Discussing Alan Alda’s If I Understood You Would I Have This Look on My Face

A couple of months ago I posted a review of Alan Alda’s book, If I Understood You Would I Have This Look on My Face: My Adventures in the Art and Science of Communicating. (See my review.)I chose that book for the book club I’m in with my husband, and the group met to talk about it last weekend. The take away? Most of us enjoyed reading the book and got tips on communicating. There were a few who thought Alda made his points with too much repetition, although I believed that enhanced the possibility of retention. In any case, the text made for a lively discussion with activities thrown in to add to the fun.

We started off with a few improv activities discussed in the book. Gathering in a circle, we created imaginary balls of varying sizes and weights and tossed or rolled them to each other.

Book club game photo

Playing improv games on the lawn

Then we changed to a game and one of us created an object  by shaping it with her hands. The next person in the circle had to decide what that object was and create something that matched. We did that twice. First we created musical instruments, including a violin, a bass, a trombone and a harp. Next we created yard tools, such as a shovel, a rake, clippers, and a post-hole digger.

At first everyone groaned about playing the games, but by the time we got going, we were all laughing and having fun. I had a few other games to try, but we ran out of time before we needed to move on to discussion.

Book club group photo

Getting ready for discussion.

Discussion was also interesting and again, I had more questions than we could get to in our time together. Here are some questions to consider discussing if your book club reads this book.

  • What did you like about the book?
  • What did you dislike?
  • Does Alda make his case that communication is both an art and a science? Why or why not?
  • Alda says that communicating is “the job of the communicator. If you don’t understand something I say, it’s my job to communicate it better.” Talk about an experience when you had difficulty understanding something because it was poorly communicated. Share a time when you could have communicated something better.
  • How can the tools in this book help you communicate better?
  • What role do you feel empathy has had in your life, both personally and professionally?
  • Have you noticed any difference in your interactions with people since reading this book? If so, talk about some of them.
  • How do you think being aware of the dark side of empathy can help you be less susceptible to manipulation?



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