The Rock, a 1996 thrilling, high paced movie release, directed by Michael Bay and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, demonstrated a series of intense and riveting scenes in which negotiation, and the negotiation process with accompanying successful attitudes, are played out in a violent and thrilling tale. Luckily for us, these negotiation scenes not only highlight the necessary skills and mind frames for successful marketing and business skills, but are also highly entertaining and artistically relevant. This suspenseful movie delivered high paced action scenes starring superstars Sean Connery, Nicholas Cage and Ed Harris. This movie artfully and demonstrably examined the use of negotiation skills in a high-stakes environment while simultaneously providing us with an opportunity to learn and understand the graceful and sometimes confusing task of information-based bargaining.
In order to fully understand and learn the useful applications presented in this film dealing with the techniques of information-based bargaining and the emotional control required to succeed, we must first set the conditions for understanding the specific negotiation. The story centers around a disgruntled, rogue general of the Marine special forces named Gen. Hummel. Gen. Hummel, having access to top-secret and sensitive information and weapons, desserts the Marine Corps in a desperate attempt to locate and retrieve the locations and circumstances of his former soldiers hidden from him by his superiors. Gen. Hummel proceeds to take various cities by hostage by threatening to launch VX gas weapons of mass destruction, gathered in his hideout near San Francisco on Alcatraz Island if his demands are not met. To complicate the situation, the government assembles a team of Navy SEALs and chemical warfare experts led by a former prisoner of Alcatraz to infiltrate Gen. Hummel's hideout and disarm the VX gas weapons being held at the former prison.
I selected this bargaining situation to highlight the need to control one's emotions within a negotiation session, especially when the stakes are abnormally high. This examination will focus on the dialogue between Gen. Hummel and the negotiating team in charge of the infiltration mission to recover the dangerous gas and detain the renegade Marines. The persuasive skills of all sides of this dilemma provide excellent reference points and substantial inspiration in helping us foster well-balanced agreements and negotiations.
Shell (2010) separated the negotiation process into four separate steps: preparation, information exchange, bargain, and settlement. Using these guidelines I will explore Shell's information-based bargaining principles by describing the negotiation between Gen. Hummel and the infiltration team led by Mason and Goodspeed, played by Sean Connery and Nicholas Cage in the movie The Rock. It is also important to understand that the negotiation to be examined includes the FBI and Pentagon forces which are actually conducting and controlling the raid on Alcatraz. Additionally, I will highlight certain instances of the varying scenes and relate them to Shell's interpretations and suggestions.
Preparing for negotiations is the first, and in my opinion, the most important sequence of successfully navigating the negotiation. These crucial first steps are integral in the negotiator setting the stage in one's own favor. First impressions and first intentions pace the remainder of the exchange so initiating and facilitating a personable start is extremely important. It appears Gen. Hummel spent his entire life preparing for this moment of glory. All of his military training and his past victories in war contribute to his preparedness. In fact, these direct results from his past experiences in these previous conflicts helps gives us insight into how emotional fatigue and combat weariness within a military career may take hold on any one individual. While his plans to take hostages and threaten the lives of many innocent civilians may seem harsh, in his eyes, these actions are justified due to his previous commitment to his benefactors.
Gen. Hummel has assembled his team of mercenaries dedicated to following his orders and committed to the memories of their fallen comrades who are deserving of their betrayal. Gen. Hummel has also prepared for this bargaining session by having full technological control over the missile systems that are at the heart of this negotiation. Gen. Hummel has anchored himself to the goal of bringing awareness to the plight of the fallen soldiers and rewarding those who have not received their just awards. It is important to realize that in any negotiation session, bringing past experiences, both successes and failures, into the present situation will help guide and provide a useful reminder to the actual purpose and motivation of the negotiation resulting in a successful navigation.
The opposite side of this situation, has the negotiation team anchored to the goal of protecting the citizens of the city's who are under the threat of Gen. Hummel's plan. Confusing the matter, are the many different goals of the different members of the team. For example, Mason who was released from jail to complete this mission, appears torn between saving himself and saving the helpless target victims. Goodspeed, is motivated by his family life and his survival. And of course the bosses at the Pentagon are looking at the overall protection of the country as their goal in this predicament.
The information exchange, the next step of Shell's sequence of negotiation, is where we begin to see the actual negotiation process begin. Shaping perceptions becomes an important task in this step. Using verbal and nonverbal communication to express initial concerns is necessary for the actual negotiation to begin. Beginning negotiations are often marked by a starting offer which shows where each member initially stands. Orchestrating the structure, or setting the conditions in your favor, require empathetic exchange and clear understanding of the situation.
In our chosen vignette, the initial information is exchanged in violent and suspenseful exchanges. Identifying one another's placement of value becomes the goal of this negotiation as violent posturing dominates the scenes. Throughout the movie information is consistently being added and introduced into the negotiation. This is seen when Goodspeed and Mason battle the rogue Marine unit in gun fights as they locate and disarm the dangerous missiles being stored in this famous prison. Within the prison, there are approximately 15 rockets under Gen. Hummel's command but parties know only one functioning missile is necessary to carry out his plan. As information is being exchanged, consisting of the disarming of the rockets and attrition of the soldiers, the ability to adjust emotionally within any particular bargaining session becomes important and useful in obtaining the original goal.
Gen. Hummel's initial offer is clear. His request of money and information will offset in destroying American citizens. It is never clear why the United States government did not give in to these initial demands, but we are led to believe that these secrets are hidden away to protect all the lives of the entire country . This perception has been shaped into Gen. Hummel's mind, but to his advantage, the negotiating team is not quite sure of where he stands and what is limitations are in terms of destroying innocent people.
In this initial information exchange, we begin to see the color-coded negotiation style descriptors and their usefulness for our understanding . Gen. Hummel's character resembles a blue characteristic throughout most of this film. Rationally explaining his stance, his determined outlook demonstrated by his extreme tactics clearly resemble the characteristics of a blue style. Mason remains a constant yellow style throughout the movie, never giving away too much information and exaggerates to hide certain secrets. Goodspeed's negotiation style resembles the color green because of his collaborative actions throughout the scenes. When forced, these characters change and blend into different colors as the situation intensifies and changes as new information is slowly revealed.
Once information has been exchanged and initial offers have been described, the bargaining stage of negotiations commence. Negotiators with the ability to recognize and control emotions have sustained advantages in this stage of the process, highlighting the importance of reasonable control over one's emotional condition. At this part of the negotiation, information is exchanged more rapidly than in previous stages, requiring the need to censor and anchor oneself to the predetermined strategic goals of the negotiation developed in the pre-negotiation stage.
As in any negotiation or bargaining session, when the information is exchanged new ideas and limitations are perhaps introduced to both sides. The bargaining process allows one another to test the limitations of the current negotiation. In our movie, things change in dramatic ways to help demonstrate this testing of one's will to stay loyal to goals and plans within a negotiation setting. Gen. Hummel realizes as he is losing his power to control the situation that he must make a new offer. The general decides to launch a missile in order to prove he is not bluffing. However, the general backs out at the last minute by redirecting the missile into the sea. Gen. Hummel's men begin to turn on him as they understand now he had no intention of ever killing any civilians.