Last Updated 13 Jul 2020

Persuasion in 12 Angry Men

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In his article, “The Necessary Art of Persuasion”, Jay Conger stated that persuasion is NOT about selling or convincing; rather, it is a learning and negotiating process. Good persuaders use and listen to ongoing and active discussions (or debates) to learn about their audience and include different opinions into a shared conclusion. In the movie “12 Angry Men”, juror number 8 (Henry Fonda) was not sure if evidence presented against a young defendant in court left reasonable doubt for a guilty conviction.

The other jurors believed the presented facts and the defendant’s background warrants a guilty conviction. The movie showed how juror number 8 persuasively got the other jurors to review each fact logically, which led to an unanimous not guilty decision. Conger noted four essential steps use in effective persuasion. The steps will be use to analyze juror number 8 persuasion approach. The first essential step is establishing credibility with an audience. Conger noted that persuaders, to get support for an idea, have to build trust and confidence with their audience.

A person can be persuasive by having a thorough knowledge and understanding of a subject matter OR relationships with people who trust the person’s motives. This is an important first step because people are allowing the persuader to persuade them and are committing time and resources towards the idea. Trust is essential. An audience needs to see and know if the persuader can execute sound judgment honestly. In the movie, juror number 8 displayed an ability to decipher real facts from questionable facts logically and sensibly when ask about the evidence presented during the trial.

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His character— unlike juror number 3, who was excitable in a negative way— was calm, approachable and straightforward. He listened to each juror’s opinions about the murder case and spoke respectfully and candidly about the burden of proof to juror number 2 (bank teller). Juror number 8 gained credibility and trust from the other jurors using his character. The second essential step is framing arguments properly. It is critical to identify the tangible benefits and values that really matters to people being persuade.

Effective persuaders consider what is important to an audience and lays his or her position to match common ground with the audience. This is a give-and-take process. Effective persuaders also use testimonies, past and current research, etc and readjust their argument to make them appealing to their audience. Persuaders must know an audience well enough to know what will capture their immediate and continued attention. Juror number 8 was in a situation where there is no common ground between him and the other jurors.

All are from diverse backgrounds and uncomfortably brought together to deliberate the facts in an open-and-shut murder trial. Juror number 8, wanting to “just talk”, kept reconsidering and adjusting his position with the other juror’s positions about the defendant until a common was reach in the deliberation. Again, this is a give-and-take process and is effective if properly done right. The third essential step is presenting evidence to an audience. Conger stated that evidence alone will not convince an audience to support a position or an idea.

Evidence can appear too abstract and not entirely informative. Persuaders, Conger noted, use stories, metaphors, analogies, examples, etc and use vivid language skillfully to paint a compelling big picture of their point of view. This approach is far more effective than stating facts in persuasion. In the movie, juror number 8 used different testimonies from specific jurors to pick apart each piece of evidence to support his argument for reasonable doubt. He used juror number 9 (old man) insights about the old man’s motives, and juror number 6 (painter) and his own experience hearing train noises.

The old man, seeking attention for the first time, assumed he heard voices. His motives and whether or not he really heard voices are questionable. He also used jurors’ number 4 (stock broker), 9 and 12 (ad man) comments about indentations on the 45 year old woman’s nose, indicating she wore eyeglasses. The woman’s eyesight is questionable and she is not a reliable witness. The other jurors’ testimonies gave a clearer and more convincing argument for reasonable doubt. The fourth essential step is connecting emotionally to a belief and with the audience.

Good persuaders walk along a fine line balancing a strong commitment to a point of view (i. e. , belief) and not getting emotionally carried away. If balanced properly, an audience will see and believe the sincerity in a persuader’s message. Good persuaders also know the mood of their audience. Conger stated that effective persuaders “have a strong and accurate sense of their audience emotional state…and adjust the tone of their argument accordingly. ” Persuaders gets a feel of their audience by listening to and gathering information from side conversations, or asking people with better insights about the audience’s mood.

Good persuaders constantly analyze their audience’s behavior and use the proper tone in messages to match what the audience is feeling or expecting. Juror number 8 pretty much distanced himself from the other jurors. As he did, he listened to side conversations in the room, and observed the mood and temperament of each juror. He connected with each one accordingly and specifically. Juror number 3 (messenger service owner), for example, is very vocal and loose tempered. Juror number 8 approached him directly and firmly.

He spoke respectfully and candidly about the burden of proof to juror number 2 (bank teller), who is timid and easily persuaded by other opinions. Juror number 8 constantly kept analyzing this audience— the 11 other jurors. Juror number 8 broadly demonstrated Jay Conger’s essential steps to persuading people. In the movie, he mainly used persuasion faults by the other jurors to strengthen his position and to change their minds. And he kept studying and analyzing what the other jurors were saying about the facts. Persuasion is definitely a learning and negotiating process, and knowing your audience is half the battle.

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Persuasion in 12 Angry Men. (2017, Mar 09). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/persuasion-in-12-angry-men/

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