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Culture of Empathy Builder:  Alan Alda

If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?

by Alan Alda
"It’s a guide to improving the way we relate to each other using improv games, storytelling, acting, empathy, science and our own innate abilities.""

 
 
Links
 
 

Quotes

 

"What I found, and this is really interesting, that you can get better at empathy. There are people that I have interviewed, who teach empathy, and one might thing that one is born with a certain amount of it and that is going to be it. And that turns out not to be true. "  Alan Alda

 

"[Empathy] is an important part of what I have done in my whole life. You need empathy to be able to take on the perspective of a character, if you are an actor or writing a story. And I've done both my whole life. It wasn't until I started writing this book that I realized I'm in the empathy business and I had always been kind of suspicious of the word empathy because the word empathy sounded New Agey and gooy...." Alan Alda

 

"I think [empathy] is really important in communication I wonder if you can have communication without it. That means communication between a couple, parents and children...."  Alan Alda

 

"You have to practice empathy or you will lose it." Alan Alda

 

"I wanted to see if I could improve on my abilities at empathy and Theory of Mind and I was searching for a kind of personal human-contact workout gym." Alan Alda

 

"I'm not thinking, in this book, of empathy as the basis of good behavior or morality; I'm looking at it as a tool for communication. I think it's an essential tool, and while it can be misused, it can help us make those important connections that lead to understanding." Alan Alda

 

"We can sense what they're feeling, and we can have greater awareness of what we ourselves are feeling. This is what is usually called empathy. I've come to see this connection with the other person as the bedrock of communicating. It's surprising how effective the ability to tune in to others can be?" Alan Alda

 

"All of this suggests to me that an inescapable product of improvisation is empathy. And that a combination of empathy and the more rational Theory of Mind is the very foundation of communication." Alan Alda

 

"Since I'm convinced that empathy is at the heart of communications, I of course want more empathy. But that's not because I think empathy will cure the ills of the world. In fact, sometimes empathy worries me." Alan Alda

 

"Effective science communication happens when we listen and connect. It happens when we use empathy. Communication is headed for success when we pay more attention to what the other person is understanding rather than focusing solely on what we want to say. "- Alan Alda

 

"For years, I was a little leery of the notion of empathy. If I thought about it at all, it seemed to be a free-floating kind of sympathy. Or even a semi-fraudulent posture where you announce that you feel people's pain but don't necessarily feel anything. There seemed to be something slightly New Agey about it that was more rooted in a warm wish for community than in reality. And yet, we were getting these rich experience in improv classes that seemed to stem from developing a greater awareness of the other person's emotional state. The more I learned about what research sciences were doing, the more I came to see empathy as a necessary part of communication."  Alan Alda  (p24)

 

 
 
 
Alda Alda on Empathy BY BOOK REVIEW · JUNE 7, 2017

 

Excerpted from IF I UNDERSTOOD YOU, WOULD I HAVE THIS LOOK ON MY FACE? by Alan Alda.

Chapter 12 Testing an Empathy Exercise
 "I wanted to see if I could improve on my abilities at empathy and Theory of Mind and I was searching for a kind of personal human-contact workout gym."
 

"I stopped practicing empathy for a while; it was exhausting. But I couldn’t stay away for long. I started in again, with a slight shift."

"The feeling of peace was probably just a sense of relaxation. Whatever it was, naming other people’s emotions seemed to help me focus on them more and it made talking to them more pleasant. I had no idea, of course, if other people who tried this would have the same experience, or if it was true that I was building up some empathy. Someone would have to do a study on it to find out. But I didn’t expect anyone to devote research time to studying such a cockeyed idea. On the other hand…"


"We were developing empathy and the ability to be aware of what was happening in the mind of another person.  This, we realized, is the key, the fundamental ingredient without which real communication can't happen. Developing empathy and learning to recognize what the other person is thinking are both essential to good communications, and are what this book is about." Alan Alda

 

 

Contents

 

