We Were Built to Connect with Other People—Here’s How to Be Better At It

Before you follow another "tip" or "trick," there's something Alan Alda wants you to know.

Mind & Brain

Alan Alda doesn't want you to take "pro tips" from anyone—not even Alan Alda. When it comes to his area of expertise—public speaking and empathetic communication—there are no hacks or shortcuts; if you want to be a world-class public speaker, you have to earn those stripes through the process of deeply understanding what it is to talk, listen, and connect. Alda calls tips intellectual abstractions; it's akin to the difference between information and knowledge, between parroting a few words in French and speaking the actual language. But, when pushed by yours truly at Big Think, Alda does give up the goods (willingly—we promise no Alan Aldas were harmed in the making of this video). His best tip to become a better communicator is what he calls the three rules of three. Listen to his practical hints for becoming a communication pro but, as he remarks, try to get there organically through the process. Alan Alda's most recent book is If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?

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Your mind thinks in stories. Tell better ones to get ahead.

Knowing how to tell a good story is like having mind control. Alan Alda shares some incredible tips for captivating a crowd—or nailing your next job interview.

Personal Growth

People who are natural storytellers make it look easy, but cut to the moment you're in the hot seat—at an interview, a conference, or even in a social setting—and suddenly the suave-ness is not so forthcoming. So what is the key to telling a story that grips a crowd, and takes them emotionally from point A to point B? This has been a point of focus for actor and author Alan Alda throughout his career, and here he draws on two examples from his life: the first about a brilliant nano-scientist who couldn't get anyone to care about his breakthrough invention until he let slip that it was a total accident; and the second is a simple but astounding demonstration that involves a person carrying a glass of water across a stage. Not exactly riveting? Watch and learn, young grasshopper. Alan Alda's most recent book is If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?

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How to Grow Your Empathy Through Better Visual Perception

"We don't notice one another nearly as much as we think we do," says Alan Alda. Here's how the actor inspired a scientific study on empathy.

Surprising Science

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. Alda has summarized his adventures in the art and science of communication in his book If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?

Good Communication Is Much More than the Words You Use—Take It from Alan Alda

Communication is more than a string of words that gets across static information. The language we use to converse does more than give facts—it can actually offer understanding.

Culture & Religion

Communication is more than a string of words that gets across static information. The language we use to converse does more than give facts—it can actually offer understanding. Take it from Alan Alda, a career actor whose craft thrives on effective communication through openness and emotional availability. When Alda isn't on set, he is working to help people communicate more effectively. Through the Alan Alda Center for Communication Science, he helps people understand techniques, like mirroring, that can be deployed to enhance communication. While certain tools of language, like jargon, can facilitate more efficient communication between individuals who share a specialized lexicon, they can also confuse the non-initiated. Alda has summarized his adventures in in the art and science of communication in his book, If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?.