We're all aware of my feelings for Alan Alda. Man's got heart. So it only makes sense that I'd read his latest book. He actually did a signing at Barnes and Noble for this one, but I couldn't make it 'cause of work. In retrospect, I should've just called in sick. I will meet this gem of a man one day and it will be wonderful. Anyway, onto the book!
All right, so this isn't your typical Alda book. In other words, it's in no way autobiographical. It's about communication and empathy, essentially. And at first that really bummed me out 'cause I was expecting it to be another memoir filled with stories and anecdotes. This is not that. It was, however, something I would've never finished had it not been written with his voice. Thoughts ahead.
- I mean, c'mon. The dedication to his wife? How can something be so loving and succinct at the same bloody time!? Love this guy.
- "I was starting to think of the possible failure of the study as a public service, and we hadn't even begun it yet. In science, as in art, I thought, you only arrive at success after you run the gauntlet of failures. People should be aware of that. I'd be glad to write about the failure of this idea."
- I really have to try meditation again. I always attempt it briefly and then get side-tracked or busy or a dozen other excuses. I really want to maintain it as an activity in my life. Can't remember what part in the book mentioned it, but he obviously spoke of it lovingly.
- There was also a chapter that went into detail about this one thing that sounds kind of stupid at first. But a study was done that essentially if you lock eyes with a dog and maintain that eye contact for longer than a few seconds or so, the dog will feel more of a bond with you and trust you easier. From there, the study went on to suggest that doing that, actively, with a person you're close with will only strengthen your bond with that person. Especially over time. So what you're supposed to do is start with staring into someone's eyes for ten seconds one day, then thirty seconds the next day, and just add more time as each day goes on. I sort of forgot about this experiment, but I did try it for ten seconds after begging Nathan to try it with me. It's definitely weird at first, but I could see it becoming stronger the more you do it. I really want to try it again to see what would happen and I encourage you to as well if you're so inclined.
- There's this "Reading The Mind In The Eyes" test that you can take online to test your empathy levels that was pretty fun. (I got 26/36, which was surprising, I thought I'd do way better.)
- "There are times we know what the rational action should be, but don't take it until we consider what the other person is feeling. I know, in my own life, I sometimes respond to a question with an answer that isn't really helpful. "Have you seen the can opener?" is not fully answered by saying, "No, I haven't seen it." The other person is still at a loss. I know it seems obvious, but sometimes remembering what it feels like to be facing a can without an opener can produce a little spark of empathy. If I respond to that spark, I might add a few words: "Maybe it's in that other drawer with the soup spoons." Boom. I'm cooperating, and the spurt of reward hormones in my brain is a sign it's been worth the effort. But as good as those reward hormones feel, 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."
- "But genuine humor and true, open laughter almost always lead to engagement. As Larry Cahill said, quoting the great Danish comedian Victor Borge, "Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.""
- "Not being able to communicate is the Siberia of everyday life - a place that, crazily, we often send ourselves to."
It was actually a really great book and I'm so glad I finished it. This man can write about anything and engage absolutely any reader.