Review of If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? (Relating to and Communicating with Others)

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If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? (Relating to and Communicating with Others) book summary
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  • Applicable
  • Concrete Examples
  • Engaging


Alan Alda, star of television’s legendary M*A*S*H and a lifelong student of the human experience, shares his fascination with the processes of the brain and the way science studies how people connect – and fail to connect. Alda is an enthusiast and presents his ideas, discoveries, personal anecdotes and insights with great passion, goodwill and simplicity. His points about the need for effective communication and the virtues of mindfulness are timely, sincere and worthwhile.

About the Author

Alan Alda starred in M*A*S*H, and is an award-winning director, actor and screenwriter. His other books include Things I Overheard While Talking To Myself and Never Have Your Dog Stuffed.


Empathy is primarily emotional. Gaining awareness of another person’s thinking is primarily a rational process.

Alda has long had a fascination with how the brain works and how its processes affect human communication. He remembers interviewing a scientist on-camera and thinking that the two of them had connected on an empathetic level. At a certain moment, though, that empathy seemed to end and the scientist stopped looking at Alda. She turned to speak directly into the camera’s lens. Her speaking voice changed from something warm and conversational to college lecture diction. Alda, who found her lecturing mode impossible to understand, brought her back to relating to him personally by asking her basic questions.

However, after 45 seconds more, the scientist again turned away from Alda and back to the camera. She resumed her formal lecture. Alda presents this as a minor tragedy. The event spurred him to wonder how scientists could communicate more effectively with laypeople and with one another.

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