20 things everyone needs to know

Ever felt you were slightly lacking in the life skills department? Let's face it, there's so much to master - and so little time in which to do it. But worry no more. Expert help is at hand. From building a fire to asking for a rise, this guide means you'll never be at a loss again

Tuesday 06 June 2006 00:00 BST



Knowing where everything is and how to operate it all is the first step. Get familiar with where the spare tyre, wheel wrench and jack are located and look at the instruction booklet on where to jack up your car.

If you get a flat tyre on the road, drive the shortest distance you can to prevent irreparable damage to the tyre or damage to the wheel. Get as far off the road as possible. If you are forced to change the tyre on the road, get as far off to the side as you can.

Apply the handbrake, and make sure you put your hazard lights on. Put out a warning triangle, day or night, about 25m/75ft behind the car.

Once in the safest location possible, determine which tyre is flat. Get out the spare tyre, jack and wheel wrench. One side of the wrench can be used to take off the hubcap: put it under the back edge of the hubcap and prise it off. Use the wrench to make the wheel nuts loose by going counterclockwise. Loosen the nuts; don't remove them.

Do not allow anyone to stay in the car while you jack it up. Place your jack in the proper position - if you jack in the wrong place, you could damage your car. Once the car is jacked up, never put any part of the body underneath it.

With the car jacked up, remove the nuts the rest of the way, using the wrench. Take off the flat tyre and set it aside.

Take your spare tyre and place it up on the hub. Line the spare up with the studs, push it on, and apply your wheel nuts with your fingers. Then, take the wheel wrench and tighten them as hard as you can with the car still jacked up. Take the jack down.

Once the car is back on the ground and off the jack, double-tighten all the wheel nuts in an alternating pattern.

Make sure you hit every wheel nut three or four times to make sure it is as tight as possible. Then put the flat tyre, jack, wheel wrench and hubcap in the boot. Don't put the hubcap back on.

Remove your warning triangle, turn off your hazard lights and be on your way.

Larry McReynolds was a motor-racing pit-crew chief with 23 victories, 21 pole positions, 122 Top 5 finishes and 209 Top 10 finishes. He is currently a broadcaster for Fox Sports.



Treating sleep as a necessity rather than a luxury is the secret to being a peak performer. When you don't get proper sleep, you experience increased stress, feelings of lethargy, weight gain, reduced immunity and lowered productivity and memory. How do you know if you are getting proper sleep? Answer the following questions:

* Do I need an alarm clock to wake up at the right time?

* Do I often fall asleep in meetings, after heavy meals or when watching TV?

* Do I often sleep extra hours on weekend mornings?

* Do I feel tired during the day? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it's likely you need more sleep.


1. Get proper sleep

Identify the amount of sleep you need to be fully alert all day and get that amount every night. For most adults, it's eight hours. For teenagers, it's nine.

2. Establish a regular sleep schedule

Go to bed at the same time every night, and wake up at the same time every morning - including weekends.

3. Get continuous sleep

For sleep to be rejuvenating, you should get your required amount of sleep in one continuous block. Any nicotine or caffeine after 2pm or alcohol within three hours of bedtime will disrupt your sleep.

4. Make up for lost sleep

For every two hours awake, you add one hour of debt to your sleep debt account. It takes eight hours of sleep to restore 16 hours of waking activity. You cannot make up for large sleep losses during the week by sleeping in at the weekend. Try taking a 20-minute power nap at midday.


1. Keep your bedroom quiet, dark and cool

Sleep on a mattress with individual pocketed coils that reduce motion transfer, or a foam mattress designed to support your back properly.

2. Reduce stress

Even if you are sleep-deprived, anxiety can delay sleep onset. Try relaxation exercises. Write down your concerns before you go to bed - your worries then won't interfere with your sleep. Don't watch TV within two hours of bedtime. Take a warm bath before bed. Reading for pleasure before turning off the lights will ease you into sleep.

