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Break Them by Talking

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Her words hurt far worse than the Neck Lift.

"There exists, for everyone, a sentence—a series of words—that has the power to destroy you. Another sentence exists, another series of words, that could heal you. If you're lucky you will get the second, but you can be certain of getting the first."

When one character gives a talk to another that does or is meant to somehow break down the recipient or gain a psychological advantage over them by claiming uncomfortable things that they cannot deny.

Also known as a Breaking Speech or Breaking Lecture.note 

This is often achieved by a kind of "The Reason You Suck" Speech, telling the other character how pathetic they are or perhaps how guilty of something terrible, perhaps Not So Different from someone unpalatable, but there are other ways of breaking someone down by talking. You could for example instead deconstruct the world, other characters, or their relationship with the victim. The important part is that they can't deny your words, at least not in the heat of the moment, and you gain a psychological advantage over them. Uncomfortable truths (or at least half-truths) and logical arguments are effective for making claims hard to deny, but hitting emotional weak spots is also important and can work even if your statements are not truly reasonable.


Results, when successful, range from the mere chance of getting to smirk in a satisfied way for rattling someone in an otherwise superior position; through distracting or demoralizing an opponent to make them easier to beat; to bringing about Break the Cutie, Heroic BSoD, Villainous Breakdown or even Face–Heel Turn, More Than Mind Control, or Driven to Suicide. The most extreme form would be Mind Rape by just talking, but be wary of automatically calling every instance of Breaking Them by Talking that.

Obviously, this is easier to pull off from a relative position of power, such as when you have just defeated someone, or when interrogating a prisoner, but it goes both ways. It's even more impressive when someone manages to turn the tables on someone who was in a superior position. When this is done by one being interrogated—and only then—it's the Hannibal Lecture. Naturally, in between these cases there is the one where both parties start out on an equal footing.


Note that a lot of this hinges on the victim actually caring about what you have to say, or otherwise respecting you enough to take your opinion seriously. If the victim is Too Dumb to Fool, or simply doesn't care about your opinion, then all you're likely to get for your trouble is laughter or a blank stare.

As stated above, there is frequent overlap with "The Reason You Suck" Speech, but the concepts are not the same. "The Reason You Suck" Speech is about what you say, this is about what you do by saying it. You can tell someone they suck without breaking them down or even intending to do so, particularly if you're just annoyed, and you can break someone down without telling them why they suck.

The distilled version of this is the Armor-Piercing Question. If the declarations used as a weapon come from simple clues, this is a form of Sherlock Scan. Some characters have the ability to do this as a superpower, which may be an example of Awesome by Analysis. Can be done as part of Evil Gloating. Shut Up, Hannibal! is a way of countering this trope. The opposite effect is done by a "World of Cardboard" Speech, when the hero tells about his own flaws and how they don't matter now. The reverse or "good counterpart" is the Kirk Summation or Talking the Monster to Death. Hannibal Lecture is a specific subtrope.

For examples of literally breaking someone by talking, see Weapons-Grade Vocabulary or Make Me Wanna Shout.

See also: To the Pain, Talking Your Way Out, Just Between You and Me, And Then What?, Verbal Judo.


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    Comic Books 
  • The Marvel Comics character Karnak has refined his powers to the point where he can do this. At first his power was just sensing the weak point in objects so he (or his stronger ally Gorgon) can smash it. Now he find personality flaws and verbally destroy an opponent.
  • Emma Frost of the X-Men is incredibly good at this. A great example of this can be found when after finding Kimura sneaking around the X-Mansion getting ready to kill X-23, Emma goes up to her and says...
    Emma: Do you ever wonder why you take such pleasure from abusing a little girl who can't hurt you, let alone defeat you? No, I thought not. You'll notice that you cannot move. I've shut down all your motor control so you can listen while I enlighten you. You are a bully, plain and simple. A product of your past. Being kicked around your whole life by an alcoholic father and an uncaring mother at home, only to find the same waiting for you from your peers in the schoolyard, day in and day out. You were born into a life you did not deserve... a life no child deserves... Someone needs to fill the role of victim and you played that part for so many... until your grandmother came to your rescue. But sadly she came too late. All the hope and good you held onto was beaten out of you long ago. After your grandmother's heart attack, you found your way to the Facility to the men that could give you what you wanted so badly... Revenge. A hollow prize, but one you begged for and once you'd gotten the best of those who wronged you, you became the very person you hated and feared growing up. And X-23 played the role of your victim. Like you, Laura didn't deserve that horrible life. No child does, remember? But you didn't care. Even though you know all too well the pain she suffered, you enjoyed inflicting it. You still enjoy it. That's why you're a bully.
    Kimura: Why are you telling me this?
    Emma: Because today you go back to being the victim. It's a shame that the people that perfected your body didn't do enough to safeguard your mind...
  • Batman:
    • Every one of Batman's enemies has tried it. As an action hero, he's immune, but some writers have played it as the villain being right. In the animated series, The Joker, master manipulator that he is, convinces a meek psychoanalyst named Harleen Quinzel to go crazy and fall in love with him; she becomes Harley Quinn. During the montage flashback that gives this backstory, they even trade places — he in the chair, she on the couch — in several of the analysis scenes.
    • In the one shot comic Mad Love as well as the episode of Batman: The Animated Series based on it, Batman does this to the Joker, manipulating him into freeing him from Harley Quinn's otherwise inescapable trap then taunting him about how she'd come closer to killing him than the Joker had ever managed. Puddin'.
    • Joker also gives Batman one in The Killing Joke, in which his plot is to drive Commissioner Gordon insane the same way he was. When Batman shows up to stop him, Joker gives him a long speech about how Batman is just as crazy as Joker is, and how the world is too hopelessly absurd for anyone to stay sane in. Batman powers through it, and, noting that Gordon was not driven mad, says that maybe Joker was the only one who couldn't take it. However, at the end, it becomes clear that Batman finds at least some truth in Joker's notion that they were both insane or, at least, absurd beings. There are also some visual hints that the Joker may have come close to breaking himself with the speech.
    • Brian Azzarello's Joker graphic novel. The Joker tries this on Batman — only to have Batman not only demolish it, but turn it into a devastating taunt right back with just three words:
      Joker: Uhh, God you disgust me. You have no charm at all, just... obviousness. Dumb, dull. Disappointing. Obvious. Shame on you. Obvious... and everybody knows. You wear your shame like a badge, because you don't have the balls to actually pin one on. Yes, just look at you. Desperate to be feared, you want to be perceived as a monster, dressed in black. And yet... you leave that little window. A glimpse at the perfection underneath. Obvious—the chiseled good looks, not the jaw, the mouth of a monster... why do you let it be seen? Tell me why.
      Batman: To mock you.
    • In Death of the Family, when Batman goes to confront Joker at the Ace Chemical Plant, he find Joker wearing the red hood. Joker launches into this trope by saying that having an network of allies has made Batman soft and weak, and that Joker would be doing Batman a favour by getting rid of them. Batman ends up pulling off the hood to reveal Harley Quinn instead! And he continues to do this constantly throughout the story arc to all of the members of the Bat-Family in order to shake their trust in Batman and break up the Family. And it works.
  • Superman:
    • In the "Elseworlds" (out-of-continuity) comic from DC, Superman: Red Son, where Superman's pod landed in the Soviet Union instead of the United States, Lex Luthor does this to Superman with one sentence, written down, and tucked into Lois Luthor (nee Lane)'s coat pocket. Stalingrad, which was shrunk and put in a "bottle" instead of Kandor, haunts Superman. Luthor, the president of the US, takes advantage of this fact by questioning Superman's "perfect" totalitarian rule of most of Earth with the single written sentence, "Why don't you just put the whole world in a bottle, Superman?" He has Lois put the note in her pocket and, when his plan finally spurs Superman to come to the White House personally, she is to ask Superman to use his X-ray vision to read the note. Superman very nearly breaks down in despair.
    • Actually Averted earlier in the same issue, Superman is perfectly willing to debate with Luthor as a way of peacefully addressing their problems (as opposed to the more violent way suggested by Brainiac). Before Luthor can open his mouth, Brainiac wraps him up in tentacles and drags him away, pointing out how a man of Luthor's intellect could've conceivably pulled this.
    • An issue of Superman features a military-sponsored super-villain, Atlas, attempting to deliver such a lecture to Krypto the Superdog, after having delivered an almighty smackdown to Superman and caused him to temporarily withdraw, leaving Krypto the only one left to make a stand. Unfortunately for Atlas it doesn't work, for the same reason that it probably wouldn't work if you tried to verbally undermine a dog's sense of self-confidence with a lecture in real life.
  • In The Eternals (or at least the Neil Gaiman revival), there is a character whose power is the ability to know just what to say to make a certain person break. When he first discovers this power, he manages to make a cop attempting to keep him in an embassy for questioning pass out with just a few words.
    Druig: Yes. Tell me, is it the SLIME of the tentacles that upsets you, or the way they twine bonelessly, the faceless snaking of them... Does it remind you of the way your brother forced a rubber toy into your infant mouth, CHOKING you, the wet, the...
    (Cop faints)
    Druig: Interesting.
  • More than one villain has tried this on The Punisher. Emphasis on tried.
  • In Global Frequency #8 Miranda Zero is kidnapped by a terrorist who tries to do this to her. She does it right back to him with rather more success.
    Zero: Maybe you could rape me. That'd make you a real man. Do you think I'm scared of pain? Three years ago in Haiti, a cell of ex-Tonton Macoute fired a nail gun through my right thigh. Five years ago, radical white separatists in Maine painted an eagle on my back in paint-stripper gel. Last March Russian black marketeers took bolt cutters to my breasts. Understand, you don't frighten me. Your stupid little hands and your thing with the gun do not frighten me. You are ignorant and gutless and you do not frighten me.
  • Sin City: Poor John Hartigan gets it twice. The first time comes from Senator Roark who explains that Hartigan will be framed for his son's crimes and there is not a thing he can do about it. The second is from Detective Liebowitcz who chides him on being a clean cop. Both of these lectures are so that Hartigan will sign a confession... which he doesn't.
  • In V for Vendetta, V does it to Lewis Prothero with elaborate props, reminding him of his role at the Larkhill concentration camp, revealing that he, V, was the man from room five, and finishing up by driving him insane by burning up his precious collection of dolls in the ovens in his replica of the camp.
  • Moon Knight villain "The Profile" is a profiler who uses his mutant observation powers to instantly size people up. He is also a Jerk Ass who likes to give Breaking Speeches to people for fun.
    The Profile: Hey, old man. I almost forgot something. That whole thing about abandoning your family and your wife dying alone and your son becoming a serial killer? You're right. It was all your fault.
  • In Watchmen, the Comedian gives one to Dr. Manhattan, in a flashback scene in Chapter 2. The Comedian gunned down his pregnant Vietnamese girlfriend after she slashed his face. He points out how Dr. Manhattan did nothing to stop him, proving he no longer cares about humanity.
  • Supergirl:
    • In Many Happy Returns, super-villain Rebel tries to harass Kara after trying to kill her and Linda Danvers. Supergirl proceeds to tell him that he is a pathetic, insignificant nuisance with delusions of grandeur and she is a very busy and very angry Physical God. He runs away.
      Rebel: So whattaya say we just finish this off with one final dance?
      Supergirl: Don't you get it, Rebel? You're not important! You never were! You were just — something to do! Something for Supergirl and me to bounce off of for a while until people and events of real consequence came along! Look — Here's the problem. You've done some bad things, but I'm really, really upset right now. So much so that, honestly, I don't trust myself. And if you attack me or I attack you... I will hurt you. I'll hurt you worse than you've ever been hurt in your whole life. I can carve you up as soon as look at you. I can break you, boil you, freeze you. I can do things you can't imagine. Things I can't imagine, until I have to. And then I'll improvise. Part of me is hoping you will attack. And part of me is praying — for your sake, and my own peace of mind — that you don't. It's up to you.
      Rebel: You doing that? Causing a storm to roll in?
      Supergirl: Maybe.
    • In Supergirl (2005) Sakki, The Hate Furnace, delivered one to Supergirl. He mistakenly believed that she was Superman's daughter and picked at her shame at failing to live up to Superman's example. Sakki and his partner, Gakidou, were also emotion eaters, so Supergirl's despair and other negative emotions served to make them stronger. Unfortunately for them, she became so angry that they nearly overloaded, and they found out the hard way that their extra strength isn't nearly enough to deal with a Kryptonian.
  • It's a popular tactic of the Black Lanterns in the Blackest Night event, in an attempt to get their victim to show emotions so their heart can be ripped out and themselves added to the Black Lanterns.
  • In one issue of his comic, Wolverine has been imprisoned by the unusual method of throwing him in a pit and shooting him constantly so he'll be too busy healing to escape and he still manages to verbally break down the guy with the gun, who eventually lets Wolverine escape in the expectation that Wolverine will kill him.

