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‘IF I UNDERSTOOD YOU, WOULD I HAVE THIS LOOK ON MY FACE?…’

‘… MY ADVENTURES IN THE ART AND SCIENCE OF RELATING AND COMMUNICATING’ part four

by Alan Alda
Published by Random House
ISBN: 9780812989144
eBook ISBN: 9780812989168
Copyright (c) 2017 by Mayflower Productions, Inc.

Buy the Book

 


“I lurched through a couple of questions about solar panels, but the interview was lame and halting. I was well into my third blunder: Just as I hadn’t been really relating to him in not responding to the look on his face, none of my responses grew out of what he was telling me. I wasn’t really listening to him when he answered my questions.

In fact, I hadn’t been listening in three different ways. When I’d told him he had made the panel with parts off the shelf, I was paying more attention to my own assumptions than I was to him. When I didn’t read his face, I wasn’t listening to his body language. And when my questions didn’t spring from what he was saying, I was disconnected from him. I was alone. How could the conversation have been anything but strained when I had shut myself up in my own head?

I was a little downcast by the experience. Where was the improvisational ability to listen and react that I knew how to do onstage, that I had been trained in and was so proud of? I cherished my experiences in improvising with other actors. Why wasn’t I doing it now?

IMPROVISING

Improvising on the stage is usually thought of as creating funny sketches on the spot, with no preparation. Most improvisation that audiences are exposed to is comedy improv, and that was my first experience with improvisation.

One summer in my early twenties, I was performing in a cabaret show, sunk in the basement of a hotel in Hyannis Port. The first act of our show was a set of sketches we had created in rehearsal through improvisation. There was no writing of funny lines; it was all developed through the spontaneous interactions of the actors. The only preparation beforehand was thinking about characters we could play, and figuring out the quirks they had that could be relied on no matter what the other actor tossed our way. We worked these sketches over many times in rehearsal, and, although they were derived through improvisation, we knew we had these surefire set pieces for the first half of the show.

The second half was much scarier.

Before the intermission, I would ask the audience to give us words or headlines from the news. Then we’d take this list of minimal prompts backstage, and for fifteen furious minutes we’d toss ideas back and forth.

“They gave us the word taxes,” I might say to Honey Shepherd (who went on, decades later, to play Carmela’s mother on The Sopranos). “How about if you do your Nice Old Lady being audited for her tax return?” Her character was sweet, reasonable, and totally antiwar.

When she got out on stage, if the tax auditor asked her why she hadn’t paid her taxes, Honey’s Nice Old Lady could be relied on to say something like “I don’t want to buy a bomb.” Which would lead to a tangled, logically illogical dialogue.

As we brainstormed the most minimal of premises for sketches, we ad no idea what we would actually do or say. We didn’t know where a sketch would go or how it would end. Whoever was offstage during a scene would have their hand on the light switch, and when something funny happened that sounded like a concluding moment, they’d flip the switch and we’d have the punctuation of a blackout.

In an improvised press conference, I would take on the persona of President John Kennedy, answering questions from journalists in the audience who had asked the same questions of the real John Kennedy in the same hotel that morning. His answers to their questions hadn’t made it into the newspapers yet, so I was flying completely blind.

It was easy to worry that we would fail and flame out in front of the audience.

As opening night approached, we felt a thrill that must be like the thrill that runs through a person’s tingling body just before he jumps off a bridge.

As scary as this kind of improvising was, there was excitement in not knowing what we would suddenly be doing during a show. It was exhilarating, but we were limited by two things: We had to be funny, and we had little or no training in improv. We were relying mainly on sheer guts.

A year or two later, though, I was introduced to a completely different form of improvising.

I was invited to join a workshop conducted by Paul Sills, who had founded Second City, the phenomenally successful improv company. We met twice a week on the Second City stage in downtown New York City. It was the same stage where skilled comedy improvisers would perform nightly, but in these sessions Paul introduced us to a completely different kind of work.