James B Maas, PhD, is a Stephen H Weiss Presidential Fellow, Professor and past Chairman of Psychology at Cornell University. He is the recipient of the American Psychological Association's Outstanding Educator Award and the author of Power Sleep.



Ahhh, the warmth and fascination of a campfire! Building one is easy. Here are some simple safety steps to remember:

* Always try to use a previously disturbed piece of ground with a rock fire ring.

* Make sure your fire ring is well away from any trees to prevent starting a fire in the tree.

* Carry two 30cm pieces of wood that you can splinter easily into kindling.

* Shred newspaper for a fire starter and build a tepee around the paper with the kindling.

* Add dry branches and some wood splits to the tepee. No starter fluid is needed.

* Touch one match to the newspaper, and the fun begins.

* Feed the fire with larger dry bits of wood.

The most important thing is to make sure the campfire is completely out when you leave, so:

* Take a shovel and a 20-litre bucket of water with you.

* When the fire has died down to only ashes, put water on it and stir with the shovel. Go deep to the base of your fire pit and water and stir until all smoke and steam have ceased.

* Take the back of your hand and feel for heat. If it is still warm, then water and stir some more. You do not want to cause a forest fire that might destroy woods, wildlife and even homes.

Jim Paxon is a retired firefighter



You don't need to be a genius to shine shoes, but the first key is recognising that there's a difference between shining and cleaning. For example, it is impossible to shine white shoes - no matter what kind of leather. You can, however, clean them with a variety of different cleaners and/or a white cream.

If you scratch a pair of white shoes you need to use a white spray to cover the spot. You should not polish beige or tan shoes either. Polish may give you a shine, but it does not clean scratches or stains. Light-coloured shoes need to be cleaned, and the colour reconditioned, by using a spray, available at your local shoemaker.

When dealing with black, brown, medium or dark shades, begin by removing the dust from the shoes with a towel. If you have mud on the hedge - the continuous edge - of the shoes, use a damp cloth to get it off.

Once the dust, dirt and mud are removed, it's time to clean - but not yet polish - the shoe. Work with a cleaner (liquid, cream or paste) that matches the colour of the shoes and apply the cleaner with a rag. For most people, a medium rag should be used. But a shiner with big hands should use a large rag for greater control.

Once the cleaner is applied, use strong, fluid motions to work the rag up and down the length of the shoe, spreading the cleaner evenly. This should take about two minutes.

Brush off the cleaner with a horsehair brush. The combination of the rag followed by the brush brings up the shine. Never use a nylon brush, which will spoil the leather. When cleaning the hedge, use a shoe reconditioning product. If you want a brighter shine, apply Kiwi polish and use the same technique.

As for polishing, you can use a rag, but a small round-shaped brush is preferred because it makes the polish easier to apply and helps keep it off your hands. It also gives you more control over the amount of polish used, and so provides a more even finish. A solid shoe shine should take about seven to 10 minutes.

Sal Iacono, aka 'Sole Man', owns Continental Shoe Repair, just steps from New York's City Hall. He is currently shoe shiner for Mayor Michael Bloomberg and many of Wall Street's élite.



You'll need three dashes of dry French vermouth and 60 ml of London dry gin.

1. Chill the glasses in the freezer. Fill the mixing glass with ice. A martini should always be mixed in a glass.

2. Add the dashes of vermouth first, then the gin. Stir the ingredients with the ice - 50 times if using large ice cubes, 30 times if using small cubes. We want water in the drink from the melting ice; it is a critical ingredient to mellow the alcohol's attack. 3. Strain into a chilled, V-shaped 150ml martini glass. Garnish with a pitted Spanish olive, and then twist a lemon peel over the top and drop it into the drink. And please, no more than three small olives in the glass. Additional olives should be placed on a small garnish dish to the side of the drink.

4. Use dry French vermouth for martinis and sweet Italian vermouth for Manhattans.

5. Don't use unfiltered tap water for ice cubes. If your water is not filtered, use bottled water for ice cubes to avoid off flavours.