  • Zhuge Liang does this at least two or three times (depending on how you count) in classic Chinese novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. First, he causes the death of Zhou Yu, the capable but pompous chief adviser of the nominal ally Wu kingdom by causing a series of humiliating events. Second, he causes the death of Cao Zhen, the commander-in-chief of the enemy Wei kingdom, by sending him a humiliating letter. Finally, he causes the death of Wei minister Wang Lang by humiliating him in a debate in front of both armies.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events:
    • In The Bad Beginning, Olaf reveals to the audience that he has just legally married Violet and played everyone for a sap. When Mr. Poe demands that the Chief of Police arrest him, Olaf calls Poe and everyone out on how the kids had repeatedly tried to warn the adults and asked for help, but they wouldn't listen to them. "No one ever listens to children".
    • There's a zig-zagged and ultimately subverted example in The Penultimate Peril, which extends on the previous example. Olaf points out to the children that each and every adult they've ever met has failed them and left them to the mercy of an incredibly cruel world, and that as a result the Baudelaires have strayed increasingly towards Black and Grey Morality. This badly shakes the Baudelaires, but they decide to put their faith in their adult allies one last time... and are failed yet again. After this, they promptly throw deference to the wind and join Count Olaf—only to finally subvert the trope, as they accept that while to an extent Count Olaf is right, he's not completely right, and they choose instead to ally only with the adults that have proven themselves worthy of the Baudelaires' trust.
    Violet: We can rely on our friends more than you can rely on yours.
    Count Olaf: Is that so? Have you learned nothing after all your adventures? Every noble person has failed you, Baudelaires. Why, look at the idiots standing next to you! A judge who let me marry you, a man who gave up on you altogether, and a sub-sub-librarian who spends his life sneaking around taking notes. They're hardly a noble bunch...And every second, more associates of mine get closer and closer.
    Violet: So do our friends.
    Count Olaf: Only if they've managed to survive my eagles.
    Klaus: They will. Just like we've survived you.
    Count Olaf: And how did you survive me? The Daily Punctilio is full of your crimes. You lied to people. You stole. You abandoned people in danger. You set fires. Time after time you've relied on treachery to survive, just like everyone else. There are no truly noble people in this world.
  • The murderer X in Agatha Christie's Curtain is very good at this, manages to manipulate people using seeming simple but manipulative comments, gesture and words, to provokes his target to murder their source of hatred. However, he didn't like to kill directly himself, instead enjoying the process of their target murders.
  • An example in Animorphs when Sixth Ranger Traitor David does this in his attempt to break Rachel's will to fight. It fails, because it only sends Rachel further into The Unfettered territory when she has time to mull over his words.
  • A heroic example appears in Hogfather, where Susan uses this on Psychopathic Manchild Jonathan Teatime — the first time anyone's managed to shake him up even a little bit.
    Susan: I think I know you, Teatime. You're the mad kid they're all scared of, right? The giggling excitable one even the bullies never touched because if they did he went insane and kicked and bit. The one who didn't know the difference between chucking a stone at a cat and setting it on fire. I bet no one wanted to play with you. Not the kid with no friends. Kids know a mind like yours even if they don't know the right words for it. The kind of little boy who looks up dolls' dresses...
    Teatime: I didn't!
  • The Lord of the Rings:
    • Saruman, using his enchanted voice, can persuade unsuspecting enemies to join and serve him — even after they defeat him in war. In the chapter "The Voice of Saruman" in The Two Towers, Saruman gives the speech to all of his triumphant enemies, and nearly all are swayed by the power of his voice; the Riders of Rohan are wholly overcome by it, while Pippin is particularly shamed. It doesn't work on Gandalf the White, however, and only vaguely troubles Theoden.
    • Grí­ma Wormtongue is a student of Saruman's, and uses similar non-magical techniques on Théoden to render him helpless and hopeless against Saruman, and on Éowyn in order to break her resolve and drive her to desperation.
  • In The Silmarillion, Glaurung father of dragons delivered one combined neatly with a Mind Screw to Túrin having paralyzed him with his hypnotic glare until he "saw himself as in a mirror misshapen by malice, and loathed that which he saw".
  • Euthyphro, from Plato's Socratian Dialogs seems to fit this one rather nicely. Socrates attempts to get a description of piety from Euthyphro, but continues to twist every argument Euthyphro offers to his own needs, making this Older Than Feudalism.
  • From the Thursday Next novel The Eyre Affair. The Big Bad, Acheron Hades, can talk most people into anything. Several times he has escaped by convincing cops to hand over their guns, which are then used on the cops. When Hades needs a lackey, he simply convinces a suitably fit civillain to be one. Fortunately Next can resist to the extent of keeping her wits (and gun), but Hades is still far more clever.
  • Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: In the book Under the Radar, the Prophet Harold Evanrod tries to tell his followers of the pedophile polygamist sect Heaven On Earth, "You see, this is the Devil at work! I told you the people on the outside would try to drive us away from our homes and our religion because they don't understand it. They will be forever damned, and there will be no salvation for any of them. I want you all to be strong because we will prevail." However, the Vigilantes give an effective Shut Up, Hannibal! response to that.
  • In The Belgariad by David Eddings, this is inverted during the climactic battle between Garion and Torak. When the Dark God passes up an opportunity to kill Garion, instead demanding that he submit, Garion finally realizes that the purpose of their confrontation is not to fight Torak, but to reject him. His subsequent speech shatters Torak's will and gives Garion the opening he needs to beat him.
  • Subverted in The Tamuli by David Eddings, where Sir Bevier is sent to interrogate a prisoner and uses double-talk and open-ended questions to drag the interview out for three hours. It turns out all he was doing was trying to annoy the guy and make him think about the things they wanted to know so that Xanetia could be invisible in the room and read his mind, gleaning the information that they knew the man wouldn't give up.
  • Fanny Price, the heroine of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, frequently gets these from her aunt, Mrs. Norris (no, not that Mrs. Norris), due to being The Unfavorite.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • In Blood Rites, Harry Dresden on the book's Big Bad Lord Raith. By the end of it, Raith is incredibly furious that Dresden deconstructed him so well.
    • In Death Masks the ubervillain Nicodemus tried to do something along these lines to Harry in an effort to corrupt him over to his side, and scores some hits, though Harry ends up resisting it.
    • On a later occasion, Harry does a version of this on the shadow of the manipulative Fallen Angel Lasciel in an attempt to turn her away from evil, and, unlike the immutible true fallen, the shadow is just as malleable as the medium she lived in: Harry's mind. In the end, Harry succeeded and changed the shadow back to a benign force. However, soon after the change, she sacrificed herself and took a powerful mental attack, allowing Harry a chance to fight the telepathic monster they were fighting.
    • Harry gives an epic one in Skin Game, where he hammers Deirdre's death at her father's hands into Nicodemus over and over again until he snaps and orders Harry be killed, something that breaks his word of cooperation and allows Harry to fight back. It actually works too well, as it reveals to Nicodemus that only someone with a child of his own could be so effective at such a tactic.
  • Ruin of Mistborn loves doing this to Vin by consistently pointing out that Vin causes destruction wherever she goes, and therefore has been serving his purposes all along. In the end, though, she gets Ruin back by pointing out that as a human being she has the power to protect and destroy at the same time, unlike the much more limited gods such as Ruin. She them proves it by killing Ruin via Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Henry does this to Dorian in The Picture of Dorian Gray.
  • From the Deryni works by Katherine Kurtz:
  • In Darkness at Noon, Ivanov believes he can break Rubashov just by talking to him, but Gletkin insists that only physical pain will work. As it turns out, Ivanov was right.
  • Inverted in the World War II French novella Le Silence de la mer, wherein the unwilling hosts of a German officer resolve to resist by never speaking a word to him. He is eventually broken by the unrelenting silence - and by his own Heel Realisation.
  • Suspicion: Big Bad Dr. Emmenberger and The Hero Inspector Bärlach try and fail to do this to each other. Emmenberger doesn't care about what will happen to him while Bärlach after a while simply refuses to talk or listen to Emmenberger.
  • The Hunger Games: Peeta Mellark manages this in his Quarter Quell interview. He is highly skilled when it comes to manipulating a crowd with his words and in this case he claims to have married Katniss and that she is pregnant with their love child in order to win her support in the Games. He accomplishes not only that but gets the Capitol audience so upset that some of them cry for the Games to be stopped.
  • In Those That Wake, Man in Suit is scarily good at this.
    I will answer any question you have, because by merely being honest, I will defeat you.
  • Lord of the Flies: Simon encounters the Lord of the Flies in a vision, who tells him that evil is within all the boys, and it is only growing stronger, and he'll be a fool if he continues his righteous path.
  • In Zeroes, this is one of the applications of Scam's power, the Voice which says whatever necessary to accomplish what he desires. Prior to the story, he used his Voice in anger to deliver such a speech to the other Zeroes, resulting in the group splitting up.
  • Halo's The Forerunner Saga has plenty of this, courtesy of the Flood Gravemind and (and its Precursor ancestors.
    • The Didact is on the receiving end of one on the tail end of the Human-Forerunner War, given by an imprisoned being on the human capital world claiming to be the last of the Precursors, the very race that created the Forerunners, but who now swear vengeance against them for killing almost all of their creators. It thoroughly traumatizes the Didact, breaking apart the beliefs and perceived truths for which he had fought and sacrificed his entire life (with his own children being among the casualties), and he spends the next 10,000 years burying the revelation deep in his memories and refusing to reveal them even to his beloved wife, for fear of their implications.
    • This goes Up to Eleven in Halo: Silentium, when the Flood turn the Ur-Didact into a host through which to deliver several Breaking Speeches once (causing him to go mad from Mind Rape as a bonus); one to the Forerunners as a whole, expanding on the above-mentioned speech given to the Didact 10,000 years before, and one to the Master Builder, using the Ur-Didact as a conduit through which the Master Builder's infected wives and children could accuse and taunt him. The latter act effectively turns the Master Builder from a Magnificent Bastard extraordinaire into a broken, despairing, nigh-suicidial wreck.
  • In the Homecoming Saga, Hushidh, a "raveler" manages to verbally destroy the standing of Rashgallavik, the commander of the army occupying the city state of Basillica. She can do this because he was merely standing in for the recently slain Gaballufix, the army's true leadernote , so their loyalty to him was tenuous at best. Her guardian and mentor Raza immediately tells her how badly she just screwed up.note 

