Communication is like a river, sometimes it flows and other times it stagnates. Sometimes we find people who do not want to see reason, try to manipulate us or violate our fundamental rights. In such cases, it is easy to become frustrated or explode with anger. The broken record technique is an assertive solution that will allow us to make our position clear and express our demand without losing our temper in the attempt.
What is the broken record technique?
The broken record technique is an approach used in social skills programs to promote communication skills as it is easy to apply and helps us to give a firm and clear answer. The broken record technique was created by Manuel J. Smith in his book “When I say no, I feel guilty.”
The name of the technique comes precisely from those days when vinyl records were used to listen to music. When a record was scratched, it was common for the same phrase to be repeated, over and over again.
The broken record technique consists precisely in imitating this repetition in situations in which we need to make our position clear or we do not want our interlocutor to deviate from the matter that we are interested in addressing.
The benefits of this assertive technique
1. Reinforce our message. The main benefit of the broken record technique is that it reinforces our message in the mind of our interlocutor. As long as we do not show an aggressive attitude, repeating our idea or demand will allow the person to capture our position without feeling threatened.
2. Avoid noise in communication. Many discussions come to a standstill because they stray from the main topic, turning into a crossfire of reproaches. With the broken record technique that doesn’t happen because you stay attached to the idea you want to assert. You don’t allow the conversation to take another turn.
3. Increase the chances of achieving your goal. The broken record technique goes straight to the point, its message is clear and concise, so the other person will understand that we are sure of what we want and our position. In the long run, that will increase the chances that he/she will give in to our demand or come to his/her senses.
When to use the broken record technique – and when is it counterproductive?
The broken record technique is effective when we find ourselves in formal situations, such as in a work environment, when we have to do paperwork or when we interact with people we know little about. However, it can also be useful in more intimate settings, both in the relationship as a couple and when dealing with children.
In a general sense, we can apply this assertive technique when:
• Our request is reasonable
• We want to make it clear that we are serious and have no intention of giving up
• We want to reinforce our position in a friendly and courteous manner, with no intention of arguing
• They are violating our rights
• Our interlocutor tries to verbally attack us or distort the conversation
• A person tries to manipulate us or assume a position of power
• Our interlocutor does not want to listen, is forgetful or disorganized
The broken record technique aims to avoid conflict and arguments, clarifying our position and expectations. However, it is not all-powerful and there are times when it can even be counterproductive, such as when we are not right or our request is irrational, since in that case it only shows rigidity and stubbornness. Nor is it usually useful when the other person is not willing to give in or talk, since it would produce an infinite loop.
How to apply the scratched record technique step by step?
Although the premise of this technique is simple, to use it properly and increase its effectiveness it is important to take into account some details:
• Summarize your position or demand in a short statement that you can repeat throughout the conversation
• Don’t change that statement in any way, stay consistent to reinforce the message
• Try to keep the same tone and volume of voice, remember that subtle changes can give the impression that you are getting frustrated or doubting
• Try to remain calm, so that your statement and attitude do not seem aggressive or threatening. Remember that your goal is not to intimidate the other but to convince him
• Validate your interlocutor’s message by repeating his/her words. This way he/she will feel heard, but do not give in and add your demand.
For example, you might start by saying, “I won’t be able to work late tonight” or “This product is damaged and I want a refund.”
When your interlocutor expresses his/her argument, you must validate it and repeat your position: “I understand that you are under a lot of pressure, but I still will not be able to work tonight” or “I understand that you did not sell this product directly to me, but it is damaged and I want a refund ”.
If the person tries to avoid the request, just repeat your statement: “That is not relevant to the problem, I really want to…”. Don’t let the other’s distraction techniques confuse you by leading you down another path.
In fact, it is important that you do not enter any more irrelevant information or make excuses because it could be confusing for the other person. You can offer an explanation later, but only when you have expressed your point of view or demand and you are sure that your interlocutor has heard and understood it.
In the event that a major secondary issue related to the main issue arises, you can acknowledge it but hold your ground by saying, “I’m willing to address that issue as soon as we resolve this first. Let’s take one step at a time.”
Finally, remember that the more you repeat your idea, the more it will consolidate in the mind of your interlocutor, so that he/she will understand that cannot change your mind with irrelevant arguments or that you are not susceptible to manipulation.
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