6. Don't store gin in the freezer. Although it seems a natural thing to get the coldest possible martini, frozen gin will not melt the ice when stirring or shaking, and a little water in the drink is critical for a smooth martini.

So do we stir or shake a martini? I shake drinks with fruit juices and sweet ingredients, and I stir drinks with only spirit ingredients. Shaking adds air, sparkle and froth, and fruity or sweet drinks need effervescence. All the air spreads the flavours over the tongue and renders the sweet ingredient less cloying. On the other hand, the texture of a martini should be cold, silky and heavy. So I stir.

For the best martinis, make them in front of your guests. The drink is a social event, and people want to share in the ceremony.

Dale DeGroff, aka the 'King of Cocktails', is author of The Craft of the Cocktail, and is considered America's foremost mixologist. He honed his skills at New York's Rainbow Room.



* Start by finding a shade that looks great on you even when you're bare-faced. For most women, it's a shade that looks like the natural colour of their lips taken up a few notches.

* Begin with clean, smooth lips. If they're chapped, smooth on some eye cream, then use a toothbrush or a flannel to gently exfoliate them.

* Pick the formula based on your needs and your style. Matte: This has the longest wear. Some matte formulas can be drying, so look for a semi-matte version that's creamy.

Shimmer: This combines colour with light-reflecting pigments. Look for sheer finishes and avoid frosted formulas.

Stain: Transparent colour that's practically mistake-proof. A good bet for beginners.

* Neutral colours and sheer formulas can be applied directly from the tube. Start at the centre of the top lip, working your way out to the corners. Repeat with the bottom lip. Finish by blotting lips together to blend.

* A lip brush is your best bet for colours that require precise application. The bristles of the lip brush should be firm.

* Using the lip brush, apply lipstick on the centre of the top lip and work your way outwards. Use short strokes, brushing colour in thin, even layers. Follow the shape of your lip and repeat with the bottom lip.

* A lip pencil applied after lipstick gives lips subtle definition. If your lipstick is dark or bright, use a pencil one shade deeper.

* When lining lips, make sure the pencil tip is softly rounded, and hold the pencil at a slight angle. Keep your strokes soft.

* To make lipstick longer-wearing, line and fill in lips with the lip pencil, then apply lipstick.

* Experiment by mixing different shades to create new colours. On days when you want a low-maintenance look, pair lip balm with lip pencil.

Bobbi Brown is the founder of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, and is a bestselling author.



Some people, but not many, are born with an innate talent to negotiate, but most people need to practise the art. Here are a few pointers.

1. Know exactly what you want, and focus on it.

2. View any conflict as an opportunity. This will expand your mind and your horizons.

3. Know that your negotiating partner/partners may have the same goals as you. Do not underestimate them.

4. Patience is an enormous virtue and needs to be cultivated for successful negotiations on any level.

5. Realise that quiet persistence can go a long way. Being stubborn is often an attribute. The key is to know when to loosen up.

6. Remain optimistic. Practise positive thinking - this will keep you focused while weeding out negative people.

7. Let your guard down on purpose. Watch how your negotiating partners respond.

8. Be open to change - it's another word for innovation.

9. Trust your instincts, even after you've honed your skills. 10. Negotiation is an art. Treat it like one.

Donald Trump is a property developer and author of four books, including The Art of the Deal. He presents the US version of The Apprentice.



Ten minutes, a saucepan, a whisk, some butter and some eggs - is all you need to make the perfect scrambled eggs.

This recipe is for two people. If you have only a non-stick pan, switch the whisk for a wooden spoon.

Combine five eggs, 20g butter and salt and pepper in a saucepan. Turn the heat to medium-high and beat the egg mixture with the whisk, stirring almost constantly but not so fast that it foams.

After the butter melts, the mixture will begin to thicken, and then lump up in small curds. This will take between three and eight minutes, depending on the thickness of your pan. If the mixture begins to stick, remove the pan from the heat for a moment and continue to whisk.

