The Broken Record Technique

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Background

The broken record technique is an approach that can be used when we are being assertive. The technique is widely used in assertiveness skills training to help us to provide a response that is firm and clear.

Much like the name suggests, the broken record technique suggests that we act like a broken record - where the record gets stuck and keeps repeating the same thing over and over.

The Broken Record Technique

A broken record repeats itself, and that is exactly how this assertive approach works. When used with other assertiveness tools and techniques, it can be a highly effective way of showing someone else that you are steadfast in your position and, no matter what tactics they try, you won't move.

You simply need to keep repeating yourself until the other person gives in or concedes to your demands.

If you imagine a child, they are masters of this technique but somehow adults tend to lose this skill as they see it as being annoying; however, used correctly it is effective.

The idea behind the broken record technique is that you pick a phrase that describes your current position and, no matter what the other person comes back to you with, you answer with the same phrase.

For example

YOU:  "The holiday was not up to standard, and the hotel facilities were not like those described in the brochure so I want a refund."

REPLY: "No one else has ever complained about this hotel. In fact, most of the feedback is excellent."

YOU:  "That might be the case, but I want a refund as in my option it was not up to standard."

REPLY: "In my opinion, the holiday was up to standard."

YOU:  "I can appreciate that is your opinion but I want a refund."

REPLY: "It’s not company policy to give refunds."

YOU: "That may be your policy but I want a refund".

As you can see in the above conversation, the term 'I want a refund' is your position and this phrase is used over and over.

Revolution Learning and Development Assertiveness Skills Training Course - the broken record technique

When to Use the Broken Record Technique

The broken record technique will not work in all scenarios where you need to be assertive. We should pick and choose the times that we use it.

You should use broken record when:

  • Dealing with people in authority, or when you feel as though the other person has more experience than you
  • You think you are not getting what you are entitled to
  • You are dealing with people who are more fluent than you
  • The other person is likely to attack you verbally or use language that suggests you are weak in order to change your position

How to Use the Broken Record Technique

While the premise of the broken record technique is simple, there are a few things to keep in mind when using it. To use the broken record technique you should:

  • Keep the statement that you choose to repeat short
  • Not change the statement in any way
  • Keep to the same tone and volume of voice (for example, subtle changes may give the impression that you are becoming frustrated and therefore wavering)
  • Not deliver your statement in a tone that can be perceived to be aggressive or threatening. Your aim is not to upset or intimidate
  • Repeat what the other person has said to show that you have listened.
  • Try not to use the word 'but' as a conjunction. Instead, leave a pause.

Further Learning

You can learn more about the broken record technique by attending an assertiveness skills training course. Take a look at Assertiveness Training from our training partner Revolution Learning and Development Ltd.

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