Broken Record Techniques

Written by angus koolbreeze
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Broken Record Techniques
The broken record technique is a powerful communication tool. (Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

The broken record approach to communication is a technique that you use to refuse a request, or to make a request of your own, and to demonstrate that your position stands no matter what. The aim is to get someone to understand that the issue is not up for discussion. According to the website Changing Minds, the concept refers to parts of a song on vinyl that repeat themselves numerous times, signifying that the album -- or turntable -- has malfunctioned.

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The Soft Approach

This method works best with a soft tone of voice. As the GP Training website suggests, keep your calm in dealing with another person. Just repeat the same idea, letting the other person know you are not changing your position on the matter. For example, as a parent, you may ask your child to clean his room tonight. If he replies, "I'm tired, can I do it tomorrow? It's Saturday anyway," you calmly reply, "I need you to clean your room tonight." If he asks again, say, "I know it's Friday night. But I still need you to clean your room tonight," without raising your voice, or your hand.


The broken record method is also effective when a person shows empathy fo the other party's position while expressing clearly the unwillingness to change his. For example, a collection official occasionally uses this tactic when a debtor tells him that she lost her mother this month and is unable to pay her bill. The agent replies that while he is sorry for her loss, the bill is a monthly responsibility that she needs to fulfil every month. While she may weep and beg for more time, the agent replies that he knows how it feels to lose a loved one, yet the bill is still past due, and she must pay it immediately.

Appeal to Authority

The broken record approach to communication also works in a professional setting. The appeal to authority, when you use it in a non-defensive manner, can defuse arguments with a customer, client, co-worker or subordinate that could cause you to lose a job because of a demonstrated inability to interact properly with others. For example, if you are a store cashier who must deal with an irate person who appears to be under 21, has no identification and still wants to buy alcoholic products, simply repeat the words, "If you look under 30, store policy says I must still see your identification," in a calm tone of voice.

Dealing With Distractions

The other party may attempt to insert another issue into the conversation. However, as GP Training points out, you can agree to address the issue she brings up under the condition that she acknowledges the importance of your refusal to give in to her request, or remain firm in what you have asked of her. An example of the use of this technique would be the teacher who asks a student to stop talking in class, only to have the pupil reply that Ashley is doing it, yet the teacher failed to rebuke her. The teacher then replies, "If Ashley is talking, too, I will gladly deal with her. But right now, I am asking you to stop talking."

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