When the eggs become creamy, with small curds, they are ready. Serve immediately so as not to overcook. Stop the cooking while the eggs are still loose.

Jean-Georges Vongerichten is the chef and owner of 15 restaurants around the world, and the author of three cookbooks



Hanging a piece of artwork or a picture is an easy way to change the appearance of a room, and it's a project you can do in under half an hour.

The most time-consuming part is deciding where to hang the art. First, consider the scale of the room. Group small pieces together, or use a large piece as a focal point. And don't forget about lighting. Overhead lights at subdued settings emphasise art work and minimise glare. Valuable art should not be hung in direct sunlight.

Once you've decided on perfect placement, get your tools. You'll need a hammer, adhesive tape, a tape measure, a pencil, a level and a strong picture hook.If the picture does not already have wire on the back, you'll also need picture wire that can bear 13.5kg of pressure and a few small eyelet screws to secure the wire to the frame. The eye hooks should be placed into the centre of each side (left, right) of the frame. For large pictures, they should be placed 20 cm from the top, for medium, 15 cm from the top, and for small, 5-10cm from the top.

Use your pencil to make a mark on the wall where you will be placing the nail - about 1.5m from the ground. But before you land that first hammer blow, put a piece of adhesive tape over that pencil mark. This will stop cracking. Then, gently tap the picture hook into place. Check the hook is secure and hang your picture.

Now step back. Check the picture is straight by taking the level and resting it on top of the frame and, voilà.

Barbara Kavovit is currently writing a book and developing a TV programme



* Timing is important. You have to prepare well.

* When you have an opportunity to talk to your boss about other matters, casually mention your most recent achievements.

* Share credit with your subordinates. Telling your boss what a great job your team did enables you to brag without looking like you are.

* To ask, you need a reason. "I have not had a rise in a while," is not a reason. "I have been your top producer over the past six months"; "I took over extra responsibilities and have handled them without a hitch"; - those are reasons.

* If you can't find a reason, create one. Doing something that makes your boss look good creates an opportunity to broach the subject.

* The best justification for a rise is having another job offer. Even if you like your job, you should periodically test your market value by exploring other opportunities.

* Having chosen your moment, meet your boss to discuss your career.

* When you meet with your boss, seek advice rather than asking directly. Either your boss will get you a rise or promotion, or you will be told what you need to do to get one, in which case you should keep your boss informed.

* If you have another offer, tell your boss. Say that you like working for the company, but that the offer is for more money and/or has greater career potential. If you still don't get a rise, you need to be prepared to leave.

Lee E. Miller is the author of Get More Money on Your Next Job



Follow these simple steps and soon you will be using chopsticks with ease:

1. Rest the wider end of the lower chopstick in the V of your thumb and forefinger. Support it with the little finger and the ring finger.

2. Hold the upper chopstick between the index finger and the middle fingers, anchored with your thumb.

3. Make sure the tips of the chopsticks are even.

4. When picking up food, the lower chopstick stays still.

Make "training" chopsticks by folding a paper napkin until it is 2cm thick, and putting it between the wider ends of the two chopsticks. Secure with a rubber band.

Rick Federico is chief executive of P F Chang's China Bistro, owner of 107 P F Chang's China Bistros and 46 Pei Wei Asian Diners across America



* The best ironing tip is to put the board in a convenient place and give it a padded cover. Padding makes ironing easier. To iron all-cotton, set the temperature high; lower for synthetics. There's a guide on the iron. I haven't yet found a modern iron that gets hot enough to scorch a shirt, but some synthetics melt at high temperatures.

* The shirt should be slightly damp. Remove it from the dryer or the hanger before it's bone dry. And if you can't get to it right away, stick it in the freezer. It won't mildew, but it will stay damp.

* If a shirt needs misting, don't rely on the reservoir built into the iron. Most need frequent refills, may clog up, and don't spray very effectively. I recommend using a separate spray bottle, preferably one filled with a fragrant water.