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Raven was well-known for delivering these to his opponents in order to demoralize them.
  • Shawn Michaels was a regular recipient of these speeches, particularly in the later parts of his career once he turned perma-face, but he usually interrupted them with Sweet Chin Music. Occasionally, after knocking his lecturer out cold, he'd deliver his own over their unconscious (or at least stunned) body. (If it's done to someone unconscious, it can't really qualify for the trope.) He was particularly fond of doing this to Chris Jericho.
    • Back in his heel days, he used to hand them out himself like party favors. Even as a face, he'd break them out occasionally, and he's the one guy ever who could get away with throwing them at The Undertaker.
  • Vin Gerard performed a number of these on Shane Storm — playing off Storm's betrayal of the technicos by selling out the counter to the Chikara Special (a Chikara Moral Event Horizon if there ever was one) and then twisting his world on its axis as Vin thanked him for it. Ended with Storm 'transforming' into the rudo STIGMA, dropping the colour from his outfits, the bright mullet becoming a black mohawk and joining with Vin Gerard and Colin Delaney to become the UnStable.
    • Then inverted when Vin tries the same thing on Jigsaw, who had removed his mask elsewhere and hadn't been seen in Chikara for a year. Vin said that he'd never seen the boys in the back as angry at anyone as they were at Jigsaw ("No matter what I did, I never had to buy a ticket!") and there was no way to get back on their good side - Jigsaw might as well join the UnStable. Jigsaw responded with superkicks.
  • Chris Jericho. Back in 2008 and early 2009 when everyone took his heel character completely seriously, Jericho would do this weekly. They rarely worked, but they were awesome.
  • CM Punk in his Straight Edge persona. He is so awesome that he can actually give these while he's in the middle of a match.
    • Punk also delivered brilliant ones to John Cena and Vince McMahon after his infamous pipebomb. So much that Cena responded with a punch and Vince responded to his demands in vigor.
    -Vince: "I apologize, you son of a bitch!"