Part 1: Relating is Everything

  • 1     Relating: It's the Cake

    • Listening with eyes, ears, and feelings

    • Improvising

    • Responsive Listening

    • Listening and Willing Willing To Be Changed

    • Contagious Listening

  • 2     Theater Games with Engineers

    • (Viola Spolin improve games)

    • Communication as a Group Experience

  • 3     The Heart and Head of Communications

    • Empathy and Theory of Mind

      • "it's understanding what another person is feeling - what's usually called empathy - second, an awareness of what another person is thinking - what scientist call theory of Mind. " - Alan Alda

    • Empathy

      • "For years, I was a little leery of the notion of empathy. If I thought about it at all, it seemed to be a free-floating kind of sympathy. Or even a semi-fraudulent posture where you announce that you feel people's pain but don't necessarily feel anything. There seemed to be something slightly New Agey about it that was more rooted in a warm wish for community than in reality. And yet, we were getting these rich experience in improv classes that seemed to stem from developing a greater awareness of the other person's emotional state. The more I learned about what research sciences were doing, the more I came to see empathy as a necessary part of communication."  Alan Alda p24

    • Theory of Mind
  • 4 The Mirror Exercise  (An Exercise)
    • (Mirror Exercise Sample video) (An Exercise)
    • Verbal Sync
      • (mirroring one another's speech) (An Exercise)
    • Marching and Tapping

      • (Synchronized movements) (An Exercise)

    • Leaderless Sync

      • (Synchronized movements bring us together)  (An Exercise)

  • 5     Observations Games

    • Gibberish (idea: do empathy empathic listening in gibberish)

    • What's the Relationship?

      • "We can sense what they're feeling, and we can have greater awareness of what we ourselves are feeling. This is what is usually called empathy. I've come to see this connection with the other person as the bedrock of communicating. It's surprising how effective the ability to tune in to others can be?" Alan Alda

  • 6     Making it Clear and Vivid

  • 7     Reading Minds: Helen Riess and Matt Lerner

    • Helen Riess and Doctor-Patient Empathy

    • Swamped with Emotion: "Affective Quicksand'

    • Matt Lerner: Cognitive and Effective Empathy and the Autistic Spectrum

  • 8    Teams

    • Uri Alon

    • Yes And (An Exercise)

  • 9    Total Listening Starts with Where They Are

    • Leadership

  • 10  Listening from the Boardroom to the Bedroom

    • Selling

    • Social Awareness and The Empathic Strategy]

      • (Daniel Goleman)

    • Couples: Really Active Listening

    • Lessons From M*A*S*H and Music

    • Improv All Around

  • 11 Training Doctors to have More Empathy

     

 

Part 2: Getting Better at Reading Others

  • 12    My Life  As a Lab Rat

  • 13    Working Alone on Building Empathy

  • 14    Dark Empathy

  • 15   Reading the Mind of the Reader

  • 16   Teaching and the Flame Challenge

  • 17   Emotion Makes It Memorable

  • 18   Story and the Brain

  • 19   Commonality

  • 20   Jargon and the Curse of Knowledge

  • 21   The Improvisation of Daily Life''

 
 
 
 

Hitting The Empathy Gym With Alan Alda

by Johanna Mayer,
sciencefriday.com 

"Empathy is key to communicating science. Coach Alda is here to help you hit your reps.

So pack your bag, gym rats. Let’s pump some empathic iron.
 

“This is a strange thing, and I don’t understand it,” he said recently on Science Friday. “We have the capacity for empathy. It feels good when we exercise it. Things go so much better … yet it wears off after awhile, and I need a booster shot.”

Coach Alda’s Training Tips

1: Warm up properly. Don’t head straight for the heavy lifting....
2: Play ping pong, not archery...
3: Find a workout buddy....
4: Take a break for some chatting and socializing—and storytelling....
5: Practice. And don’t cheat on your reps...