Finally, you need an ironing plan. The idea is to start with the smaller sections first, because whatever section you are not working on tends to wrinkle up. Below is the suggested order:

1. Collar: Lay it flat, wrong side up, pressing from the points towards the centre. Then press it on the right side.

2. Yoke: The yoke is the panel that covers the shoulders. Lay it over the widest part of the ironing board to do the job.

3. Cuffs: Iron inside, then out.

4. Sleeves: Smooth the sleeve flat and iron it, then flip it and do the other side.

5. Back: Lay it on the wide part of the ironing board, too.

6. Front panels: Start with the pocket, then do the panels.

7. Finish: Retouch the collar if needed, then hang to dry before you put it away.

Mary Ellen Pinkham is a TV host and columnist



On average, men shave about 21,000 shaves in a lifetime. Unfortunately, many have acquired bad shaving habits that can yield unpleasant results or injuries such as razor burn, ingrown hairs, and nicks and cuts. But once the right tools and products have been selected, the only thing that stands between you and an ultra-smooth, close, comfortable shave is learning the proper techniques.

Traditional wet shaving will make the shave as smooth and comfortable as possible. Wet shaving involves shaving cream or soap, shaving brushes, water and a blade. The principles of wet shaving revolve around hot water, a rich warm lather and the techniques themselves.


* Always shave after or during a hot shower, never before.

* Before shaving, apply a pre-shave oil treatment to protect the skin and to soften the beard.

* Always use hot water. It softens the beard, opens pores and cleanses the skin.


* Use a glycerine-based shaving cream or soap. Avoid products that contain numbing agents like benzocaine or menthol, which can close pores and act to stiffen the beard.

* For best results, use a shaving brush made of badger hair. It softens and lifts the beard from the face.


* Select a clean, sharp blade and dip it in hot water.

* Always shave with the grain - in the direction the hair grows. Shaving against the grain can cause ingrown hairs.

* Check to see whether the hair on your neck grows in the same direction as the hair on your face. If it doesn't, make sure you adjust accordingly.

* Use a razor with a weighted handle to provide proper balance for better control.

* Avoid applying too much pressure on your razor since this is often the cause of razor burn and skin irritations. Glide the razor gently over your face.


* After shaving, apply an alcohol-free moisturising aftershave balm to nourish, soothe and moisten the skin. Avoid aftershaves that contain alcohol; these can irritate and dry the skin and cause ingrown hairs.

* In the event of nicks or cuts, use an alum block or a styptic match to stop the bleeding.

Myriam Zaoui and Eric Malka are the authors of The Art of Shaving



EQUIPMENT: Having the right equipment is essential. Your racquet, grip, clothing and shoes should be comfortable and tight, but not too tight. Choose a racquet that you can control that isn't too heavy.

GRIP: Lay a racquet on your lap with the head of the racquet parallel to the ground. Place your open hand perpendicular to the top of the handle. The handle should be in the middle of your palm. Close your four fingers to grip the handle, thumb wrapped underneath. Now turn the racquet face up and hold it as if it were an extension of your arm. With your opposite hand, hold the throat of the racquet gently for support. Now, slightly adjust your hand to the right of the grip. Then cock the racquet up to a slight angle. Just about 20 to 30 degrees. If you're left-handed, everything is reversed.

STANCE: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and your body leaning slightly forward so your weight is on the balls of your feet. Stay on your toes so you can be ready to react to the ball.

SWING: Let's assume the ball is coming to the forehand side. I'll assume you're a righty. As the ball is coming towards you, take the racquet back and use the left arm to point to the ball to aid in maintaining eye contact with it. The head of the racquet should not go above your shoulders or below your waist. When you make your move to hit the ball, turn your shoulders, waist, then feet sideways to adjust to the right distance to make contact with the ball. The right contact point is just in front of your right hip. As the ball is coming towards you, rotate your hips slightly and move your arm with them at the same time. This gives youpower.

