Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?: My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating” as Want to Read:
If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?: My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?: My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  4,790 ratings  ·  844 reviews
From iconic actor and bestselling author Alan Alda, an indispensable guide to communicating better—based on his experience with acting, improv, science, and storytelling

The acclaimed actor shares fascinating and powerful lessons from the art and science of communication, and teaches readers to improve the way they relate to others using improv games, storytelling, and thei
Kindle Edition, 210 pages
Published June 6th 2017 by Random House
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

Be the first to ask a question about If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.85  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,790 ratings  ·  844 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?: My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating
Cindy Burnett
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
5++ stars

Every single person on the planet should read this book. Alan Alda (who is a phenomenal writer) has written a highly informative book about the importance of communicating better. He then goes on to provide innovative and creative ways to help people do so. He is a natural storyteller, and the book is so entertaining that I completed it in one evening. Alda uses miscommunication stories from his own life to demonstrate how important it is for people to understand each other, and the iss
Aug 12, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Disappointing. I can't say I didn't get anything out of it, or that it's outright BS, but I expected better based on Alda's years of experience in training people on this topic.

Nerd addendum:
The absence of references is lazy for a serious nonfiction book about science. It made it harder than necessary to verify some of the claims made, e.g. that empathy training of doctors improves patient outcomes. Alda is emphatic about this assertion but the science is pretty weak. The meta-analysis not cit
Aug 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”

Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce. Who doesn’t love him? I still do, him and all the other characters from M*A*S*H, and have seen the show several times. But then I wanted to know more about the man behind, so I read his two autobiographies: Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I've Learned and Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself, and loved them to pieces. Besides being a great actor, I have discovered a great man too.

Jun 30, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Trish by: Cindy Burnett
Alan Alda is something of an institution at this point. He has parlayed his fame as an actor on a long-running well-written TV serial, M*A*S*H, into doing whatever takes his fancy. Good for him. He was never extensively schooled in science but he loved it, pursued it, made a new kind of career out of having scientists explain their secrets to him on film.

In a way it is out of this experience that this opportunity to explain communication came to him: how do we know the other side in a conversati
Alan Alda is a joy to listen to and he's a good writer. This book, despite its fun title, is a serious tome-focused on getting across how important it is to communicate clearly and effectively. Examples are cited, and exercises and games are detailed to help you do exactly that.

Focusing on the other person in a conversation, (not just waiting for your turn to speak), and noting their facial expressions and body language are key. According to Alda, if you are not willing to be changed by a perso
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Andrew by: Jessica
I know Alan Alda for his acting career, especially in the tv series “Mash” (one of my favorites), but this is the first time I read one of his books. The subject is certainly interesting, especially in modern society where communication plays a leading role.
An aspect I didn’t know about the actor is his scientific curiosity, which led in hosting a tv show called "Scientific American Frontiers" for many years and to organize communication courses in all kinds of disciplines.

In this book Alda clai
Jun 11, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, science
The greatest science communication failure of recent history occurred during breaking news coverage of the Higgs boson particle discovery. At least, that’s my opinion. This particle, claimed to be the active ingredient in objects having mass, is a huge deal. Yet, look at this gibberish news outlets threw at me as the leading quotation for the achievement.

“We have observed a new boson with a mass of 125.3 plus or minus 0.6 GeV at 4.9 standard deviations.”

No offense to Dr. Joe Incandela, who made
David Kent
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a scientist and author concerned about how we communicate with the general public, I was eager to read this book by revered actor Alan Alda. The book reiterates and expands on a lecture I saw him give a few days ago. Between the two I learned a lot about improving communication. Alda mixes anecdotes and stories from his own experience, both as an actor (M*A*S*H, West Wing, movies, etc.) and his lifelong interest in science that led to him hosting Scientific American Frontiers for 11 years. Re ...more
Jan 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
I'm so glad I stumbled upon this book! Alan Alda is funny and has a great storytelling style. He's dedicated to learning and helping improve communication styles, especially in science.

