Negotiation Tactic #31 – Playing a Broken Record

Summary: Repeatedly stating a position and refusing to look at options.

One of the most difficult negotiators to deal with is the unilateral thinker who can see only one possible outcome to a negotiation. This negotiator’s attitude is, “My way or the highway.”


An airline passenger is irate because the first-class reservation she thought was confirmed for her flight is not in the airline’s system and no other first-class seats are available. To every option the reservations specialist suggests, the woman reiterates, “My reservation is in the system. You have to find my seat.”


There are several counters that may be effective in this situation. Apologizing and responding to the customer’s frustration with empathy is a great place to start. Brainstorming alternative solutions with the passenger or suggesting other alternatives that might work could also be effective. For example, since no first-class seats are available, the airline employee might offer the passenger a seat in a section of coach that is close to the front of the plane. She might also try the Tactic of Higher Authority by asking, “On the off chance that my supervisor can find you a first-class seat on another flight, would that be agreeable to you?”

But some people never stop Playing Their Broken Record. If that is the case, the airline employee could acknowledge the passenger’s emotions (using the tactic of I Feel Your Pain) and simply say, “I understand this is a very frustrating situation and you are not happy. Of the possible solutions I have suggested, which one would work best for you?”

Have you used or encountered this tactic in your negotiations? If so, how’d it go?

(2) Comments

  1. In real estate sales, occassionally you come across an agent that continually repeats the seller or buyer position again and again and again.

    Yesterday I again encountered an agent employing this tactic. She repeated the over and over that the seller was not going to move out of her house for less than full price and for several other reasons. I found myself tuning out and not listening to the other agent. I waited patiently for her to broker record to end and jumped in trying to change the subject onto another aspect of the deal. She again returned to the broker record statements she was making about the sellers situation – as if she said it over and over again that I would somehow side with her – which I cannot since I work for the buyer in this situation.

    Today when I spoke with her about a counter offer, she started up on her broken record about what the seller will and will not do. I came here to find a counter-tactic to her broken record. I read “I Feel Your Pain” and I think I understand how to implement the tactic the next time I speak with her during the course of this negotiation.

    1. Stephen, In this situation, I would actually recommend the strategy of Asking an Open-Ended Question ( Here is what I would say to the seller’s agent: “You have told me over and over that the seller will accept nothing less than a full price offer. My client is not willing to make at offer at that price. It sounds like we don’t have a reason to continue this conversation. What do you recommend we do?”

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