  • Brilliantly used in That Mitchell and Webb Sound, a radio programme. In multiple segments, Webb's character insults a woman's dress sense, weight or intelligence, eventually turning into a full-blown Breaking Speech. When the woman has been reduced to a wreck, Webb asks for a date, to cheer the woman up.

    Tabletop Games 
  • On the (very) few occasions when the Dark Powers of Ravenloft have apparently communicated directly to anyone, it's been to do this to a potential darklord, delivered in familiar voices. Strahd heard the voices of Tatyana and Sergei taunting him, while Azalin heard the voices of his son and his mentor in wizardry.
  • Chronicles of Darkness sourcebook Slasher (which deals with exactly what you think it does) has this as a talent of the Genius Undertaking and its natural progression, the Maniac. The Genius has the ability to instinctively profile anyone and learn what facts they'd hate to have revealed. The Maniac uses this knowledge to always have advantage over a certain target, and, with time, to convert the target to his point of view (a la Jigsaw).
  • Sith Lords in the Star Wars d20 game have a power that lets them do this more effectively.

  • The Boys in the Band. Harold destroys Michael with a thorough undressing "The Reason You Suck" Speech at the end.
  • In Man of La Mancha the Knight of the Mirrors does this to Don Quixote, explaining to him in unpleasant terms how the world sees him and using a number of minions carrying full length mirrors to prove it. (It is worth noting that he does not do this in the book, which is why this entry appears in the theater section)
  • 1776: Rutledge breaks them by singing. "Molasses to Rum" has him vividly act out the process of the slave trade from Boston to Africa to the Caribbean and plantations, highlighting both the horrors of it and the hypocrisy of the Northern states in decrying it when their own citizens profit considerably. When he leaves (with all the Southern states), the independence faction is devastated and have no choice but to accept the deletion of the anti-slavery clause despite Adams' prediction that it would come back to haunt them.
  • In J.B., Nickles/Satan's last attempt to corrupt Job is to paint the bit at the end — where J.B. gets all his fortunes back — as actually the cruelest torment of all; that God could ruin his life, and then just put it all back together again because the whole "Take away your fortunes, kill your children and cover you in boils" thing was just a bit of a lark. When J.B. points out that his children are dead, Satan dismissively says, "You'll have better ones!", mocking the notion that everything could really be put right just like that.
  • The Mrs Hawking play series: In part V: Mrs. Frost, what the titular character tries to do after she's captured Nathaniel. She has done enough research to probe all his fears and insecurities.