 
 

Alan Alda: How Grow Your Empathy**


"The simple act of noticing someone's eye color can build your empathy, explains Alan Alda, who got so curious about empathy one day that he began to experiment on himself. Any time he'd interact with someone, he would try to figure out what they were feeling, and name their emotional state (using strictly his inside voice).

This exercise inspired psychologist Dr. Matthew Lerner to conduct a scientific study on empathy, and how it can be bolstered by practicing visual perception. Alda lists the benefits of paying more attention to the people you encounter each day as numerous: annoying people become easier to tolerate, discussions become more productive, you feel more relaxed, which is contagious to those around you—you can even become a better conversationalist and writer.

He is full of praise for the effect of empathy on communication, but not without caveat: he warns that empathy must be managed and edited in order to be a successful tool, otherwise it can work against you."


 

"Actor Alan Alda spends more of his time thinking about science these days, specifically how scientists can do a better job making their research relatable to the public. If you want to explain the Higgs boson, for example, maybe you should start with how excited researchers were to find evidence for its existence, rather than trying to explain what a Higgs field is.
 
Alda teaches scientists using theater improvisation and other empathy-building exercises.
 
In a new book, “If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?”, he shares his advice with the rest of us.

He and Ira talk about how to get inside your listener’s head and why you should try, whether the goal is to communicate better about science, or just to get along with other people...."

 
 

"I think empathy is a really important part of it. I don't think you can do good communication without having an awareness of what the other person is going though, especially emotionally." Alan Alda

 
 

Slate
"In his new book, the MASH star shares his hope for better communication between scientists and curious amateurs. Alan Alda’s new book is called If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? The title comes from his own bad experiences talking to doctors and other science professionals, including one that screwed up his smile for years. “We need to get people talking like people. … It’s all about empathy,” says the actor, who also founded the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University."

 
 

JUNE 14, 2017

"Alan Alda, famous for his role as M*A*S*H’s Hawkeye Pierce, has a new mission: to teach people how to communicate. That’s the subject of his new book, “If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look On My Face?,” which combines the latest research on communication with lessons from classical acting methods. Alda joins us to talk about his acting career and share advice from his latest project."
 


 

Alan Alda - Charlie Rose discuss Empathy and Communication
06/07/2017
Alan Alda introduces his latest book, “If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?: My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating."

"What I found, and this is really interesting, that you can get better at empathy. There are people that I have interviewed, who teach empathy, and one might thing that one is born with a certain amount of it and that is going to be it. And that turns out not to be true. "  Alan Alda

 

 

"What does it mean to be a true communicator? Two of the best, Academy Award-nominated actor Alan Alda and astrophysicist and science communicator Neil deGrasse Tyson discuss Alda’s new book, If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? It’s a guide to improving the way we relate to each other using improv games, storytelling, acting, empathy, science and our own innate abilities."

 

 

 

 Charlie Rose  (June 7, 2017)

Alan Alda on his scientific journey into communication and his latest book, "If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?: My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating." The full interview airs on PBS on Wednesday June 7, 2017.
 

 

 
 

Alda explains why empathy is crucial to successful science conversations, and describes his work at the Alan Alda Center For Communicating Science.

 
 


Alan Alda: How Grow Your Empathy
"The simple act of noticing someone's eye color can build your empathy, explains Alan Alda, who got so curious about empathy one day that he began to experiment on himself. Any time he'd interact with someone, he would try to figure out what they were feeling, and name their emotional state (using strictly his inside voice).

This exercise inspired psychologist Dr. Matthew Lerner to conduct a scientific study on empathy, and how it can be bolstered by practicing visual perception. Alda lists the benefits of paying more attention to the people you encounter each day as numerous: annoying people become easier to tolerate, discussions become more productive, you feel more relaxed, which is contagious to those around you—you can even become a better conversationalist and writer."

 

 

 Alan Alda: "you can get better at empathy" (June 7, 2017) | Charlie Rose
Alan Alda on his scientific journey into communication and his latest book, "If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?: My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating." The full interview airs on PBS on Wednesday June 7, 2017.