Alan Alda gets it. The famous actor was interviewed by Jeffrey Brown of the PBS News Hour on June 21 in his new role as an author. His book, entitled If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?, explores what he has learned about effective communication both as an actor and as a television host of a program making science accessible to the general public. Here is Alda’s summary of the key idea, taken directly from the interview transcript:
“What I think I found is, that it’s all based on a personal connection, that if I can sort of understand in some way, make some approximation of what you are thinking and feeling, it’s easier for me to get inside your head with my message.
“If I don’t know how you’re receiving it, if I can’t see how it’s landing on you, then I’m just spraying it at you. I’m just trying to pour it over your head, but I’m not really connecting with you.
“Well, that connection — this is what I don’t understand — that connection with another person feels so good. Why do we retreat from it? I don’t understand that.”
Indeed! Effective communication with you depends on my ability to have some approximation of what you are thinking and feeling. I’ve been shouting about this here for more than two years. Alda asks why we are retreating from it. Indeed! Why are we increasingly going online and remote, thereby undercutting the direct person-to-person key to effective communication?
Alda was speaking about communication in general, but it applies in spades to education, because only with effective communication can an educational mission succeed.
I haven’t read his book yet – it’s just out – but the message is clear. Education IS Conversation.
If you wish to see the interview or read a transcript, click here for the link.