    Video Games 
  • Baldur's Gate:
    • In the sequence of mysterious dreams in the first game, the sinister presence lurking behind the Player Character's soul makes itself known and tries to bend them to its will, sometimes in words but just as often in images. The last dream ends with the equivalent of a "World of Cardboard" Speech, where the protagonist recognises they can control their own fate.
    • In BG II: Shadows of Amn, there is a similar but less focused sequence of dreams where something that looks like the Big Bad lectures you.
    "Why do you stand for this!? Why do you submit to the flesh when death is bred in your bones?"
    • Turns out though that it isn't quite what it seems. By the point the lecturer is replaced by your sister you'll have figured out the origin...
      "What does an eternity of nothingness matter when you can defeat all your opponents as easily as one... two... three... four... FIVE!"
    • In BG II: Throne of Bhaal, this is done by some wraiths to both the protagonist and their possible love interest by taking the forms of their lost loved ones and making hurtful accusations. It's a ploy to make the victims break down and become easy prey.
  • Before the final battle in Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark, Big Bad Mephistopheles does this to each of your party members in turn, turning them to his side unless you can talk them back out of it.
  • Planescape: Torment:
    • Ravel, a mid-way adversary, confronts any and all characters in the party with a (de)moralizing tirade about how their particular history of suffering, self-deception, and misdeeds have shaped them, noting that in the end it was these things that led them to follow the lead character on his quest, so ensnared in circumstances that the choice never truly was their own. Though she is promptly defeated after this, the things she alludes to usually cast the pasts of both the NPCs and the Player Character in a new (and usually less pretty) light.
    • The Nameless One himself can use the technique on the resident Knight Templar, which convinces him to pass on as there's nothing worth holding on to in his unlife any longer.
    • Famously, the Player Character can do this to the Big Bad himself multiple ways: by explaining to him the answer to what is the Driving Question and Armor-Piercing Question of the game What can change the nature of a man?, by simply having a strong enough mind (high mental scores score), by manipulating him, or by knowing your name while he does not.
    • The previous Practical Incarnation does this literally to a member of the society Sign of One, who believe that only one's own self is real and the rest of the people are imaginary. The incarnation proves to the member that actually, he is the one who doesn't exist – making him speechless and vanishing him from existence.
  • In World of Warcraft, as you progress through the questline to create Shadowmourne, a legendary weapon to match the The Lich King's own, he whispers to you about how you and he both harvest souls for your own ends, he too once sought a weapon of great power, how he commands powers beyond you, et cetera.
  • Archer in the visual novel Fate/stay night hammers Shirou. And considering Archer IS Shirou from the future, he knows exactly how to reduce him to complete Heroic BSoD.
    "You need to become a hero. That is your only emotion, and it's not even your own. You knew. Yes, but you kept that from yourself. I remember, it's not that you felt guilty for being the Sole Survivor. You just admired your Kiritsugu; he looked so happy when he saved you. But you went too far. It would have been fine to admire him. But he left you a curse. I don't even need to say it. That is everything for you. Your ideal is borrowed. You are only imitating what Kiritsugu wanted, what Kiritsugu thought was right. A superhero? Don't make me laugh. Over and over you said you wished to help people, but that's not even your wish. It's conceited to think you could help anyone! That's right! You admired his desire to save people because it was beautiful! But none of that feeling was your own! What else can you call that but hypocrisy!? Driven by your need to help someone, you don't notice how wrong you are! But it's all fake. You can't save anything. You don't even know what you wanted to save in the first place! That ideal is a failure. It's all fantasy. If you can only live holding on to that, drown in your ideals."
    • The worst part about Archer's speech is that, unlike the modified version above, halfway through it he starts to talk about himself, using "I" instead of "you."
  • Far Cry 3: Our protagonist, Jason Brody, accidentally landed on an island that turned out to be a pirate stronghold and his friends brothers were immediately kidnapped as hostages. Eventually, he's captured and their leader, Vaas, asks a simple question as Jason is waking up, "Did I ever tell you the definition of insanity?" Vaas goes on a tangent about how insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, expecting different results. If you think about it, says Vaas, life is composed of little everyday moments of madness, like "a bunch of pricks doing the same thing over and over again expecting shit to change!" Yet for some reason, despite Vaas already having "killed" Jason, here he is about to kill him again, and it's not like Vaas is crazy. He then drops Jason into deep water weighed down with a cinderblock...and when Jason survives that, Vaas finds him again, and says one thing before simply shooting Jason in the chest. "Did I ever tell you the definition of insanity?"
  • AM from I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream does this to his captives at the beginning of the game.
  • BlazBlue:
  • In Neo Contra, Master Contra does this to Bill Rizer in Stage 5 of the game as he reveals that he's the real Bill Rizer the whole time and that Bill Rizer is actually a clone of the original Bill Rizer. He also goes as far as to taunt Bill about remembering personal memories, as well as his memories being pieced together by a military database. This drives Bill into a brief Heroic BSoD until Mystery G pulls a Heroic Sacrifice to save Bill and Jaguar from being killed and tells Bill that he's the real Bill if he lives by the original Bill's ideals regardless of being a clone or not.
  • Several enemies in Kingdom of Loathing fight this way. They will tell the player character something so hurtful, disgusting, or frightening that it does physical damage. For instance, nearly all the normal enemies in a 2013 sidequest zone attack by pointing out the player's fears, like death, loneliness, and poverty.
  • In Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Sam and Monsoon attempt to do this to Raiden to prove he's Not So Different from them. They succeed, but not in a way they intended, as Raiden reawakens his "Jack the Ripper" personality and becomes far more bloodthirsty.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords Kreia uses these in conjunction with her mind invasion techniques to inflict this upon the Exile's companions, breaking them into his/her service.
  • Every single boss in American McGee's Alice. The tougher the boss, the more Mind Screw they pour on in the Boss Banter. Justified in that every boss represents a self-destructive component of her own psyche (the Jabberwock in particular is Alice's guilt over surviving the fire that killed her family).
  • In Devil Survivor, Kaido delivers a particularly blunt one to Keisuke if you don't prevent their confrontation. Then he kills him and follows this up by calling Atsuro out over his anger.
  • Malefor from The Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon is able to make Spyro and Cynder doubt everything they've done in three games, though Cynder gets the worst of it. He makes her doubt herself to such a point he can retake her mind and turn her evil again, then continues to lecture Spyro as the poor guy is getting beaten down by his brainwashed girlfriend. Even though Sypro saves Cynder with the Power of Love, the shocker comes from the fact the fact we, and they, have no idea just how much of what Malefor said is true. His menacing Voice of the Legion also helps.
  • In Metal Gear Solid, many of the Foxhound members but in particular Liquid would enjoy lecturing Snake on how he is honestly no different than them, and how his superiors continually use him to further their own ends while screwing him over. Their speeches ultimately fail not because Snake figures out they're lying, but because he decides it ultimately doesn't matter: he has a mission, it's a good mission, and he's going to finish it. Their accusations come back to haunt him later in his life.
  • Eve from Parasite Eve really enjoyed giving these, usually combined with The Reason You Suck Speeches to Mind Screw Aya into either giving up or joining her.
  • Ace Attorney:
    • In Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations, Mia Fey delivers one of these to the possessing spirit of Dahlia Hawthorne, pointing out that every single Evil Plan she's made has resulted in failure and shame, including the one that she made from beyond the grave. The Fey/Wright clan has always been there to stop her and as a ghost she's doomed to eternal failure. This revelation horrifies her so much that it winds up exorcising Dahlia from Maya's body completely.
  • In case 3 of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, Aristotle Means delivers one of these to Athena for thinking she could get her childhood friend Juniper Woods found innocent, calling Athena out as an amateur lawyer who doesn't have what it takes. Athena nearly gives in to despair until Juniper and her friends chime in to back up Athena.
  • In Persona 3, Takaya does this to the S.E.E.S. on several ocassions such as calling their endeavors to end the Dark Hour futile, and especially on Ken, who he mentions to that if the boy does not get his revenge now, Shinjiro will die sooner or later due to the side-effects of the latter's drugs.
  • The Shadow Archetypes in Persona 4 have this as part of their nature: As they are the anthropomorphic personifications of their originators' repressed feelings and fears, they will relentlessly hound their owners with the knowledge they are made of in an attempt to make their owners face up to their fears and accept them as part of themselves, becoming personas instead. Trying a Shut Up, Hannibal! on them is not a good idea.
    • The Big Bad does this too (see the series page), as does the Normal ending's Final Boss, but he gets Shut Up, Hannibal!'d so hard his persona reverts into a shadow and possesses him.
  • Mega Man Zero 4: The Ragnarok Colony Drop has gone completely out of control, and Zero thought he destroyed the one behind it all. Until:
    Dr. Weil: I told you... I can't die! No one can stop Ragnarok now.
    Zero: If I destroy Weil's core, the explosion will take Ragnarok out with it... If Ragnarok is blown apart, it no longer poses a threat!
    Dr. Weil: Are you even capable of it? The Reploid hero, protecting justice and humanity! I am one of those humans you have sworn to protect! Do you have it in you to defeat me?!
  • Happens three times in Tales of Vesperia. First, Phaeroh explains how Estelle's power is killing the world, that killing her, while morally wrong, is the only way to prevent it, and finding an alternative is pointless. Later on, Alexei details how the world has become an utter crapsack and that its only hope is to be "reborn" (under his totalitarian rule). Finally, at the end, Duke explains why sacrificing humanity is the only way to destroy the Adephagos, and also why he beieves humanity deserves to die for the various atrocities they've committed throughout history. All three times, Yuri tells the speaker to stow it.
  • Castlevania: Judgment: Aeon does this as part of his hyper attack. He's got one for every possible opponent, including himself.
    against Simon Belmont: Not even the storied Belmont clan can stand against the power of time.
    against Alucard: You, who bear a heavy cross: what does eternity hold for you?
    against Trevor Belmont: Even a man named "Legend" is but a babe in the face of time.
    against Grant Danasty: You live for the sake of others. Your tale will be passed down for eternity.
    against Sypha Belnades: No matter how powerful the magic you wield, you will never surpass time.
    against Eric Lacarde: Jealousy of the whip does not excuse your arrogance with the lance.
    against Maria Renard: You are fated to walk a difficult path. Enjoy yourself while you can.
    against Shanoa: You seek a dangerous power. It, too, is governed by time.
    against Carmilla: Your quest for eternal beauty is doomed. Nothing withstands time.
    against Cornell: Everything resolves in its own time, regardless of your desires.
    against the Golem: Even artificial life is subject to the laws of time.
    against Death: You govern the fate of Death, but even fate is a truth bound by time.
    against Dracula: Even the Lord of Darkness cannot escape time.
    against himself: Mimicking my form will not allow you to rule time.
  • In Xenosaga: Episode I, Virgil gives a brief one to Shion just before he detonates a group of Realians in an attempt to stop a Gnosis invasion:
    Shion: Stop it! You have no right to play god with their lives! Using them as bombs... I won't let you do this!
    Virgil: So whaddya gonna do about it? Tell me, why haven't you disabled that function? Sure it's factory-loaded, but you of all people shouldn't have any trouble removing it. Since you care about them so much, all it would take is a little tweak, and they’d be free as birds... And yet you don't. Why not?
    Shion: protocol dictate...
    Virgil: Exactly! It's protocol! In other words, you’re just like me, bound by that protocol. We're the ones that give them a reason to live. Am I wrong?!
    Shion: But I —
    Virgil: That’s the difference between us and them! Am I wrong?! So, why not give it to them? A meaning to their pitiful existence!
  • GLaDOS of Portal gives some pretty solid speeches through the course of both games, but they're usually so ridden with sarcasm and crazy that most players find them more funny than frightening.
    Do you know the biggest lesson I learned from what you did?
    You tested me. I tested you. You killed me. I —
    - oh, no, wait. I guess I haven't killed you. Yet.
    Food for thought.
    You've been wrong about every single thing you've ever done. Including this thing.
    You're not smart, you're not a doctor, you're not a scientist, you're not even a full time employee. Where did your life go so wrong?
    • Cut content of the second game has GLaDOS delivering some pretty devastating ones. It makes you wonder if they were cut simply for being too nasty compared to the generally humourous tone of the game.
  • Several of the patient interview tapes in the Batman: Arkham series count. The ones in the first game are largely the patients trying to break their therapists, while in the second game, they are mostly Doctor Hugo Strange trying to break the inmates.
  • Monokuma tries to do this frequently in Danganronpa. "Shut Up, Hannibal!" is the typical response. The true identity behind Monokuma, Junko Enoshima, is a master of this, and will frequently add a Sadistic Choice, complete with an Awful Truth, to further break her victims.
  • Skyrim: the Stormcloaks are currently rebelling against the Imperials (which, despite their name, are not at all villainous) because it was forced by the Aldmeri Dominion to outlaw Talos worship after losing the Great War. Sybille Stentor, the Court Wizard of Solitude, delivers a magnificent one to the Dragonborn aimed at the Stormcloaks as a whole when asked why Skyrim's previous High King refused to support them.
    Sybille Stentor: Because the Dominion is a sleeping beast that Skyrim cannot slay alone. Because many Nords are part of the Imperial army even now. Because the food and resources we get from the Empire are important to our people. Because even if we can't openly worship him, Talos the god was once Tiber Septim the man, and this is his Empire.
    • While both factions have Grey and Grey Morality, the Stormcloaks generally come off as somewhat difficult to empathise with, especially if someone has come through Morrowind and Oblivion. After fighting for a unified Tamriel for the better part of four games, it can be more than a bit hard to side with a bunch of pretentious, racist Nords. Especially when the leader of the Stormcloaks is revealed to be a Manchurian Agent under Thalmor control.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, the Courier can do this to a captured Legionnaire if s/he has a high enough Speech skill.
    • In the original Fallout, the Vault Dweller can do this to the Master if s/he has proof that the Master's plan to replace humanity with mutants is doomed to failure.
  • In the "Bad" Ending of Thunder Force VI, a message from ORN Faust is played calling for Earth's surrender. It contains many parallels to Guardian's Last Message from V, albeit using bleaker analogies to make its points.
  • In Spec Ops: The Line: A rather brutal one is delivered to Captain Walker, and by extension the player by Colonel Konrad/Walker's subconcious
    Konrad: The truth, Walker, is that you're here because you wanted to feel like something you're not. A hero.
  • In the Mass Effect 2 DLC, "The Lair of the Shadow Broker", The Shadow Broker attempts to give one to Liara T'Soni, noting that he knows everything about her and she knows nothing about him, and is simply "fumbling in the dark". She turns it right back around on him, with some obscure facts about his species and educated guesses about him specifically, driving him into an epic Villainous Breakdown and Unstoppable Rage.
  • The Super Famicom JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has the 'Talk' as one of the main functions. When used, a character trash talks an enemy to lower its MP. Once the target's MP reaches 0, it faints. This works rather well if you don't want to figure out the Puzzle Bosses that you can't hurt physically, like Death 13.
  • A particularly devastating one hits at the end of the First Chapter of The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky when Professor Alba/Weissmann the Faceless reveals himself to Joshua.
  • Freedom Planet: Brevon tries this on Lilac, pointing out that her headstrong attempts to thwart his plans have only succeeded in putting her friends in harm's way, and since his master plan is just to get off Avalice (sure, he's taking the Kingdom Stone, a major source of energy for Avalice, with him, but still) she's just ensuring that he stays on the planet longer and causes more damage. Torque eventually reminds her that Brevon is an intergalactic warlord, and even if he got off the planet, there's no guarantee his campaign of conquest wouldn't affect Avalice down the line.
  • The Flood Gravemind/Precursors of Halo take particular joy in this tactic. During the Forerunner-Flood War, their secondary tactic was delivering these to key Forerunner figures in galactic defense; a few excellent examples of such are noted in the "Literature" section.
  • In the backstory of Darkest Dungeon, this is how The Ancestor finally manages to get rid of a deranged, prophesying homeless man that somehow knew of nearly scheme and project he was plotting. After several failed murder attempts ranging from starving him out in a stockade, clamping ball-and-chains on him and leaving him to drown in the water, and multiple knife stabbings, he finally found success in luring him towards the excavation in progress of digging out the Hell Gate and personally telling him every detail of his plans, shredding the last of his sanity apart and driving him to tear his eyes out in maniacal panic.
  • In Bioshock, Frank Fontaine delivers several of these to Jack after The Reveal that Jack is just a Manchurian Agent he personally crafted to help him take over Rapture.
  • For City of Heroes We have Lord Recluse whose, intellect, wits and charisma are so potent he can frequently do more damage with a well worded speech so single sentence than the laser mounted spider talons grafted to his spine. Aside from winning over nearly every evil meta-human he has all of a minute to talk to he manages to utterly destroy the self-esteem and/or confidence of opponents like Manticore and Tyrant; If you are lucky like the former he will just make you second-guess yourself then strike while you are consumed with doubt, if he really wants to cut deep like he did to the latter though, he can and will send you into full mental-break-down mode.
  • Used by Miss Talmage in the Social Fu final boss battle of Black Closet. It can cause your student council party members to abandon you if their Loyalty stats aren't high enough. When she tries it on the player, though, you shrug it off pretty easily.

