Perfecting Your Pitch by Ronald Shapiro with Jeff Barker Hudson Street Press 3 stars David Wilson Just browsing the everyday anguish addressed by this guide is unsettling. The sticky predicaments it thrusts in the spotlight range from family inheritance spats to sexual harassment and bereavement. Heavy. But, if you know how, you can handle the lot, according to veteran negotiator Ronald Shapiro, who presents 40 "scripts" meant to serve as a framework. "While the model scripts should not be used verbatim, they can serve as starting points for tailoring a script to meet particular challenges," Shapiro writes, adding that scripting is a neglected technique anchored in the "Three Ds": "draft, devil's advocate, deliver". That means: don't "wing it". Write what you plan to say, seek critical input, revise and then, well, deliver - face-to-face, over the phone, or via e-mail. "You can never truly know how the other side will respond no matter how many hours you devote to preparing. Even the best campaign advisers cannot foresee every scenario that might unfold during a candidates' debate," Shapiro admits. Still, he argues convincingly that an instinctive "venting" approach is fatal. Keep cool in all spheres, including social media sites and e-mail, Shapiro advises. "Anger comes from the heart, but the negotiation strategy - and remember it is just that, a strategy - needs to come from the head," he writes. The master tactician Shapiro invokes is America's 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. During the American civil war, whenever one of his generals flopped, Lincoln bashed out a rebuke then just shut the letter away in a drawer. The ritual of writing his "Lincoln letters" gave him the emotional outlet he needed without denting anyone's morale, Shapiro notes, equally at home with history and economics. Perfecting Your Pitch is marred by corporate jargon unlikely to aid negotiation. Shapiro's devil's advocate, journalist Jeff Barker, should have urged him to purge words like "prior" and talk of being "equitably compensated". Another nit-pick: Shapiro's advice on expressing condolences to the bereaved consists almost entirely of no-nos. Throughout, observing his guidelines seems like hard work. Many readers may feel that they lack the vigour and rigour to script every vital negotiation. But just flicking through the guide's 272 pages should make you more conscious of how to handle tricky dialogues. Be factual, friendly and respectful. No hysteria. A sense of humour goes far, as does curiosity. "Much is lost for the want of asking," Shapiro repeatedly writes, quoting an old proverb.