Once upon a nightstand, there was Alan Alda.
Alan Alda once wrote me a letter. I have proof! Moments after carefully opening the envelope and digesting his type-written response to the letter of appreciation I'd sent him, my (very understanding) husband had the whole thing framed on purple velvet, envelope and all.
To say I'm a fan of Mr. Alda is an understatement. I mean, we don't frame just anything on purple velvet around here. I tell you all of this to explain why I was so excited to read Alan Alda's third work of non-fiction If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating. The title may seem long, but I gobbled up its chapters when the book dropped and have already begun a re-read to savor some of the anecdotes he shared.
A departure from his first two works, this piece is divided into two sections and focuses on the science behind relating and communicating - as noted in Mr. Alda's subtitle. The actor-researcher-author (and more -'s) shares many of his own misadventures in communicating and draws heavily on his latest passion, learning then leading scientists and doctors to boil down their jargon as they communicate.
A majority of this book delves into the processes Alan, a self-labeled science geek - but not a scientist, developed through years of practice. Selecting from acting and improv exercises, he first helped technical professionals learn to relate to each other before creating his own program to help them relate to others. At times, these detailed chapters may feel a bit sluggish, but there are great nuggets to retrieve from even the most detailed of descriptions.
As I, myself, am also not a scientist, I cannot speak to the validity of Mr. Alda's findings. He is careful to caution the reader how slow any real data will be in determining formal success in this study. To the casual reader though, the stories, the exercises, and the interviews Alan sprinkles amongst the more "sciency" findings ensures the book's immediate success.
I loved Mr. Alda's first two books - enough to write and let him know. His third work did not let me down and I highly recommend it to anyone who needs to communicate in a relatable way.