    Web Comics 
  • A "good" version appears in this Darths & Droids, though it is used by one protagonist convincing another to destroy the Trade Federation ship.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Vaarsuvius does it to Elan accidentally. Sure, they were giving him a "The Reason You Suck" Speech about how stupid his attempt at being a wizard was, but they were quite shocked and shamed when he broke down crying, especially when he went on to say he just wanted to be powerful and smart like they are.
    • Redcloak telling Miko how she's just as unnatural as an undead creature here. It doesn't work, though, since almost nothing can get through her conviction that she's always in the right. Plus, Redcloak's being a hypocrite in that speech.
    • Xykon, often, just after having handed his opponents their asses. Also to Roy in trying to make Roy accept a mulligan, but Roy throws it right back in his face with a "World of Cardboard" Speech. Xykon kills him for it.
    • Right-Eye gives one to Redcloak in Start of Darkness, when the latter claims to have spent his life on The Plan.
    Redcloak: Look, i've spent my whole life...
    Right-Eye: Your life? Your life?! Brother, you may have had a lifetime, but you haven't had a life since the day you put on that cloak. Life is about growing — growing older, growing wiser, growing closer to your loved ones. But you, you're frozen in time. You're the same angry kid who took that artifact off of your master's corpse that day.
    Redcloak: Oh, so now you've gained some insight on the universe by letting your body and mind deteriorate?
    Right-Eye: Yes! When you're faced with your own mortality, you have no choice but to consider what's best for the next generation. And this deal with Xykon is killing our spirit as fast as it's killing our bodies. You don't know what it is you're trying to better, because you don't know what it's like not to serve an undead overlord, or a petty spiteful god.
    Redcloak: ...What did you just say to me?
    Right-Eye: Come on. You have to realize that the Dark One doesn't care about us. Why else would he let you throw goblin lives away on this plan?
    Redcloak: Throw away lives? How dare you?! Every goblin that has died since I've been high priest has been to further The Plan! Their deaths were a necessary sacrifice! They were not my fault!
    Right-Eye: Wait... that's it, isn't it? It's all about whose fault it is... If I kill Xykon now, then it was all a waste. You ordered goblins to their deaths believing in the Plan - so if we abandon it now, then you were wrong. You let them die for nothing. You're willing to throw good lives after bad so that you don't have to admit that we were wrong to work with Xykon in the first place, much less help him cheat death.
    • Redcloak receives another one shortly after this from Xykon, saying that he let Redcloak kill his brother so he would never betray Xykon. If he did, he would have killed his brother for nothing. And as his brother pointed out, it would mean everything he's done has not just been in vain, but wrong.
    • Belkar delivers a brutal one to Roy after they find out that Durkon has been turned into a vampire. It works.
    • Tarquin does it quite by accident to Elan in #763. He explains happily what a great story their exploits will make by the force of Narrative Causality, but since this involves a seemingly incontrovertible and slightly mind-bending argument that evil will inevitably triumph on both personal and large scale even though good will "win" in the story, it sends Elan running away in terror.
    • Vampire!Durkon attempts this on Roy after the 'reveal' of his supposed Face–Heel Turn (in fact, he's been Evil All Along, but is masquerading as the original Durkon to get under Roy's skin). Then he takes it a bit too far, pushing Roy to realize that this isn't the Durkon he knows in an epic Shut Up, Hannibal! moment.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal: Lucy finally lets Charlie Brown kick the ball... and then tells him just what the implications are.
  • Sluggy Freelance:
    • In "Oceans Unmoving", Bun-bun does this to Calix while duelling (and beating) him, explaining to him how he doomed his own people by encouraging them to mutiny on a high-tech ship they were subsequently unable to steer. Also lampshaded:
    Bun-bun: When we first shanghaied you, I thought I saw something in you that I liked. Now that I have the opportunity to crush your soul, I like you even more.
    • In "A Time for Healing", the zombie Jane gives Gwynn a "The Reason You Suck" Speech at least bordering on this about how annoying and shallow she finds her and how someone like her couldn't use real magic. Unfortunately for Jane, her last taunts makes Gwynn angry enough that she's finally able to show that yes, she does have access to about a hundred times more powerful magic than Jane does.
    • In "bROKEN", Bun-bun traps Oasis in a sauna and, after berating her for stupidity, starts verbally tormenting her with images of her "beloved" with another woman. It ends up almost as badly for him as in Jane's case.
  • A particularly long version shows up in Soul Symphony here. So long in fact, that it takes up multiple pages, and so severe, that it causes the target to faint out of stress.
  • xkcd:
    • During the first meeting of Black Hat Guy and his girlfriend. Here and here.
    • And later, by the same character, when someone tries "negging: you belittle chicks to undermine their self-confidence so they'll be more vulnerable and seek your approval" on her. She gives a speech that's so generic it could apply to anyone but still effective. Alt Text: "Son, don't try to play 'make you feel bad' with the Michael Jordan of making you feel bad."
    • Young Black Hat Guy manages to send some bullies running away screaming by verbally extrapolating "I am rubber, you are glue" into And I Must Scream for them.note 
  • In Goblins
    • Dellyn figures out that Thaco has taken levels as though he were a Player Character, he calls it the 'most perverse thing he's ever heard of', and points out that by doing so, Thaco has admitted that goblins will always be inferior to humans.
    • Thaco then gives as good as he gets by disabling and then refusing to kill Dellyn, rightly realizing that the sadistic bastard is more than a little obsessed with revenge on the one goblin ever to escape him, and dismissing the fight as "Just a random encounter at the start of my adventuring career".
  • This strip of It's Walky!, in which the main villain — who has a tendency to do this to certain heroes and play on their insecurities and the secrets he's learnt about them — finds his ability hampered when faced with members of the team that he knows next-to-nothing about, and what little he does know doesn't bother them in the slightest when he tries to throw it back at them. Frustrated, he curses himself for 'playing favorites'.
  • Hunter Ravenwood of Suicide for Hire sometimes does this to people who annoy him. He can even drive others to suicide by doing it, at least provided he can find someone who's already totally suicidal as well as willing to listen to what amounts to an evil prank call for ten minutes.
  • This is a power of Thrawn, demon of half-truths, from Shades – whenever somebody gets caught in his tentacles, he can see victim's dearest ideals and describe them through dark, twisted point of view. The worst part? What he says is always at least partly true.
  • Cuanta Vida, page 136. Rojo attempted to backstab Bleu, and for his efforts he received a broken nose and a vicious beating from Jeremy's crutch. While lying defenseless on the ground, Rojo attempts to appeal to Bleu's pacifistic nature: "Put down the gun...How many people have you killed today? Too many, right? Why add another?" Too bad it didn't work.
  • A lampshaded version in Fans! since seemingly every single prisoner that Rikk ever dealt with has attempted to do this on him
  • Boneclaw Mother in Digger is very old, has lived with her tribe for all her years and knows every last one of their closeted skeletons and how to flash them using the best possible words. She's so good at it most of her tribe thinks she's telepathic. When egged on to try it on Jhalm in the climax she wisely points out it doesn't work on people you hardly know — but nonetheless manages to wing it sufficiently to make Jhalm step off.
  • Questionable Content: After a rather notable blast of obnoxiousness from Pintsize, Bubbles (one half of the target of said obnoxiousness)note  grabs Pintsize by the neck and calmly breaks down Pintsize's actions and the motivations behind them. She concludes with the fact that she pities Pintsize's self-esteem issues and that she's sorry said pity will probably just fuel said issues. Pintsize is reduced to weakly pleading "please make her stop."

