*this is an edited version: Advice Sisters Archives: INTERVIEW WITH THE ADVICE SISTERS BY TWINSTUFF.COM
Most wins are fairly used to answering questions. We know how to deal with the common questions (are you twins? are you identical? which one is older?) and the stupid ones (do you have ESP? if one of you gets hurt does the other one feel it? what’s it like being a twin?).
Today, the questions we’re answering tend to be twin-related; most of us probably don’t consider ourselves experts on answering general questions and handing out advice to others.
Most twins should probably stick to the amateur-advice level and leave the serious stuff to the professionals. We’d like to introduce you to two such professionals–twin sisters, Alison Blackman Dunham and Jessica Blackman Freedman, who have carved out successful careers by offering insightful advice and inspiring folks to find their own answers. Following the popular dual footsteps of twins Dear Abby and Ann Landers, Alison and Jessica are known as the Advice Sisters and have become best-selling authors, syndicated columnists and popular lecturers.
The two sisters were the only children born to a successful New York family with the premature June 1st delivery (neither sister will divulge the year) forcing the parents to leave a Brooklyn Dodgers game early so that their mom could make it to The Brooklyn Hospital to give birth.
They were close growing up but were allowed to develop their own personalities, never dressing alike, and attending different classes in the same schools. They shared some common friends and many of the same interests (art, music, dancing, shopping) and followed each other to Syracuse University where Alison earned dual Bachelor of Arts Degrees in music history and public relations and Jessica received a B.A. and B.S. in Communications. Alison then went on to earn a Masters of Public Administration Degree in Management from New York University while Jessica received a graduate degree from American University and a J.D. in Law from Western New England College, School of Law.
After their educations, each sister forged successful, separate careers. Alison began a career as a public relations consultant in New York City while Jessica began practicing law in Washington D.C. and Massachusetts. But both sisters found another trait they shared — each found that handing out advice to others was a natural skill that they could work together on.
Today Alison Blackman Dunham writes a bi-weekly career advice column, “Ask Alison” for the Career Magazine Web Site while also co-writing a weekly relationship advice column with her sister on Emba.Net.
Her sister Jessica Blackman Freedman has co-authored or been the sole author of four books and continues to lecture and consult with extensive expertise in the fields of job-search and relationships.
|Alison Blackman Dunham (L) and Jessica Blackman Freedman (r)
Both sisters feel that their relationship with each other as twin sisters has helped them in their future careers as advice columnists. “We’re really lucky, because throughout our lives, whenever we needed consultation and help about really important issues and problems, we’ve always had each other to turn to,” Alison says. “The best advice we’ve gotten has really (honestly) been from each other.”
Jessica adds to her sister’s observation with her own take on being a twin. “I think being a twin is a difficult relationship that if you can maintain, you are well suited to answering (and handling) just about ALL relationship questions,” she pipes in. “Twins learn to compromise and the importance of working out difficulties….good skills for relationships with other people AND in business.”
Of course, there are differences between the two twins. Jessica says she’s the more outgoing and diplomatic of the two sisters and Alison the more pragmatic and business-oriented one while Alison feels her sister is more of a “people person” and she is a bit more reserved.
Their latest collaboration, ‘Recruiting Love : Using the Business Skills You Have to Find the Love You Want’ draws analogies between searching for a job and searching for true love. The underlying philosophy of the book is that you need to develop a goal-setting strategy for creating success and attracting happiness and love, using skills you may have already mastered in your everyday life. Such as the skill most twins develop early in life–that of cooperation.
Although the advice they dole out tends to focus more on ‘singletons’, Alison feels there are aspects of being a twin that helps in determining how she’ll answer a question. “Twins, unlike other siblings, can’t “pull rank” because of age or seniority,” she explains. “It is more like a marriage in which both partners are equal, but bring different things to the mix.”
Both sisters attribute their success (their columns are now seen by an estimated two million readers in print and on the Internet) to a style they learned as youngsters.
“We don’t tell people what to do,” Jessica insists. “We try to give two different (at least) points of view to jump start our readers’ thinking to solve their OWN problems.” A philosophy her sister echoes. “We jump-start (a reader’s) own, creative thinking so they can take our advice away and use it in a way that is personalized for their unique situation,” Alison adds. “Our signature ‘double-take’ two answers for each question advice particularly appeals to people who like to look at more than one side of an issue, and who are confident enough in themselves to ask for help when they need it!”
While the two will occasionally offer contrasting answers to questions (both sisters feel that Jessica will sometimes answer questions more with her heart while Alison might answer more from her head), they both agree that there is one major difference between themselves and that “other” famous pair of advice-colunist twins, Esther Pauline Friedman (Ann Landers) and Pauline Esther Friedman (Dear Abby).
The big difference? The Advice Sisters continue to work together, not as competitors. Which is good advice for twins!