Ascellus Blog

The Acoustics of Assertiveness: Learn the Broken Record Technique

November 2, 2020
The Acoustics of Assertiveness: Learn the Broken Record Technique

Ascellus recently finished a webinar series, Rebound from COVID: 6 Influence Skills, which consisted of six 30-minute sessions with our Ascellus medical experts, who spoke about research-proven tools and techniques that relieve stress, increase influence and tackle today’s tough challenges.

If you weren’t able to participate in the series or you missed any of the sessions, we’re offering a 6-part webinar blog series recounting the valuable tips and practices. Each blog will include an explanation of the technique, its benefits, and small group exercises to teach the technique and help you practice it.

We begin with the first topic in our series, “The Acoustics of Assertiveness,” led by Ascellus Network Medical Director Michael Coupland, RPsych, on assertiveness training and learning the Broken Record Technique.

What is the Broken Record Technique?

    1. The Broken Record Technique is a form of assertive behavior.
    2. It is a verbal response that is firm and clear and conveys a message that you mean what you say.
    3. It tends to work well in situations where people want to argue, don’t want to listen, are non-compliant with treatment, forgetful or disorganized.
    4. Your aim is to prevent further conflict, manage the message more effectively or clarify information.
    5. You acknowledge what the other person is saying or doing and then explain your expectations, using the same or similar words with a polite but firm tone. For example:

“I know you feel tired and that getting out of the house is difficult, but you need to attend your physical therapy visits so that you’ll get better.”

“I realize you are feeling anxious and that’s not a nice feeling, but try not to call me daily unless it is absolutely necessary. I’ll be ensuring that your ordered and approved medications are authorized.”

Benefits of using this technique:

    1. Initially, the person may continue with the undesired behavior or challenging your message, but as you repeat your expectations, your message is reinforced and the person is more likely to comply.
    2. Provided that your manner is not aggressive, people tend to get the message without feeling threatened.
    3. When behaviors change, compliance is attained or the problem goes away. Remember to acknowledge the improvements, give praise where it is due or simply say “thanks.”

Other details that support this technique:

    1. Once you have decided what you want from someone else, don’t change your mind or give in. This sends the message that you don’t really mean what you say, and it can be confusing.
    2. Always let your colleagues know what you are doing so that they don’t inadvertently sabotage your plans.

Small Group Exercise: “I would like to return these shoes”

This exercise involves a customer who wants to return a pair of shoes to a salesperson. 

Break into groups of 3 and determine your role:

    • One person is the customer returning the shoes
    • One person is the salesperson
    • One person is the scorekeeper

Purpose of each role:

    • The role of the customer is to return the shoes
    • The role of the (commission-based) salesperson is to convince the customer NOT to return the shoes
    • The role of the scorekeeper is to tally points for the customer accordingly: ADD 1 point each time the customer uses the broken record technique (by ending with their broken record message: “I would like to return these shoes.”). SUBTRACT 1 point each time the customer does not end with the broken record message. ADD 10 points if the customer gets the salesperson to agree to return the shoes within 3 minutes

Keep in mind the following:

    • There is nothing wrong with the shoes
    • You have not worn them
    • You have the receipt
    • There is no stated policy of “no returns”
    • There is no stated policy that a manager has to approve a return
    • You decided you do not care for the shoes and want to return the shoes for a full refund

The customer needs to state their message and make sure they always respond to what they hear as the position the salesperson is taking– BUT end with  “I would like to return these shoes.

Repeat this exercise three times (after all participants have had a chance to assume each role).

For more small group exercises and practice in clear communication, be sure to read more in our Practice Exercises blog series and learn more about cognitive behavioral therapy techniques that change outcomes.

Ascellus – Integrated Medical Case Solutions – is the premier behavioral medicine network for pain and trauma response with evidence-based outcomes and a proven track record for transforming workers’ compensation cases. Ascellus makes intervention efficient with a national network of 1,500+ psychologists and psychiatrists in all 50 states.

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Ascellus bridges the gap between mental and physical health to accelerate recovery for our nation's workforce. By connecting the workers' compensation industry with our expert behavioral care and evidence-based treatments, we deliver high-quality outcomes, helping injured workers reemerge with increased strength, purpose and resilience in the workplace.