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Broken Record Technique

The Broken Record technique (also sometimes called the Scratched Record technique) is described by Manuel J Smith in his book When I Say No, I Feel Guilty. The name for the technique comes from the days when vinyl records were used to play music. If a record got scratched you would find that the same phrase of a song or piece of music would keep repeating over and over again. The Broken Record technique encourages you to emulate this repetition in situations where you want to make it clear to someone that you are serious about something, and to try to get your point across by reasserting a request or point repeatedly notwithstanding attempts by the person you are talking to to deflect you or get you to change your mind

Note: Whe using the technique it is important to stay calm in the way that you repeat your point. This helps to show that you are not being aggressive but simply firm and clear.

Example of use of the Broken Record technique:

Trudy purchases her car insurance online. During the purchase process she is asked to input details of any previous claims she has made in recent years. She inputs relevant details in relation to a previous car accident she had three years before, when she was partially at fault and had to make a claim on her policy. The insurance webste accepts the details and the quoted premium increases. She purchases the insurance from the website on the basis of that increased quote but when she receives her insurance documents by email she notices that any future claims could be invalidated if she has not supplied correct information. Trudy telephones the insurance company to get them to correct the policy documentation. After the company has taken the details of the policy number and her name, Trudy explains the situation:

Trudy: 'When I purchased the policy I inputted details of a previous claim I had three years ago and paid an increased premium on the basis of that but the policy documentaiton does not record details of the previous claim, please can you correct the documentation.'

Company Rep: 'Are you sure you put the right details in - the website software is set up to record the information submitted. Perhaps you didn't input it corectly?'

Trudy (calmly but firmly repeating): 'I inputted details of the previous claim. Please can you now correct the documentation.'

Company Rep: 'The system is automatic - you may not have pressed the right button.'

Trudy (calmly repeating her point without getting agitated): 'The system accepted the information and it produced an increased premium which I paid. Please can you now correct the documentation to record the information I supplied - namely, that I had a previous claim three years ago.'

Company Rep: 'We can amend the documentation but there will be an administrative charge for the amendment.'

Trudy (repeating calmly again): 'I inputted the details before purchasing so there can be no question of an increased charge. Please amend the documentation accordingly.'

Company Rep: 'I don't have authority to process the amendment without a charge. I suggest you pay the increase charge and then ring back later to see if you can get it refunded.'

Trudy (continuing calmly to assert her point): "There can be no question of an increased charge and I am not going to ring back laster as the fault was yours. Please amend the documentation now.'

Company Rep: 'I don't have authority to make the amendment without a charge. If you make the payment of the charge now, I'll make the amendment then pass you onto my manager who can discuss a possible refund with you.'

Trudy (still calm): 'I am not going to pay a charge. I'll wait while you get authorisation to make the amendment. Please do so now, explaining that the policy document is incorrect and needs to be correcrted.'

Company Rep: 'Um, OK wait a moment.'

After a short silence the Company Rep comes back to the phone.

Company Rep: 'OK thats done - is there anything else I can help you with.'

Trudy (repeating and checking): 'No that's fine - just to check: you have now adjusted the policy and it records the previous claim?'

Company Rep: 'Yes'.

When to Use the Broken Record Technique

The Broken Record technique is probably most useful if you are in a formal or commercial situation such as in the above example and you want to make it clear to the other person in a polite way that:

When to be Wary of Using the Broken Record Technique

The Broken Record technique is less likely to be helpful where:

(a) The request you are making is unreasonable or goes significantly beyond your legal rights. For instance, in the above example, if Trudy had in fact forgotten to input the details of the previous accident when buying her insurance and she then subsequently requested that her policy details be corrected for free, the company representative might well have contined to insist that she pay an administrative charge and might also reaosnably have asked for an increased premium as the basis of the insurance would have changed.

(b) The person you are making the request to is in a position of bargaining power or authority in relation to you and has no wish to meet your request. For example, if the police have cordoned off a seciton of the road and you want to go through the cordon, then repeatedly asking the police officer to let you through without a very good reason is highly unlikely to meet with a positive response, because the police officer has the authority and power to refuse your reuqest and no reason to accede to it.

The Broken Record Technique - Conclusion

If you are easily deflected from getting your way when you are making a reasonable request, then consider consciously using the Broken Record technique and calmly repeating what you want without allowing yourself to be put off until you get your way. However, be wary of using the technique if you are actually asking for more than you are entitled to or if you are in a situation where you have little bargaining power and the other person has no wish to meet your request.


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