Book Review: Alan Alda’s take on better communication

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Alan Alda

Some actors astound us with their performances, while others are lackluster. Wonder why?

A new book by Alan Alda, If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?, underscores why getting into character requires communication skills.

You may recall that he did a TV series interviewing scientists. He realized that he wasn’t listening to them, so he could not really capture their stories and relay them to a lay audience, which was the purpose of the series.

That launched him on what he describes as “an adventure in the art and science of relating and communicating.” Understanding the perspective of your audience is basic to good communication.

Of course, you’ve heard that before. Alda provides stories that show how to get better at listening. He also delves into the heart and head of communication, as well as how to tell stories that engage and create memories. All based on knowing your audience.

Speaking of listening, Alda provides a new take on how to do it. He emphasizes avoiding imposing our biases on what we observe. Not easy, he says, but it opens up new approaches and understanding. He also suggests that we should be more accepting of what others tell us and add to it. He calls that “Yes and.” He introduces the concepts of affective resonance and cognitive empathy.

This is a book rich in content that gives the reader new ways to interact and improve communication. His big take-away: Focus on the other person.

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Liz Cawood

Liz Cawood


Liz’s creative outlet is writing – and gardening. She’s dabbled in fabric arts and done a few oils, and even did some rock painting for “Flood the Streets with Art” last November. She’s a voracious consumer of content and enjoys the mental gymnastics of playing with ideas.