In this book he draws from his own experience, as well as recent research and experiments he's been a part of. The book is well written and informative. I listened to the audiobook (read by the author) and highly recommend it.
May 06, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I don't normally pick up books like this since I find that they tend to be too narrowly focused and rely too much on the author's fame to sell the book. Not that I knew who the author was before picking this one up. The title was also very off-putting, but I needed a short filler book and seeing as I don't consider myself the best of communicators, I thought I'd at least learn something. That wasn't the case though. I've pretty much heard all the good advice before and the new things the author ...more
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Fun to read, really interesting research and practical usable exercises that could help anyone. Far better than anticipated.
Erica Clou
Good book about the importance of good communication and how to improve at communicating with others. I’m familiar with some of the research that Alda referenced from other books. Alda seems to over-emphasize his own ideas and under-emphasize more researched strategies such as reading literary fiction (though he does mention it). He spends too much time making fun of “shakras” and not enough time explaining the research on the effectiveness of meditation and a simple explanation of say, breathe ...more
Raquel Evans
I would recommend this book for anyone who is interested in brain science or improving their empathy and communication skills. As someone who sometimes struggles with social cues I really appreciated the practical chapter on things you can try on your own, without an improv group, to improve skills at reading people's faces and therefore communication. ...more
***I received my copy through Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for an honest review.***

Alan Alda's hilarious psychology videos got me through high school AP Psych, so I thought this would be a good one. I was pleasantly surprised. Alda tells charming stories that encourage readers to practice responsive listening for change, and also his work helping Science connect with the rest of the world.

Communication [or lack thereof] is creating a serious PR problem for Science The Field and educated peopl
Aug 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Alan Alda has made my life better in two ways, now. The first was M*A*S*H, of course, that show that let me know that grownups could be rebellious too. The second is this book, which doesn't really break any new ground, but reinforces my beliefs that good communication is based in empathy, that the Improv idea of "yes, and" makes most human interactions better, that emotion is the key to memory, and that storytelling is the key to emotion and memory. Yes, and he tells a lot of fascinating, funny ...more
Judy Fleming
I read this book for a book club and would not have picked it on my own. While it is not difficult to read, I found it difficult to figure out who the book's is for. While some of the stories are interesting, I can not imagine that I will use any of the obscure methods for improved communication in my daily life. As a book just about funny stories or life lessons it is a little thin. As a book on how to fix communication problems it is not specific enough on the how "'to do"s. Overall it is tota ...more
Aug 17, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
As I was reading this I could easily read it all in Alan Alda’s voice. That’s how well he wrote it (and I guess his voice was more imprinted on my brain than I thought). He kept things interesting and relatable with a touch of humor. It felt like an enjoyable seminar I wish I could’ve attended in person. I’d recommend this book if your interests lie in teaching, science and public communications, or like me, you’re just an Alan Alda fan.
May 07, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Sigh, this book was sort of interesting in the start. Sadly there is too little useable info, this results in what feels like lots of filler material which is quite boring.

This only gets 2 stars because it mirrors some of the content from a number of social engineering books so its not a complete waste. Oddly enough this is the kind of book that applies to me yet I felt like there was little for me to take away from the book.

I would find it hard to recommend this to anyone though.
Apr 03, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Heard about this on a podcast. Amusing and occasionally interesting, but not as instructive as I wanted. Apparently I need to join an improv class to become a better communicator... great. 🙄
Sep 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alan Alda will be presenting in the Twin Cities next week as part of the Pen Pals series, sponsored by the Friends of the Hennepin County Libraries. Learning of his appearance, doing some research about him, and reading this book has been a WHO KNEW? experience from beginning to end. First off, who knew Alda was a writer? I knew him as an actor, director, etc., but not as a writer. So I was surprised to find several books by and about Alda when I did a search at the public library. I decided to ...more
Sep 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Who knew that Alan Alda has been involved with teaching scientists and doctors to communicate with the rest of us since - well, at least since 2009, when he founded the Alda-Kavli Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook?

Not me. And I'm delighted that he has, and even more delighted that he wrote a book about his efforts.