His mother, Viola Spolin, had done groundbreaking work in creating a kind of improvisation training that was rigorous and exacting, and that slowly built in actors the ability to connect with one another spontaneously. Comedy was not the objective. Cleverness and joke making were forbidden. Something else, something much more fundamental to theater, was being explored: a kind of relating that could lead to deeper, more affecting performances.

_________________________________________________________________

 

***** TABLE OF CONTENTS *****

INTRODUCTION

PART ONE: Relating Is Everything

1: Relating: It’s the Cake

2: Theater Games with Engineers

3: The Heart and Head of Communication

4: The Mirror Exercise

5: Observation Games

6: Making It Clear and Vivid

7: Reading Minds: Helen Riess and Matt Lerner

8: Teams

9: Total Listening Starts with Where They Are

10: Listening, from the Boardroom to the Bedroom

11: Training Doctors to Have More Empathy

PART TWO: Getting Better at Reading Others

12: My Life as a Lab Rat

13: Working Alone on Building Empathy

14: Dark Empathy

15: Reading the Mind of the Reader

16: Teaching and the Flame Challenge

17: Emotion Makes It Memorable

18: Story and the Brain

19: Commonality

20: Jargon and the Curse of Knowledge

21: The Improvisation of Daily Life”


FROM THE BOOK JACKET: 

Alan Alda has been on a decades-long journey to discover new ways to help people communicate and relate to one another more effectively. If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? is the warm, witty, and informative chronicle of how Alda found inspiration in everything from cutting-edge science to classic acting methods. His search began when he was host of PBS’s Scientific American Frontiers, where he interviewed thousands of scientists and developed a knack for helping them communicate complex ideas in ways a wide audience could understand–and Alda wondered if those techniques held a clue to better communication for the rest of us.

In his wry and wise voice, Alda reflects on moments of miscommunication in his own life, when an absence of understanding resulted in problems both big and small. He guides us through his discoveries, showing how communication can be improved through learning to relate to the other person: listening with our eyes, looking for clues in another’s face, using the power of a compelling story, avoiding jargon, and reading another person so well that you become “in sync” with them, and know what they are thinking and feeling–especially when you’re talking about the hard stuff.

Drawing on improvisation training, theater, and storytelling techniques from a life of acting, and with insights from recent scientific studies, Alda describes ways we can build empathy, nurture our innate mind-reading abilities, and improve the way we relate and talk with others. Exploring empathy-boosting games and exercises, If I Understood You is a funny, thought-provoking guide that can be used by all of us, in every aspect of our lives–with our friends, lovers, and families, with our doctors, in business settings, and beyond.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Alan Alda has earned international recognition as an actor, writer, and director. He has won seven Emmy Awards, has received three Tony nominations, is an inductee of the Television Hall of Fame, and was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in The Aviator. Alda played Hawkeye Pierce on the classic television series M*A*S*H, and his many films include Crimes and MisdemeanorsEveryone Says I Love YouManhattan Murder Mystery, and Bridge of Spies. Alda is an active member of the science community, having hosted the award-winning series Scientific American Frontiers for eleven years and founded the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University. Alda is the author of two previous bestselling books, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I’ve Learned and Things I Overheard While Talking To Myself.

This week’s selection ‘IF I UNDERSTOOD YOU, WOULD I HAVE THIS LOOK ON MY FACE?: MY ADVENTURES IN THE ART AND SCIENCE OF RELATING AND COMMUNICATING’ by Alan Alda ‘appears Monday thru Friday and comes to you courtesy of dearreader.com and BurlingtonPublicLibrary.ca Business Online Book Club.

Buy the Book

‘IF I UNDERSTOOD YOU, WOULD I HAVE THIS LOOK ON MY FACE?…’

‘… MY ADVENTURES IN THE ART AND SCIENCE OF RELATING AND COMMUNICATING’ part three

by Alan Alda
Published by Random House
ISBN: 9780812989144
eBook ISBN: 9780812989168
Copyright (c) 2017 by Mayflower Productions, Inc.

