By Robbie Miller Kaplan
Reviewed by Jon A. Ford, CFP®
Last week one of my clients called to say their dog lost his sight. In April, an e-mail flashed across my monitor's screen: "Fred died last night—I wanted you to know." Another client meeting opened with, "John is going to Iraq next week." When I returned to town after a month-long absence, a client called with this news: "Darrell and Marie's son killed himself in Toronto over the holidays." Another board member at the last local FPA meeting explained why I couldn't find him after opening day of the FPA Annual Meeting in Denver: "My wife's parents were in an accident and her dad was killed. I needed to go home." A client called to say, "I've been fired!"
These are not unusual events. Financial planners meet clients and friends who reveal their most personal problems at every opportunity. "Why me?" you ask, with mixed feelings—complimented that they come to you, but frightened at the fear of increasing the strain by your response.
People come to you in times of stress or distress because you are trustworthy, available and a good listener. Some of us just naturally know what to say at moments like this—most of us don't have a clue. I don't, and I find myself searching in vain for words that might help. This book is a godsend for caring financial planners who want to increase the chances that their words and actions will do just that.
The book has five parts: (1) coping with loss, (2) basic communication, (3) communicating in times of illness and death, (4) communicating in the face of crime and violence, and (5) communicating about personal and family issues. The first part, "coping with loss," has only one chapter devoted to grief, understanding the process, and how to help. On the other hand, the "crime and violence" section has many chapters devoted to nonviolent crime, violent crime, sexual assault or rape, domestic violence, natural disasters, terrorism, and legal or criminal problems.
The book presents a very sensitive and practical approach about what to say and how to say it when bad times strike. It is realistic, almost inspiring; while reading the book I called a caregiver friend to offer thanks and encouragement and another whose dog and best friend just had emergency surgery. The same day I wrote a quick note to a friend who had recently separated from his wife. I may not have said the very best thing, but with How to Say It as my guide, I was much more confident and willing.
Each chapter has examples that give life to the topic. The chapter on "Job Loss" provides a brief introduction (fears, need for confidence), offers things to consider (laid off, downsized, outplacement benefits), emotions to anticipate (betrayal, isolation), what to say and do (give advice only if asked, return their phone calls), how to say it ("How are you doing?" "What can I do to help?"), what not to say or do (don't avoid them, don't shake their confidence), how not to say it ("Did you find a job yet?" "You can't be too choosy"), and special situations. Sample letters and e-mails and sources of further information are offered for each situation.
Jon A. Ford, CFP®, is president of Commission Free Financial Planning Solutions Inc. in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
Prentice Hall Press Inc.
$15.95 (Paperback: 267)