Resolving disagreements


In our day to day lives, there are many actions that we commit consciously and sub-consciously. One integral factor of our lives is that of having to take decisions which can range from the most simple, to the basic, to professional or personal and critical ones. Decisions come from our patterns of choice, likes and dislikes and on a deeper level also reflects on our own biases and perceptions. For basic simple decisions like having to choose say a color for a shirt or vehicle, one considers what colors are available, narrow them down to what other colors are available or acceptable. In social interactions, human beings make decisions unconsciously over the nature of whom they socialize with, who they are intimate with, who they trust or distrust and whom they dislike or cut themselves off from. Since social interactions also includes cause for disagreements and conflicts among individuals or groups who may have varied interests and individual biases and prejudices, the processes of decision taking and making consensus is critical. Not many of us pause to look at what factors contribute to our thought processes and beliefs, which in turn reflect on our social interactions with others and in larger groups. To quote an example here: let’s look at how various stakeholders or persons in their individual capacities respond to the issue of safety for women. Often, the deep entrenchment of patriarchal beliefs becomes the basis of what one person says about the issue. Thus, those who affirm to orthodox beliefs that women are weak or provoke men to abuse them will definitely take the stand that women should not move out after certain hours or wear certain dresses. Those who conform to radical viewpoints will stick to their stands that there should be capital punishment or chemical castration for men who commit sexual violence while pacifists and liberals will argue for more introspection and long term processes to address sexual violence starting from parenting, inculcating gender sensitization to young men and women etc.

The 1957 American film, ‘12 Angry Men’ adapted from a teleplay of the same name by Reginald Rose and directed by Sidney Lumet is an amazing reflection of how conflicting beliefs and prejudices can go towards a person’s decision and how team decisions can be changed. The film is centered in a court house around the trail of a 18-year-old boy for allegedly stabbing his father to death with the entire spotlight on how the jury of 12 men deliberate the guilt or acquittal of the boy on the basis of reasonable doubt. Since a verdict in most criminal trails by jury in the United States must be unanimous, the jury of 12 men sits to discuss the case. As the film unfolds scene by scene, it becomes clear that even before the 12 jury members have gotten around to discussing the merits and demerits of the case, the majority except for one member have decided that the boy is question is indeed guilty of the crime he is accused of and do not entertain the idea of a discussion. When the first ‘vote’ of the jury shows one ‘not guilty’, the rest immediately bear down on him with great annoyance but it is how this juror turns around the later outcome of the trail through his questioning, his ability to engage with the other jurors which bring out issues of time commitments, father-son relationships, class prejudice etc. Not so surprisingly, the film is used to highlight teamwork, its processes, challenges and how to make a resolution in corporate set ups and other sectors.

But there is no reason why the message of a film like ’12 Angry Man’ should be far from what happens in our real life, for when conflicts happen and decisions have to be arrived at, it is human beings who are in the thick of things. Conflicts and disagreements are obvious to human interest and their resolution depends on how far those involved are willing to take an honest look at their own prejudices and give room for an agreeable solution. More often than not, prejudices can be sorted out and kept aside so long as there is willingness to communicate between opposing parties. And even as technology connects people and keeps everyone connected, it is the old fashioned route of actual talking that is at the core of dissolving disagreements.


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