Being verbally assertive - the Stuck Record technique

11 Dec 2018 |  for clients | by Bill, writer at UK & Ireland Counsellor Directory

This is a technique to help you be verbally assertive by:

  • maintaining your boundaries

  • being calm and respectful, not aggressive

  • ignoring guilt-inducing statements

  • not being defensive about what you want, but staying with it

Are you old enough to remember LPs? When scratched, the needle could get stuck in one groove and the same part of a song kept repeating until you banged the record player. Repeating a phrase like this is a skill used in challenging.

The stuck record technique involves repeating what you want, calmly and respectfully, without going on the defensive and without giving justifications. It involves being persistent and sticking to the point, politely repeating what you want.

Sometimes people can get bogged down feeling that they need to justify themselves or provide explanations to hold their ground. This can leave them susceptible to being pushed into giving way by someone else who gives them “good reasons”.

In being persistent you don’t have to give reasons, excuses or explanations as to ‘why’ you want what you want and can learn to ignore guilt-inducing statements.

In using the broken record technique you are not denying anything the other person is saying, but you are not deterred: you keep saying in a calm, repetitive voice what you want to say. If you practice this technique you may find that the other person accedes or agrees to a workable compromise. In any case you are more likely to defend your own boundaries and not give in to things that you really don’t want.

For example, you take a jumper back to the shop because it is faulty. You can use this broken record technique at the shop when faced with the shop staff that are reluctant to comply, ask questions and try to blame you for various reasons as to why the jumper is not wearable. You respect their position, but quietly insist on having your money back, repeating the broken-record statement in a variety of ways.

  • "The jumper I just bought has a hole in it, and I need my money back”,

  • “I hear what you’re saying, but the jumper ’s faulty and I need my money back”.

  • “I can see why you might think that. But the jumper is faulty and I need my money back”.

  • “I appreciate that there's a lot of paperwork for you, but the jumper is faulty and I need my money back”.

  • “That’s true. But the jumper is faulty and I need my money back”.

In part this technique works because it avoids creating a situation where the other person feels compelled to defend their arguments and justifications – they are less likely to feel personally attacked. In some cases, you may find that they are more willing to accede, or agree to a compromise, than they would have been otherwise. In any case you are less likely to come out of the encounter feeling disempowered, undermined or unheard.

Of course, you can’t guarantee that the other person will respond by compromising or agreeing with what you want. The Broken Record technique will not make anyone do anything that they do not want to. But it will help you ensure that you maintain your boundaries, and will tend to leave you feeling more empowered, whether you get what you want or not, than you would if you had given in to something that you didn’t feel was right or appropriate for you.

Sometimes the pressure to give in to others, instead of defending our boundaries, can feel unbearable, especially if we are afraid that properly defending our boundaries might negatively affect people’s perceptions of us. If there are situations like this where standing your ground feels like an unbearable pressure, where you have been habitually saying to yourself “I can’t stand it.”, practicing this technique could help you get to a place where you can feel that pressure and say to yourself “I can stand it!”. How empowering might that feel?

As you master this technique you may find that the tendency for those around you to push your boundaries in this way starts to lessen – they begin to sense, or learn from experience, that it’s not going to work the way it used to.

Think of situations when you felt pressurised into doing something you didn’t want, or into giving up on something you did want, perhaps where it didn’t feel like enough of a justification to say “because that’s the way I like it.”, or when you felt that you had not got your point across and felt dismissed or ignored.

Have you find yourself on the defensive when actually you were the injured party?

Have you given in or let yourself be dismissed because you felt you weren't believed?

Have you said “yes” to something and then felt hurt or resentful?

These are the times when this technique could be useful.

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