Internalize – Don’t Memorize

Picture this. A Trainer comes to your city and conducts a one-day training seminar and 100 Recruiters attend. In that seminar the Trainer shares a number of scripts and rebuttals that are both creative and technically sound. As most of those in attendance had never heard these scripts before, they eagerly write them down and look forward to using them as soon as possible. On the next business day following the seminar the 100 well- intentioned Recruiters all begin to use the scripts and rebuttals they learned at the seminar.

Here’s the question. With 100 Recruiters making just ten prospect contact calls per day, how long will it take for the local employers to have multiple exposures to all the new material? Secondly, how long will it take these same employers to know they are hearing memorized scripts and for them to develop sound countering responses?

That’s the problem with memorizing scripts or rebuttals that were created by someone else. Pretty soon, everybody sounds alike and the effectiveness of the material decreases in geometric proportions.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m a big believer in scripts and rebuttals but not as a result of memorization. Rather, as a result of internalization.

“Until people can utilize knowledge readily and easily as an instinctive reaction, they have not been trained. They do not possess skills.”
Author Unknown

Only when you have internalized a concept, skill or technique can it be used as an “instinctive reaction”. Through the process of internalization you take ownership of the material, modifying or adjusting it until it reflects your personal style and beliefs. As a result of this process you will instinctively know when and how to apply the material with the greatest positive impact.

Internalization is the highest form of learning. This would be analogous to development psychologist Abraham Maslow’s fourth stage of learning,  “Unconscious Competency”.

“Unconscious competence simply indicates that you know what you know and you don’t have to think about it. The process or procedure has become part of you on an unconscious (instinctive) level. You are creative with the process, able to create repatternings on your own, able to simplify the process and still have it be effective.”

This is the antithesis of memorization where you are limited in the usage of the actual words by the specific order in which they were committed to memory.

Obviously when you hear or read a good script or rebuttal, write it down or underline it for further review. That’s the first step to internalization, capturing the information. However, unlike memorization, your review of the material requires more than just a rereading of the words until they are committed to memory.

The most important step in the process of internalization is to understand why and how the script or rebuttal works in a practical setting. In order to determine this you need to project yourself into the role of the individual who would be on the receiving end of your comments. From that perspective, ask yourself the following questions:

1.    Does this sound reasonable and if so, why? If not, why not?

2.    Is the underlying concept sound from my point of view (remember you are in a role projection when answering this question)?

3.    What are the motives behind these words? Are they in my (role projection) best interest?

4.    Do I feel manipulated or deceived in any manner by these words?

5.    How would I react to this? What would I say in response?

If you maintain an open mind, the answers to these questions will provide a foundation for understanding the practicality of the script or rebuttal in terms of both words and circumstance. This is a major step toward becoming fundamentally sound and conceptually secure which are both required for successful internalization.

At this point you are prepared to customize the script or rebuttal and make it your own. Ask yourself the following questions:

1.    Am I comfortable with the concept behind these words and if not, why not? If you believe the underlying concept is deficient or inappropriate, then you shouldn’t use the script or rebuttal even with modifications.

2.    If the underlying concept is sound, am I comfortable with the wording and if not why not?

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3.    What other words could I use that would still support the underlying concept but better express my personal style? (Try to create a number of variations on the same theme)

4.    Beyond the obvious, under what other circumstances could this script or rebuttal and its variations be used effectively?

As a result of the above questioning exercises, you should have created a customized version of the core script or rebuttal along with several variations.


No script or rebuttal is right for all occasions. That’s why you need variations and alternatives. When you are conceptually sound and fundamentally secure, you can confidently modify your approach to fit the specifics of each situation.

However, you must be prepared and that takes practice, feedback and repetition. You can become a master script builder, a veritable “word smith” if you are willing to work at it (See TFL – 11/99 – “How Bad Do You Want To Be Good?”). The tape recorder should become your best friend. Work on your scripts and rebuttals. Role-play on the phone and tape record the calls (feedback). Modify, adjust and do it again.

The top performers in this business are always seeking ways to become more effective with their scripts and rebuttals. They continually work on their wording, tone of voice and speed of delivery. Over time, they develop a virtual mental library of material that can be applied in various combinations depending on the circumstances. They become increasingly confident in their approach because they are not restricted to memorized material that was created by someone else. Rather, they have internalized the concepts and adapted the material to best reflect their strengths and personality.

Everyone has to begin somewhere and if that somewhere are the scripts and rebuttals created by someone else, then memorizing them is at least a starting point. However, this at best is a short-term approach and depending on your market, may already be outdated and overused. That’s why it is necessary for you to step forward, exercise your creative talents, build on what you have learned, personalize your approach, and internalize your knowledge base.


The process of internalization is not a license to engage in escapist behavior i.e. modifying material for the sole purpose of avoiding tough questions or challenging situations. Quite the opposite. Internalization, when properly understood and applied, is a process for preparing you to successfully deal with the vast array of individualized circumstances that are confronted on a daily basis.

Therefore, don’t just memorize, learn to internalize and experience the benefits of becoming a confident, competent and consistently successful professional in this business.

As always, if you have questions or comments, just let me know. I always welcome your input.

Terry Petra is one of our industry’s leading trainers and consultants.  He has successfully conducted in-house programs for hundreds of search, placement, temporary staffing firms and industry groups across the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, England, and South Africa.  To learn more about his training products and services, including “PETRA ON CALL”, visit his web site at:  Terry can be reached at (651) 738-8561 or e-mail him a:

Recipient of the Harold B. Nelson Award, Terry Petra is one of our industry's leading trainers and consultants. He has successfully conducted in-house programs for hundreds of search, placement, temporary staffing firms and industry groups across the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, England, and South Africa. To learn more about his training products and services, including PETRA ON CALL, and BUSINESS VALUATION, visit Terry can be reached at (651) 738-8561 or click to email him.


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