    Web Original 
  • In Worm Tattletale can do this due to her power. It doesn't matter who your are, if you can hear her, she will get to you. For this reason Armsmaster has some of his team wear earplugs when fighting her and she's frequently targeted first in fights.
    • Contessa and Scion are even more capable at this. Contessa made Bonesaw perform a Heel–Face Turn with a short conversation. Scion made Eidolon depressed to the point where he let himself be killed with 4 words.
  • In Saga of Soul, Downfall does it to Eriko. To put it mildly, it backfired.
  • The Auditor's favourite tactic in AJCO. She's only had the chance to use it on two people - A_J, repeatedly, and Egg - but she left both in tears. Until that point, A_J had never been seen weeping.
  • In X-Ray & Vav, The Mad King uses this to rattle the bonds between our heroes. While it seems that Vav isn't too bothered by it, X-Ray is frightened, thinking that Vav is going to focus everything on his reporter Love Interest.
  • In Sword Art Online Abridged, Rosalia does this to Kirito as a pre-battle tactic. Unfortunately for her, it backfires spectacularly; while it indeed gets to him, it changes him from Jerk Ass Deadpan Snarker to a Laughing Mad Psychotic Manchild... and he's a long time player of the videogame they're trapped in, so he's waaaaaay past her level in terms of sheer stats. It ends quickly after that.
  • In the Camp Camp Season 1 finale, it seems as though David's overly happy-go-lucky spirit has finally been shattered, to Max's absolute delight. As he desperately tries to light a symbolic bonfire that's important to him in the middle of a thunderstorm, Max goes in to lay the final blow
    Max: Do you really think a big campfire and some outdated, honestly kind of racist tradition is going to make anyone care about anything? No one gives a shit, David. Nobody want to be here! It's like you live in this stupid make-believe world where "everything's great!" The universe doesn't work that way, idiot! Just look around! It's what I've been trying to show you since day one! Life sucks. And we live in a world of desensitized, apathetic assholes. Why don't you just get with the program and stop giving a shit....
  • In Episode 81 of Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series, Dartz calls Yami out for his callous treatment of his friends. It works as Yami almost succumbs to the Seal of Orichalcos.
    Dartz: Look at youwself! Look at everything you've dooone! You got a second chance at wahf! Oh! And how do you choose to spend it? Beating people in games y'already good at, and telling them how much they soock.
    Yami: It's not my fault if they refuse to git gud.
    Dartz: I know you're wight, but what is your fauwt is the way you take your fwends for gwanted or, oh, oh, do you even think of them as your fwewends?
    Yami: Of course I—
    Dartz: Oh, right, you can't even defend yoursewf! Not once have you taken the tahm to appweciate everything they've done for you, how patient dey' been. You're too busy calling Twistan stupaad, or Téa a slooot, or insulting the person whose body you now inhabit.
    Yami: Yugi...
    Dartz: Aww, that's the truth, though, Phawowoaoh. No Orichalcamalos magic, no bullshit powers. You're no hewo. You don't even deserve those fwends you surround yourself with. And you certainly don't deserve to keep wiving in Yugaay Muh-to's body. Just give it up. It's easier than fightin' the twuth.
  • This is how Elias Bouchard operates in The Magnus Archives. He peers into people's minds to find what would disturb and hurt them the most, then tortures them by speaking of it as cruely as possible before directly planting feelings and images in their heads. His victim's are often to the point of breaking before he ever plants anything in their mind.

    Western Animation 
  • Megatron tries this on Optimus Primal in their climactic battle in the final episode of Beast Wars. He even quotes scripture from the Covenant of Primus (a book of truthful prophecies) to prove that Optimus would fail. Then Optimus turns it against him in a Shut Up, Hannibal! moment.
    Megatron: 'And there came a hero who said, 'Hurt not the earth, nor the trees, nor the seas, nor the very fabric of time.' But the hero would not prevail!'
    Optimus: Finish the quote, Megatron! 'NOR WOULD HE SURRENDER!'
  • In the Family Guy episode "Seahorse Seashell Party", Meg finally breaks down and points out all of their hypocritical acts of ganging up on her and puting her down making her feel awful, and how they raised her specifically for that purpose. Her Lecture is harsh enough to send Lois into tears, and then makes all of the members of the family turn onto one another, ending with Peter crying and fleeing upstairs where Lois goes to look for him. Brian and she later realise that if the family didn't have someone to act as a lightning rod for their worst behavior then they'd end up destroying each other and themselves.
    • Another example is when Connie D'Amico casually insults Meg at the prom in front of her (very intoxicated) date Brian Griffin:
    Brian: Connie, I think I have a theory about why you're such a bitch. You see, Connie, you're popular because you developed early and started putting out when you were 12, but now, you can't stand to look at yourself in the mirror because all you see is a whore. So you pick on Meg to avoid the inevitable realization that once your body is used up by age 19, you're gonna be a worn-out, chalky skin, burlap sack that even your stepdad won't want. How's that? Am I in the ball park? (Connie runs off in tears)
  • Justice League:
    • In the episode "A Better World", the Mirror Universe President Lex Luthor uses one of these on his version of Superman. It partially succeeds. Superman does indeed break down as a result...just not in the way Luthor wanted.
    • In the same episode, Batman also pulls one of these...on himself.
      • And he won. When you think about it, Lord!Batman manages to win the first one ("And with that power, we've made a world where no eight year old boy will ever lose his parents...because of some punk with a gun.") and Batman does this later while driving in the Batmobile ("They'd love it here, Mom and Dad. They'd be so proud of you.").

