Actor Alan Alda is on a mission to help scientists make their research more relatable to the public. He even co-founded an organization at New York’s Stony Brook University, the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, to get the message out.
Alda’s insights are drawn from decades spent getting inside the heads of audiences. Some of the techniques he suggests for scientists may seem strange at first, like trying to speak in sync with another person, or explain to middle-schoolers what a flame is. But according to Alda, there’s really one simple ingredient to effective communication, no matter who you are. It’s empathy.
“The other person, the person you’re trying to communicate with, is the one you have to focus on,” he says. “Not what you want to say — what you want them to know. You’ve got to know who they are, where they are in their head while you’re communicating with them.”
You can’t always know what your audience is thinking, he admits. But he wants you to give it a try. “Whet