As a teacher, coach, and consultant on topics of communication, conflict transformation, and empathy, I really appreciate Alda's insights as well as his tips and techniqu
Aug 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love everything about Alan Alda. Not only is he an amazing actor and entertainer, he has also devoted a significant part of his life to the art and science of communication. This book summarizes these efforts and includes personal experiences, research studies, and insightful ideas about how to communicate more effectively. Ignore the goofy cover - this is a great example of not judging the book by it.
This was truly a very interesting topic. I first became aware of this book when I heard Mr. Alda discussing it during a podcast interview.
While I really did enjoy the stories and concepts in the book, I think it would probably be a better TV series than a book. I think the things discussed in the book could possibly be understood better visually. But, by no means am I speaking poorly of the book. Do not be discouraged from reading it based on this review.
Alan Alda isn't a scientist but does have an insatiable curiosity. I would have picked this book up for either the author or the content; the combination is perfect. Way more often than I'd be willing to acknowledge, I've watched a blank or questioning appearance appear upon the face of someone I was talking with. It soon becomes clear what I thought was a very cohesive and concise explanation flew through the ears of my companion without making a stop at the understanding part in the brain. Wha ...more
Hind H.
Jun 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, memoirs
A very interesting read on how to communicate better with people. Usually I’d find it excruciating to read a book that is not literary, but I’ve enjoyed reading most of the chapters of this book and I really felt engaged. Kudos to Alan Alda for knowing how to do that.
Jan 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book, and I think it'll help me think better about communication. My favorite thing about this book was that it has actionable advice for how to get better at reading people's emotions and responses so you can see whether you're connecting.

I also appreciate that the book is short and to the point. The author included a reasonable number of scientific studies and a reasonable number of anecdotes, but not so many that the book feels unfocused or padded.
Jun 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is brilliant. Alda's emphasis on the role that empathy plays in communicating is brilliant--and his practical exercises backed up by research explaining their efficacy was incredibly useful. All writing teachers should read this. ...more
Anna Bunce
Dec 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Anyone who has to communicate to those outside their organization for their job should absolutely read this. So fantastic. And if you do improv or appreciate telling stories you will love this.
Jul 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 Communicating-Stars! ☆☆☆☆
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

This book was insightful, funny, i interesting and above all educating. I love Alan Alda! I loved him in Mash and his science interviews on television. I find him to be a smart and honest person. When i heard he wrote this book, i needed to read it, and I'm so happy i did.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and found out towards the end that the two of you were not having t
Paula Dembeck
Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alan Alda is probably best known for the role he played as “Hawkeye” Pierce on the classic series M*A*S*H*, the TV show based on the 1970 Robert Altman movie with the same title. That show lasted eight years running from 1972 to 1983 and Alda has moved on to many other ventures since then with movies, theater and the pursuit of his long standing passion for science. In 1993 he began hosting the PBS-TV series “Scientific American Frontiers” and spent eleven years interviewing scientists, explorin ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Great Trials of World History and the Lessons They Teach Us
  • Wake Up Grateful: The Transformative Practice of Taking Nothing for Granted
  • Humor, Seriously: Why Humor Is a Secret Weapon in Business and Life (and How Anyone Can Harness It. Even You.)
  • The Good Heart: A Buddhist Perspective on the Teachings of Jesus
  • The Promise of Canada: 150 Years--Building a Great Country One Idea at a Time
  • Just So: An Odyssey Into the Cosmic Web of Connection, Play, and True Pleasure
  • Houston, We Have a Narrative: Why Science Needs Story
  • Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything
  • Motivated: Designing Math Classrooms Where Students Want to Join in
  • Knowing HER Intimately: 12 Keys for Creating a Sextraordinary Marriage
  • Intentional Interruption: Breaking Down Learning Barriers to Transform Professional Practice
  • Breaking the Ocean: A Memoir of Race, Rebellion, and Reconciliation
  • Culturally Responsive School Leadership
  • The Titanic: Disaster of a Century
  • Skyman Volume 1: The Right Stuff
  • Thor vs. Thanos
  • Elseworlds: Batman Volume One (Elseworlds: Batman, #1)
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Full name: Alphonso Joseph D'Abruzzo
Son of actor Robert Alda
Husband of children's book author Arlene Alda

Alan Alda is an American actor, director, screenwriter, comedian and author. A six-time Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award winner, he played Hawkeye Pierce in the war television series M*A*S*H.

Related Articles

  Luvvie Ajayi Jones—author, cultural critic, digital entrepreneur—might be best described as a professional truthteller. Her crazily popular...
53 likes · 0 comments
“Communication doesn’t take place because you tell somebody something. It takes place when you observe them closely and track their ability to follow you. Like” 7 likes
“Ignorance was my ally as long as it was backed up by curiosity. Ignorance without curiosity is not so good, but with curiosity it was the clear water through which I could see the coins at the bottom of the fountain.” 5 likes
More quotes…