Why Did a Married Couple, an Actor, and an Educator Cross the Road...?


Why Did a Married Couple, an Actor, and an Educator Cross the Road... to Review Alan Alda's Book: If I Understood You Would I Have This Look on My Face? We think that this book could benefit a wide range of audiences. Here we chose to focus on three specific audiences: a married couple, an actor, and an educator. Below you will find a section dedicated to each in their respective order as indicated in the title. We prefaced each section with a personal statement reflecting our viewpoint on the book as a whole. We hope that each section peaks the interests of its target audience as well as others. Whether you have or haven't read Alan Alda's book or are or aren't part of our target audience; we would like to hear from you. So please feel free to share your thoughts with us.

“Alda tells a riveting tale about communication, what makes it effective, and why empathy is an important factor.” -- Nicole Lopez

Who Needs Couples Therapy When You Have Alan Alda?

As I first dove into this book, I had every expectation that I would learn about science communication. However, I was sincerely surprised that Alda taught me about communication in a way that I can utilize throughout all aspects of my life, even in my romantic relationship. His writing came across as both sincere and heartfelt. I could tell that he believed in his work as well as the importance of becoming empathetic of others that we long to communicate with. For these reasons, his work resonated with me in ways that communication courses never have.

In one chapter, Alda focuses on naming the emotions of people he encounters by simply studying their faces. With persistent practice, he notices more details about the everyday people surrounding him than before he began. In relationships, a subtle sigh of frustration, avoidance of eye contact, and expressions of worry or sadness may sometimes go unnoticed, even by accident. These are all examples of detectable, nonlinguistic cues. Becoming receptive and mindful of these cues can be beneficial for couples because it is important to first understand how your partner is feeling in order to foster effective communication. I am actively trying to employ this practice in my own relationship and have benefitted it from countless times. If we strive to become empathetic of others, and in turn, try to better understand each other, perhaps we can be more successful when communicating and working together as well.

“Best communication includes correct question and insightful answer.” -- Lanna Do

Little Acts Yield Big Results

I think that this book is significantly useful for actors and actresses. As an experienced actor, Alan Alda provides helpful advice about theatrical communication and human interaction that can benefit many actors in the field. He describes in detail theatrical exercises that actors/actresses have learned to help them on stage. They include improvisation and mirror exercises that allow actors to understand each other’s emotions and feelings. Sometimes, a scene looks perfect in one actor’s eye, but is not acceptable in anothers. They have to work together to smooth out all the kinks before they can perform in front of an audience. As a theater student, I understand how useful improvisation is to actors. It helps them relate to one another. They have to know what the other person will do on stage to plan an appropriate response. Alan Alda uses these same methods to communicate with scientists. This quote best describes his approach; “Ignorance was my ally as long as it was backed up by curiosity”. This is a great way for the non-science community to interact with scientists. I can relate to the experiences that Alan Alda shares when he was working with scientists. In the beginning, he found himself making assumptions instead of asking more open ended questions. This lead to awkwardly short conversations. I have also made the mistake of assuming that everybody shares the same thinking as me. I found using the “relating” exercise has improved my ability to communicate. I can better understand how people perceive things. Now I can work with them more effectively. I really enjoyed reading this book and I hope you do too.

“Alan Alda cleverly uses the narrative of his life experiences combined with scientific evidence to support what he believes to be the critical elements of good communication.” -- Anna Calamonaci

So Many Teaching Methods … So Little Time

This book provides key ideas to good communication. As an instructor, I often wonder if there is a better way for me to communicate with my students. I want to make sure that they hear the message that I intend for them to hear. I want to make sure that I am communicating in a way that enables them to better understand the material. I tend to rely on a few techniques to get a sense of whether my students are on the same page as me. I periodically ask them questions during lectures; provide them with worksheets; and of course, use quizzes and exams. But these are steps to take after the act of communication. Alan Alda describes the benefits of focusing on the way we communicate before we even begin to speak. For example, body language can influence the way we hear others. If I were to unconsciously stand in an agitated manner while taking with my students, they would think that I am frustrated. They would wonder if they are the cause of my anger. This would distract them from fully listening to what I am saying; making it harder for them to learn.

Since reading this book, I have implemented some of Alan Alda’s suggestions for good communication. In doing so, I have seen improvement in the way my students relate and respond to me. I feel that this has made it easier for them to learn. What convinced me to try Alan Alda’s suggestions, is his use of real scientific evidence to support his claims. There are so many different methodologies out there about teaching. But many of them are empty promises. In this case, the data spoke for itself. I am sure that some of you are still skeptical. So, don’t just take my word for it. Pick up a copy of this book and you will see that no matter the age or subject being taught, Alan Alda’s tips will improve your ability to teach your students.