ten voted according to personal sentiments as opposed to examination of available evidence as well as the courtroom proceeding.
Communication channels in interpersonal communication that relay messages take two distinct forms; direct and indirect channel. Direct channels are not only obvious but also directly recognized by the receiver/decoder. Direct channels relay verbal and non verbal information and are completely controlled by the sender. Verbal channels relay words, both written and spoken while non verbal channels relay body gestures, facial expression, temporal silence and eye contact. These are clearly used by three jurists in the case.
Channel credibility refers to the trustworthiness and expertness of a channel as perceived by the receivers. It is directly linked to communicator and the audience. Channel feedback is the opportunity a channels provides for the recipient to respond immediately and thus affect the source of the message. In 12 angry men, the feedback is facilitated by the face to face communication. It is possible to deliberate over the issues efficiently and effectively.
There are various influences on channel credibility. As far as interpersonal communication is concerned, information influence occurs because others’ responses convey information concerning the nature of the social setting and how the majority are in effect responding to the setting. On the other hand normative influence occurs when members tailor actions and attitudes to match the norms of the group’s condition. The members of the majority in the twelve Angry Men for example, did more than thinking. This can be seen in the words of Jury 3 (Lee J. Cobb) when he asserted that “This group has decided the defendant is guilty and anyone who believes differently is going against the norm of this group” (Forsyth, 2009, p199).
Normative influence causes members to think, feel and act in ways consistent with the norms of the group. At an interpersonal level, people are compelled to act according to the norms because a variety of negative consequences might result from non conformity .Given its emotional impact normative influence usually has tremendous influence on communication outcome. Western societies for instance, purport to value non conformity as well as independence. However in most circumstances dissent is not rewarded. Most of the times it is met with interpersonal influence which are social responses that encourage or force group to conform. Fonda appeal to the emotion and intellect of the other jurors when he says “It’s not easy to raise my hand and send a boy off to die without talking about it first…We’re talking about somebody’s life here. We can’t decide in five minutes. Supposing’ we’re wrong?” (Dirk, n.d,Â¶ 2.).
Cobb’s attitude towards the defendants is influences by painful memories that characterized his relationship with his son. He had a fist fight with his son prior to the case and have not set eyes on each other ever since. As a result he is angry not only at his son but also other children and young people in general. He collectively refers to them as ‘rotten kids’ and automatically assumes that the defendant child is lying. Jurior No.10, Ed Begley, deep personal prejudices affected his initial decision. His hostility toward anyone who does not share his ethnic and social background leads him to believe that the defendant is lying, as he does not have the ability to tell the truth. “You know how this people lie” he says “it is born in them” (Dirk, n.d 1.).
Juror eight and others eventually` convince Cobbs and Begley to cast a not guilty vote despite the fact that the verdict could be wrong. At the end of the movie the truth is still not known, what is known is only the fact that the jury voted. If the defendant is indeed innocent, then justice has been achieved. On the other hand if the defendant is in deed guilty then the jury lets a murderer go free. This is the reason why juror 8 does not answer to juror six, Edward Bins, question early in the film, “supposing you talk us out of this and the kid did knife his father”(Dirk, n.d 3). He does not answer because there exists no definite answer. The truth is often difficult to know and near the end of the movie, juror 8 reminds the others that he really does not know what the truth is and does not think that there exist a possibility that anyone discovering the truth. However the nine of them feel that the defendant is innocent, which is also probably wrong. He underscores the importance of reasonable doubt in American judicial system, as being the basis for letting the defendant go free.
Interpersonal communication entails the use of both verbal and non verbal communication. The jurist engages in direct conversation both written and word of mouth. Verbal communication calls for active listening characterized by receiving, evaluating and understanding of the senders’ information. Fond is an active listener. In the explanation of the juror’s voting, Juror number twelve suggest that other juror should try and convince Cobbs of the defendant guilt “that he is wrong and we are right.” (Dirk, n.d 4).Each of the jurors has a minute or two to think and respond to Fonds’ common sense questions. Fond in turn responds with well though influential arguments.
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Cobbs first asserts that his voting was objective and thus is devoid of personal feeling. He asserts that he only wants to discuss the ‘facts’ of the case including how at 12.10pm the old man heard loud noise of a fight with the kid yelling out to his father : “I’m going to kill ya” (Dirk, n.d). A second later the man heard a loud noise of the body as it hit the floor and as he ran to the door, he witnessed the boy running out of the house (Fonda appeal to the emotion and intellect of the other jurors when he says “It’s not easy to raise my hand and send a boy off to die without talking about it first…We’re talking about somebody’s life here. We can’t decide in five minutes. Supposing’ we’re wrong?” (Dirk, n.d 12.).
Active listening is an important concept in verbal communication. After listening to Cobbs’ assertion of his facts, Fonda hopes to explain them during later deliberation about the evidence presented in court. In his endeavor to communicate his stand on the lameness of the old man assertion, Fonda requests a diagram of the apartment to investigate in examining the claim. He is able to show that the old man could not have run the long distance from his bedroom and down the stares. It was impossible for an old man who dragged one foot as a result of a stroke he had suffered, to run or walk such a distance in just 15 seconds.
From this deliberation Juror 5 (Jack Kluggam) feels that he has ground to change his opinion and therefore in the ensuing vote, his is a not guilty vote. Begley is angry and exasperated: “Boy, how do ya like that? â€¦All right who was it? Come on I want to know.”(Dirk, n.d). On the other hand Cobbs excuses Kluggam of being convinced by Fonda emotional appeal and bleeding oratory and says that he get convinced as a result of Fonda’s ability to tear his heart down by his talk about the kid as an underprivileged who could not help but turn to murder (Dirk, n.d).
The recommendations for the jury in this situation could employ for effective communication are avoiding subjective influences such as stereotypes and prejudices. For instance Begley would need to surmount his racist thoughts and sentiments that prevent him from completely interpreting the information presented. Stereotyping should be put at bay and emotions held in check.
Active listening skills are also essential for effective interpersonal communication. Communication ought to be clear and precise and jurors ought to treat each other with respect. Members of the jury ought to participate in active listening, which entails receiving, understanding and expressing understanding and asking questions where need arises.
Jury would have benefited from knowing each other during the formation stage. They jury in 12 angry men spend several days together but do not make any introductions apart from few jurors who share their occupation. Martin Balsm as the foreman ought to have commenced with introducing the group before administering the votes. Being unaware of each other names made it more difficult for the jurors to associate with each other and to appreciate their input into the discussion.
Finally the leader is the ultimate person to ensure that recommendations are executed. Juror number one, who is the foreman may not the best individual as a leader.
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