As you make contact, the racquet head should be perpendicular to the ground, hitting the ball as close to the centre of the strings as possible. Finish the swing by bringing your right arm across your body and up over your left shoulder. Keep your eyes on the ball at all times! After you finish the swing, turn your body to the net so that you are ready to hit the next shot. Keep your eye on the ball and stay on your toes. Tennis can be frustrating, but practise makes perfect.

Jennifer Capriati became a pro tennis player at 13. She has won an Olympic gold and three Grand Slam titles



* The key is to focus. The truest thing I've ever heard in my life is: "I never learned anything when I was talking."

* If you don't understand what you are listening to, simply say: "I don't understand. Can you explain it to me further?" There is nothing wrong with not knowing. It is wrong, however, not to admit that you don't know.

* Sometimes it is hard to get someone to talk, but keep working at it. Here's a good case in point. I was interviewing an award-winning fighter pilot who had shot down 11 enemy planes during the Second World War. I had one hour with him.

My first question was why he enlisted in the air corps. His answer was, "I liked it." I could immediately tell that not only was this fellow nervous, but I would struggle to get him to speak for an hour. He was shaking so much that I switched gears and asked him about fear. Within 10 minutes, he was saying things like, "We dove through the clouds... I could see the whites of their eyes." In other words, I had moved him into his territory and expression came out. So the tip here is to look for the person's comfort zone.

* A conversation requires two people. Listen to what the other person is saying.

Larry King is the host of Larry King Live on CNN and author of How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere: The Secrets of Good Communication.



Making a romantic first move should be 80 per cent instinct and 20 per cent tactics. The harder the heart pounds, the more doubts that plague your resolve, the more you owe it to yourself to take that chance.


* Boldly declare your intentions.Simply express your desire to see the person acknowledging attraction, expressing intent: "I loved meeting you and would like to see you again."

* Get rejected. If you aren't getting shot down now and then, it means you aren't allowing yourself to take a little romantic risk.

* Avoid pick-up lines and obsessive analysis of the situation.

* Choose honesty over wit. Save all prospective repartee for the second or third date.

* Let your fingers do the asking. An online approach enables you to communicate comfortably with your love interest.

* Location! Location! Location! Proposing to meet at a public location - such as a coffee shop, - increases your potential date's level of security.

Tim Sullivan is president of the dating website Match.com



* Learning to speak a language is like learning a sport - it is a skill, not just an accumulation of knowledge.

* Smile, point, gesture, mimic, use the many means you use when speaking in your own language to communicate.

* Most languages have parts of speech like subjects, verbs, objects and prepositions. Learn the basic order of these words in common statements and questions.

* Loan words are increasingly common. Words like rendezvous, parking, train, beer, coffee, OK and hundreds of others are understood by urban dwellers around the world.

* Make a conscious effort to learn new vocabulary every day. Tear-off calendars with a "phrase of the day"are convenient ways to be certain you get your daily dose.

* Make opportunities to use your language every day. Once you have become conversant in a language you will never totally forget it, but, like other skills, you must practise.

* Go to a country where your new language is spoken. Most people will be flattered when you try to speak their language. Don't be shy: plough ahead and make mistakes.

Mark W. Harris is chief executive of Berlitz Languages, the world's leading language-services firm, operating more than 500 language centres in 60 countries.



The handshake is usually the first physical contact adults have with one another, so, be sure to make your handshakes a positive experience.

The other person will gauge from this greeting what type of person you are. A successful handshake depends upon how you execute it, when you do it and where you do it. Nine times out of ten it will make the other person notice you and feel kindly towards you.

We all know it is no fun to suffer a rebuffed handshake; it's an out-and-out rejection. But before you withdraw, red-faced with shame, think about it. Did you try to shake someone's hand while he or she was conversing with someone else? Did you attempt to shake it when the rejector was standing in a receiving line?

