Alan Alda, the award-winning actor and bestselling author, tells us the fascinating story of his quest to learn how to communicate better, and to teach others to do the same. With his trademark humor and candor, he explores how to develop empathy as the key factor.
Alan Alda has been on a decades-long journey to discover new ways to help people communicate and relate to one another more effectively. If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? is the warm, witty, and informative chronicle of how Alda found inspiration in everything from cutting-edge science to classic acting methods. His search began when he was host of PBS’s Scientific American Frontiers, where he interviewed thousands of scientists and developed a knack for helping them communicate complex ideas in ways a wide audience could understand—and Alda wondered if those techniques held a clue to better communication for the rest of us.
In his wry and wise voice, Alda reflects on moments of miscommunication in his own life, when an absence of understanding resulted in problems both big and small. He guides us through his discoveries, showing how communication can be improved through learning to relate to the other person: listening with our eyes, looking for clues in another’s face, using the power of a compelling story, avoiding jargon, and reading another person so well that you become “in sync” with them, and know what they are thinking and feeling—especially when you’re talking about the hard stuff.
Drawing on improvisation training, theater, and storytelling techniques from a life of acting, and with insights from recent scientific studies, Alda describes ways we can build empathy, nurture our innate mind-reading abilities, and improve the way we relate and talk with others. Exploring empathy-boosting games and exercises, If I Understood You is a funny, thought-provoking guide that can be used by all of us, in every aspect of our lives—with our friends, lovers, and families, with our doctors, in business settings, and beyond.
Advance praise for If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?
“In this charming, witty, and thought-provoking book, full of rich anecdotes, Alan Alda describes some of the tools of communication that he teaches in his work with the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science and shows how everyone—from lovers to politicians to scientists—can benefit from being better communicators. The issues he touches on are more important now than ever.”—Lawrence M. Krauss, author of The Greatest Story Ever Told . . . So Far
“I’ve spent a lifetime trying to understand and use the art of communication. And then comes this fellow Alda—actor, interviewer, academic, and, mostly, student—who teaches me new, useable ideas. Communicating is at the heart of connectedness. Alda, with his laudable curiosity, has learned something you and I can use right now.”—Charlie Rose
“Sit back and enjoy Alan Alda’s scientific journey of communication.”—Barbara Walters
“Alda, who has made a distinguished and valuable career out of empathy—in acting, writing, and political thinking—now gives us a book that shows empathy to be the key to understanding, and thus to a much improved life. The exchange of feeling of one person with another makes it possible for each to grasp something different and larger than both: a delightful and useful surprise of knowledge. Alda proves his theory almost casually, with self-effacing good fun, but it is a true revelation. You wonder, How has one done without such a book?”—Roger Rosenblatt, author of Thomas Murphy