        The commentary states that the scene was created by one half of the production team debating the other from Batman's point of view. And to actually keep the viewer in the dark, neither Batman nor Lord!Batman faced the audience while talking, thus allowing a one sided conversation that either Batman could have been winning until the reveal.
    • In the Justice League Unlimited episode "Divided We Fall", several of the robotic evil knockoffs created by Brainithor (Lex Luthor merged with Brainiac) use this technique. It works against Superman due to his fears of being Not So Different from his Alternate Universe Evil Counterpart, but Evil Flash has what might be the least successful attempt in history:
    Evil Flash: Slacker! Child! Clown! We have no place here among the world's greatest heroes!
    Flash: Says you! I've got a seat at the big conference table. I'm gonna paint my logo on it! [punches through Evil Flash's chest]
  • In the The Legend of Korra episode "The Voice in the Night" Korra challenges Big Bad Amon to a one-on-one duel, only to be ambushed by his army of Chi-blockers. With her restrained, Amon reaches out threateningly, only to take her by the chin, and announce that while he could strip her of her Elemental Powers and kill her then and there, he won't, because she'll merely become a martyr for her cause. He tells her she'll get her duel when the time is right before knocking her out. When her mentor Tenzin comes to rescue her, she breaks down crying into his chest.
    • Season 3; Zaheer gives a chilling one to the Earth Queen while he's in the process of killing her.
    • Also in the series predecessor Avatar: The Last Airbender, Katara gives a rousing speech to the Earthbending prisoners about being strong people. But the warden there nastily tells her that their spirits were broken long ago, and she failed in her mission. This is enough to make her feel sad... and for Haru and the Earthbenders to strike back.
    • There's Princess Azula's unforgettable breaking speech to Long Feng when they both decide to betray each other, where she mentions that he had to connive and scheme to rule, whereas she was born with the right to rule. It's so good that she doesn't even have to fight him to take control of the Dai Li from him. He knows he's lost and immediately surrenders to her.
    Long Feng: You've beaten me at my own game.
    Azula: Don't flatter yourself. You were never even a player.
  • The Venture Bros.: An interesting variation of this happens in the season 5 finale; after The Monarch makes half-hearted attempts to physically torture Dr. Venture, he eventually breaks down and openly admits how pathetic he and Dr. Venture had become, eventually leading to Dr. Venture to simply walking away despondently. This was apparently all part of The Monarch's plan to break Dr. Venture's spirit.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In "The Return of Harmony", the especially vicious Faux Affably Evil villain Discord corrupts each of the main ponies to keep them from using the Elements of Harmony that they represent against him. Ultimately he just brainwashes each of them with magic (aside from Twilight Sparkle), but he also takes the trouble to break each down before that, usually by talking. In Applejack's case, he manipulates her to doubt the value of honesty (her element) by showing her a terrible "truth" that she can't accept, before turning her into a liar. For Pinkie Pie (laughter), he makes her think her friends laugh at her all the time, before turning her unhappy and hostile. Fluttershy (kindness) is the only one on whom his speech doesn't work, because she's too trusting, and accepting of her own flaws... So he just zaps her into being cruel anyway.
    Discord: Well, it must be so upsetting to know how weak and helpless they think you are.
    Fluttershy: Not at all! I am weak and helpless, and I appreciate their understanding.
    • In "Putting Your Hoof Down", of all ponies to deliver one, Fluttershy does it to both Pinkie Pie and Rarity, calling their interests frivolous and driving them both to tears. Yikes. It's enough to make her realize what a bully she has become and locks herself away in her cottage out of fear she'll insult others.
    • After coming to the realization that she can't beat Starlight Glimmer in a head-on confrontation, Twilight Sparkle resorts to trying to talk her out of the battle. It's effective enough that, rather than defeating her, Twilight is able to actually swing her to the side of good instead.
    • Diamond Tiara has proven time and time again to be very...eloquent in her treatment of the Cutie Mark Crusaders.
  • Mojo has a one in his final battle with The Powerpuff Girls in The Movie, until they Fight back.
  • Slade from Teen Titans is a master at this trope. Especially when Robin is the victim because they are Not So Different and that ticks Robin off.
  • Spectra pulled this on Danny in their first appearances in Danny Phantom:
    "Look at you... What are you? A ghost trying to fit in with humans? Or some creepy little boy with creepy little powers? You’re a freak! Not a ghost, not a boy! Who cares for a thing like you?"
    • Being an psychologist, who secretly uses people's misery to keep herself young and beautiful, Spectra did that to almost every student in Danny's highschool (althought most of it was done offscreen).
  • The evil wizard in The Care Bears: Adventure in Wonderland gives Alice one of these, over how neither he nor she thinks she can pass for a princess.
  • The symbiote in The Spectacular Spider-Man combines this with Journey to the Center of the Mind to get Peter Parker to bond with it permenantly, mainly by pointing out that he's living in a Crapsack World and has gotten nothing in return for his heroics. Thankfully his memory of his uncle and friends snaps him out of it.
  • Eric Cartman in South Park gives a Breaking Speech to a British super-nanny, of all people. He starts off asking her innocent questions about her job, which turn into biting remarks about how she'll die alone because "no one wanted to have babies with her". After realizing that Cartman is more than just an Enfant Terrible, she leaves. Later in the episode, he apparently gives a Breaking Speech to another nanny that's so bad is causes her to have a mental breakdown.
  • Often subverted with Jasper from Steven Universe, who regularly attempts this but fails due to the victim being too self-confident to listen to her or too clueless to understand what she is talking about. The only time it does work is in her first fight with Amethyst, whom she not only utterly curb-stomps without letting her land a single hit, but also shatters her already fragile self-esteem by telling her that she is a failure of a quartz soldier, because she came out small. This breaks her spirit to the point where she stops fighting and takes a final hit without dodging. This isn't helped by the fact that, when she recovers from her brief breakdown upon realizing she left two children to face a super-soldier alone, she discovers that they took her on with no problem, casing her into depression for the next few episodes.
    Amethyst: (shakily gets up) Rose said... I'm perfect... The way I am...
    Jasper: Then she had low standards.
    (After the battle)
    Steven: We WON! I can't wait to tell the others!
    (Steven and Connie run off laughing)
    Amethyst: Oh, good! (Beat, she looks down) You didn't need me at all...
  • In the Voltron: Legendary Defender episode "Crystal Venom". Commander Sendak is accidentally awoken from cryo-sleep by Shiro. Sendak tears into Shiro, claiming that the two of them are more alike than Shiro will admit. Shiro has a nervous breakdown and launches Sendak's cryo-pod into space as a result.
    Sendak: We're connected, you and me. Both part of the Galra Empire.
    Shiro: No! I'm not like you.
    Sendak: You've been broken and reformed. Just look at your hand.
    Shiro: That's not me!
    Sendak: It's the strongest part of you. Embrace it. The others don't know what you know. They haven't seen what you've seen. Face it. You'll never beat Zarkon. He's already defeated you.
    Shiro: I'm not listening to you!
    Sendak: Did you really think a monster like you could ever be a Voltron Paladin?!
    Shiro: Stop it!

    Real Life 
  • A series of independent experiments carried out by a sadistic Harvard psychology professor named Henry Murray in the 1960s could be counted as an extreme (and, as it turned out, extremely unfortunate) real-life example of Breaking Them by Talking. University students were instructed to write an essay summarizing their personal philosophy on life and underlying principles, then went into a room expecting to debate philosophy with a fellow student. They instead faced an interrogation by a far more experienced opponent, whose sole purpose was to attack and ridicule their beliefs at length. Since one of the main goals of the experiment was to induce stress and upset the subject as much as possible, it's not surprising that many students came out feeling traumatized. One of them eventually went completely over the edge (for this reason or some other) and became the Unabomber.

    Murray had worked with the CIA in developing a test that tested pilots' wills, preventing them from possibly being brainwashed if captured. He decided to "fine tune" his technique using students as test subjects, but really, the guy was a sadist who got off on this sort of thing. WNYC's Radio Lab covered this story in one of their pieces titled "Oops".
  • A favorite technique of many Trolls is to hurt people in chatrooms and the like with offensive language.
  • In the documentary, I, Psychopath, diagnosed Narcissist Sam Vaknin subjects the filmmaker to these during most of the filming. The filmmaker almost has a nervous breakdown.
  • Many gay men, especially drag queens, have perfected the Xanatos Speed Chess variation of this called "the read", being able to assess someone quickly and jab them precisely.
    (sassy voice) When you read somebody, what you are doing is you slowly chip away at they self esteem, but you do so in such a subtle manner they have no idea what is happening to them; they are simply overwhelmed by a sense of dread.
  • Sadly, some parents, teachers, and caregivers (i.e., at daycare centers, or even babysitters) have done this to their offspring / students / charges, in some cases, when they don't mean to...
  • A hilarious example from Tumblr in the comments of a photo of someone drinking Diet Coke out of a bag:
    totheinternetandbeyond: I lost the cap to a soda bottle
    wecanbreatheinouterspace: Then you're fucking stupid. If you can't drink a soda without a cap, then you're fucking stupid.

Alternative Title(s): Breaking Them By Talking, Breaking Speech, Break Him By Talking, Break Her By Talking, Breaking Lecture