Service of Taking Advice

December 29th, 2011

Categories: Advice, Public Relations


I haven’t read George McGovern’s book “Terry: My Daughter’s Life-and-Death Struggle with Alcoholism,” [Penguin Group (USA)], but the other day a talk show host mentioned one of the points made: That the McGovern’s should not have followed doctors’ advice. The doctors told them to leave their alcoholic daughter alone, which they did, and she was found frozen to death when she fell outside while drunk.

terrymydaughterI wonder if their poor daughter might have been found dead at a later time, or if she might have killed others if she drove a car while intoxicated, but that’s not the point of this post.

The art of taking advice involves your instinct/your gut. If someone proposes a course of action that doesn’t agree with your approach/personality it won’t work any better than will starting a speech with a joke when you can’t remember punch lines.

When you are at your wit’s end and a situation is dire, or if a salesperson keeps nagging you, you might let down your instinct wall and agree to something, usually with dire results.

powerpointI give advice for a living. I take the responsibility seriously. I drill down to the crux of a client’s marketing priorities and issues as I see them and develop a plan that addresses them. Because people are used to instant information and communications at warp speed, increasingly clients expect results in months, sometimes sooner. I say: Don’t expect too much too soon because unless you are promoting the cure to war or cancer, most PR efforts take time. With bloggers and online venues, some smokesignals are seen sooner than when print and electronic media were our only choices.

My advice has never changed: Beware of public relations types who promise quick fixes and immediate, significant results.

Have you ever felt that you followed bad advice?


7 Responses to “Service of Taking Advice”

  1. Mervyn Kaufman Said:

    Jeannie — I’ve learned to accept the suggestion that “free advice is worth what you pay for it.”

    I try not to give advice anymore and suggest that, even when confronted, your reaction should be to listen and nod but basically say nothing. Why? For one good reason: In most instances, you don’t really know the facts and certainly don’t know all of them. To offer advice—about a relationship, for example, or a marital problem or even a business decision—is in most cases ill advised unless you’re really steeped in the subject matter.

    Also, as I’ve learned, people in seeking advice are not always searching for guidance. In so many instances, they’re looking for justification for what they’ve already decided to do.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You are right about people looking for justification for their actions.

    However I am not sure that you are totally correct about free advice. I wish that I’d had a mentor when in college, for example. No student has to follow a mentor’s advice and suggestions, but often a mentor has been through or observed a situation a student is facing and can share some of the possible outcomes. The right mentor can help a younger person save years of false starts.

    Further, when seeking free advice, sometimes a person can answer their own questions simply by formulating them, which is the first step.

    And while increasingly, business people ask consultants for free advice, most of us try to get paid eventually!

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    The worst advice I have received has come when unsolicited. The times I have followed it have been at my cost. The best has come by observing the countryside, gathering and studying fact, and/or following my gut. Many of us learn all too late.

    That said, most of us need help at one time or other, and the best comes from those who are not frightened of the truth, even when they know it may be ill received.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I wish politicians would heed your sage advice in this regard: If they would focus on the facts and not be frightened to discuss and address dire situations truthfully, we might surprise ourselves and dig out of the economic holes we’ve made faster than predicted. Trouble is, nobody has the guts to try.

  5. Hester Craddock Said:

    Random thoughts:

    Someone gave me Senator McGovern’s book years ago because I, myself, had experienced the problem of what to do about a dependent alcoholic. The talk show host you listened to was dead wrong. The McGoverns did absolutely the right thing under the circumstances. Only an alcoholic can help him or herself. Nothing anyone else can do is of much use at all. In my case, two lives were lost, one unnecessarily.

    Anyone who tries to rescue an alcoholic is like the man who couldn’t swim that dove into the pond to save his drowning little boy. They both drowned.

    I tend to agree with Mervyn Kaufman’s insightful thoughts about advice and advisors. Although, having been on both sides professionally, the recipient of great mentoring and the dispenser of sought advice by subordinates, I agree entirely with you about how valuable mentors can be.

    On that subject, when I was young, one of the things I admired most in my good bosses, and I had more than my share of them, was that they sought my advice, always thanked me for it, and when they didn’t take it, explained to me why they hadn’t. I learned a lot that way.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    One of my favorite college professors drowned in Maine trying to save his son who fell into the ocean. Both were lost.

    I get the feeling that you were a fabulous boss as a result of having had so many good ones yourself.

    As to the McGovern situation, I hope that the doctors warned these parents that leaving their daughter alone might not achieve the result they hoped for-sobriety–but that helping her wouldn’t either. The most difficult thing to do is to keep your mouth shut when you know someone you love is doing something that will harm them, such as smoke or eat sugar if they are diabetic or eat fat if cholesterol is their problem.

    Silence might make you think you haven’t done everything you could to help them. But of course these addictions are not about you even if they might affect you when you lose a relative or friend.

  7. Hester Craddock Said:


    I’m sorry, but I don’t think you understand about alcohloics. IF THE ALCOHOLIC DOES NOT WISH TO STOP DRINKING, THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT.

    The doctors were trying to save the McGoverns, not their daughter. There would have been no reason for the doctors to have warned them of the dangers of leaving their daughter alone. They were obvious.

    I don’t know about diabetes or cholesterol, but with alcohol, it’s irrlevant whether you talk or smother, or remain silent or walk away, and the end result will be the same.



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