Communication is an art form. We may think we are getting our message through to others, but invariably what the world hears is very different from what we had hoped to convey. Without a doubt, this is problematic in so many ways that we need to ask if individuals can fix that glitch in our interpersonal relationships? The answer is yes, but….but it takes understanding and above all, work. The question is how do we get better at making others understand us? Well the book, If I Understood You, Would I have This Look on my Face? is a great place to start.
Part memoir and part how to manual, the author, Alan Alda, yes that Alan Alda of MASH Hawkeye fame, takes us on his personal journey of discovery and education in simply learning how to talk to other people. The book is written in such a way as to make it all very self explanatory. He begins, at the beginning of his quest, by giving us a history lesson of when he simply realized that the words used in every day discourse can be confusing, frustrating, and have their entire meaning wholly misinterpreted.
He takes us through his educational adventure, and scientific meanderings. He introduces us to some of the more prominent researchers in the communication field, and lets us in on some very interesting experiments. Alda teaches us about the concepts of contagious, active listening, empathy and theory of mind. Ideas and tools well known to any of us in the autism community, but not always as easily explained. Every idea, every exercise, every step forward is broken down into understandable parts so that the average reader can employ these same drills at home. He begins his communication lessons with engineers and teaching scientists how to talk to the average person. Not surprisingly, they needed a lot of work with interpersonal communication skills.
Whether he is explaining the use of improvisation in helping communication, mirror exercises, or the notion of commonality, Alda regales us with his own missteps and successes. It is strangely gratifying and helpful to read how he garnered an understanding of his own failings, and was able to overcome his own communication failures. Of course, the reader can find that funny, as Alan Alda among many things, is an award winning actor/ comedian, who without the ability to communicate properly could have not have had such an exemplary career. Yet that is exactly what occurred. Mr. Alda is refreshingly honest about his own blind spots even to the very end of the book.
This book is a down-to-Earth look at how we as humans need to do better at communicating, and how exactly we can accomplish this goal. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to do better in the office, at school, or at any relationship. Personally, I think it definitely will come in handy if you have a recalcitrant teenager at home as well. Well, at least I am hoping it does….
This book is available June 6.