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The script for serious discussion



Published: Sun, January 20, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



By THERESA HEGEL

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

"Lifescripts for Family and Friends: What to Say in 101 of Life's Most Troubling and Uncomfortable Situations," by Erik Kolbell; edited by Stephen M. Pollan and Mark Levine (Pocket Books, $16.00)

"We need to talk ... "

So, it's time for a serious discussion with family or friends. You have to ask your parents for a loan, or you want your adult children to move out of your house, or you need to talk to your kids about your impending divorce, or you want to confront a friend about a drinking problem.

But how do you get through one of these hand-wringing conversations without causing irreparable damage? How do you find the right words to get your meaning across, the right tone to fit the situation?

If you've ever wished you had a script to get through life's rough spots, "Lifescripts for Family and Friends" may be a dream come true.

The book, written by psychotherapist and ordained minister Erik Kolbell, is a continuation of the best-selling "Lifescripts." The original book provided guides to getting through difficult situations in the business sector -- such as how to ask your boss for a raise -- and was written by Stephen M. Pollan and Mark Levine, the editors of "Lifescripts for Family and Friends." Kolbell's version, as the title suggests, is aimed at more personal dilemmas.

Sections: "Lifescripts for Family and Friends" has six sections, each targeted at a different relationship. There are sections for talking to parents, siblings, children, adult children, spouses and friends.

Each section contains a variety of scripts, each one dealing with a specific situation. Kolbell's scripts contain the following elements: a strategy for the proposed conversation, tactics for surviving the situation, a flow chart outlining a sample conversation and anticipating possible responses, ways to adapt the script to other similar situations and a summary of the key points to cover.

Kolbell's scripts are very thorough. The flow charts often take up several pages, which sometimes detracts from their readability. He even has suggestions about what to research before the conversation, when it is best to bring up the subject, how to present the subject and how to behave during the conversation.

Advice: According to Kolbell, the best way to have a frank and serious talk with a loved one without disrupting your relationship is "to map out the conversation beforehand." His lifescripts are tools to that end.

Obviously, a real-life conversation will not follow one of his flowcharts verbatim, but it may contain similar themes. If you use his lifescripts or just outline your own based on his methodology, you will be better prepared to deal with difficult discussions.

"Lifescripts for Family and Friends" is not a book to read cover-to-cover. However, it is nice reference material if any of its situations arise in your life. If you ever need to talk to a mother, brother, daughter, husband or friend about their bad hygiene, you know where to look for guidance.

hegel@vindy.com




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