Common sense should tell you when not to initiatea handshake. When you first arrive at a gathering, seek out the host and introduce yourself with a handshake. When you are leaving, shake his or her hand again. If you are the initiator of a handshake, step forward, put out your right hand and smile while looking the other person in the eyes.

If you are meeting someone for the first time, add your voice: say your name distinctly. Make sure your handshake is firm and make sure your hands are clean . And if your palms tend to be sweaty, take a quick, swipe on the back of your trousers or your skirt with your right hand.

If you teach your children how and when to shake hands,, you're contributing to the socialisation of Britain.

Letitia Baldrige was the social secretary to the White House and chief of staff for Jacqeline Kennedy. She is the author of New Manners for New Times



In choosing a stone, the parameters known as the four Cs are well known. They are:


There are many differing scales for colour, but the most common is an alphanumeric one starting at the colour D. This is the whitest colour exhibited by a diamond, and is followed by E and F. Yellowish-white colour begins at J.


The clarity grading, works as follows: internally flawless (IF); very, very slightly included (VVS1, VVS2); and very slightly included (VS1, VS2). "Included" refers to an imperfection, whether it be carbon or crystal. The grading then continues with slightly included or imperfect (SI1, SI2) and noticeably blemished stones (I1, I2, I3).


The basic shapes or cuts of diamonds are: round brilliant; square or princess-cut; emerald-cut (an elongated rectangle); pear-shaped; marquise (a double-pointed pear); oval; and heart-cut.


Carat is the weight of the stone. A carat is 0.2g and there are 100 points to a carat. Thus a 50-point diamond is half a carat and weighs 0.1g.


I'm adding a fifth C. Seek a jeweller of reputation: they will be there when you want to appraise your stone, or for after-sales service, which might include cleaning, or redesigning your jewellery.


For a ring, choose a shape of diamond that pleases you. Stones of VVS or VS are perfect to the naked eye. Always request a hand-made setting for stones of more than 1.5 carats. Any colour darker than G should not be purchased in any shape other than round because the colour is more obvious at the points.


Coloured diamonds are currently popular, prompted in part by the purchase of a pink diamond by Ben Affleck for Jennifer Lopez. These stones are extremely rare and much more expensive than others.An internationally recognised certificate for a white diamond is valuable, but with coloured diamonds it is a necessity.

Ronald Winston is the chief executive of Harry Winston, the prestigious Fifth Avenue jeweller to the stars



The scenario: you need information on a person a relative is considering marrying. Or you are negotiating a transaction and need to know the background of the individual(s).

The solution: research through the following steps.

1. First Stop: the Web

Start with the search engine Google. Enter a name, and Google will deliver several listings directly related to that name. If it is a common one, you may have to associate it with additional details.

2. Ask questions

Don't be shy about asking people for details regarding the subject's education and employment, birth date and location or military service.

These inquiries can be done subtly by inserting into conversations questions pertaining to these personal facts.

3. Back to school

Educational history can be a great source of additional information on a person. For example, alumni magazines often provide personal, professional and other relevant information.

4. The professional

A licensed investigator will have developed ways of legally accessing information that the average person, because of the Data Protection Act, would have difficulty collecting, including a wide array of facts on individualssuch as a lifetime of addressesand employment listings for every job a person has ever held.

5. The interview

Facts determined from your investigation often make it more difficult to decide a course of action. The individuals identified by your investigator or through your initial search can help you answer some of the unanswered questions. But first you must find out as much as possible about the interviewee's personal and professional history and relationship to the subject. You don't want the interviewee's prejudices or ulterior motives to twist or shade the facts.

6. Additional sources

Before closing the interview, you or your investigator should inquire whether the interviewee can provide additional sources who might have relevant information, as well as their addresses and relevancy to your inquiry.

7. The successful interviewer

Be a patient listener with a sense of curiosity. In the interview process, you will acquire the instincts that will help you to translate body language and to identify and squelch attempts to obfuscate the truth.

Terry Lenzner is the chairman of The Investigative Group International. He was the assistant chief counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee

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