Alan Alda on Learning to Relate to Communicate

This episode is sponsored by Gusto.

Seven-time Emmy Award winner and Academy nominee Alan Alda—known for his role on TV classic M*A*S*H—wants to improve how we as people communicate. His recently released book, If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?, explores his journey to become a better communicator. Alda’s fascination with communication began in his early years as an actor, but his instrumental work with the Center for Communicating Sciences at Stoney Brook University has brought the science of communication full circle for him. Alda sits down with SUCCESS Editor-in-Chief Josh Ellis to discuss why humans struggle to communicate, the importance of listening and his advice for how we can improve.

This interview appears in the January 2018 issue of SUCCESS magazine

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  • Alda says the tenets of improvisation can help improve your communication:
    • Establishing a relationship with the other person by listening and receiving what they’re saying
    • Role playing and exercises that rely on receiving what someone’s saying, adding to it and offering it back to the other person
    • Relating, a classic acting term that means letting the other person affect your every response
    • Using empathy to read how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking
    • Practicing “active listening” by taking in information from the other person and reacting to it.

Favorite quote from this episode:

“Communication is thought of as formulating the best message you can. [But] you have to observe the other person …and listen better. You can’t have communication without listening.”

— Alan Alda

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Josh Ellis is the former editor in chief for SUCCESS magazine. Before joining SUCCESS in 2012, he was an accomplished digital and print sportswriter, working for the Dallas Cowboys Star magazine, the team’s gameday program, and Originally from Longview, Texas, he began writing for his hometown newspaper at 16.

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