Buy the Book

 

“PART ONE

RELATING IS EVERYTHING

CHAPTER ONE

RELATING: IT’S THE CAKE

A couple of decades ago, a letter came in the mail that set me on a path that would not only bring me to a deeper understanding of that day with the dentist, but would actually change the direction of my life.

The letter was from a television producer, asking if I would be interested in hosting a show on PBS called Scientific American Frontiers. I was in love with science and had read every issue of the magazine Scientific American since I was a young man. It had been my only education in the subject. I was so excited I had to read the invitation twice. Scientific American! My alma mater! This would be a chance to actually learn from scientists themselves.

After a few minutes, though, I realized that the producers were probably only looking for someone well known to appear at the beginning of the show to introduce that week’s topic and then disappear to read an off-camera narration. That sounded like a lot less fun than talking to scientists, so I asked them if, instead, I could interview the scientists on camera. I knew if we’d be shooting interviews I’d spend the whole day with them—not just on camera but during the hours of setting up, having lunch, and wandering around their labs. I’d have a chance to learn something.

There was one minor hitch. I didn’t have much experience interviewing anybody, let alone scientists, so if the producers agreed, they’d be taking something of a chance on me.

I was, however, blissfully confident. I had taken over as guest host on talk shows a few times, but more than that, I thought that one of the tools of my profession ought to help: the ability to listen and react. Plus, I had been trained in improvisation, a particular kind of theater training—games and exercises that enable you to open up to another person, to tune in to them, to engage with them in a dance of ideas and feelings, and to go anywhere it takes you, together.

I’m sure the producers of Scientific American Frontiers weren’t as confident of all this as I was, but they decided to take a chance on me. We began shooting the series in 1993.

The first story we shot featured racing cars powered only by solar energy. We went out to the California State University, Los Angeles, and set up in a workshop where a scientist was working on a large solar panel. This would be my first actual science interview. John Angier, one of the producers, called me over and nodded in the direction of the scientist. Peter Hoving, the cameraman, lifted his camera and started rolling.

As I entered the room, I didn’t realize that this would be the beginning of more than twenty years of trying to figure out what makes communication work, getting beyond the impoverished ways of the barking dentist, looking for empathy and a deeper kind of listening in almost every part of my life. This moment would begin it all. But not only didn’t I realize this, I was vaguely aware that I didn’t really know what I was doing. I hesitated for a moment. John Angier nodded toward the scientist again and, with just a slight air of Well, this is what you wanted, he said, “Go on. Go in there and start talking.”

I walked over to the scientist, smiled confidently—and immediately made three huge blunders.

LISTENING WITH EYES, EARS, AND FEELINGS

My first blunder was assuming that I knew more than I did.

After a brief hello and a quick glance at his solar panel, I told the scientist how amazing it was that he had put all this together just using parts off the shelf. I saw his face tighten a little. “They’re not off the shelf,” he said, slightly offended. “We had to make a lot of them.” I saw the anxiety in his face, but I didn’t respond to it. I experienced a little anxiety of my own, but I ignored both his and mine. Instead, I made the next blunder with my body.

I reached out to the solar panel and laid my hand on it, assuming a bit of unearned familiarity. I saw something happen to his face again, but I kept going. Not content with touching the panel, I gave the thing an affectionate pat. “Amazing,” I said, hoping that time would pass more comfortably if I showed a measure of awe.

“Please don’t touch the panel,” he said. “You could ruin it.” The distress in his face was now very clear to me. I had seen it earlier, but somehow I had ignored it. I hadn’t been listening with my eyes.”


FROM THE BOOK JACKET: 

Alan Alda has been on a decades-long journey to discover new ways to help people communicate and relate to one another more effectively. If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? is the warm, witty, and informative chronicle of how Alda found inspiration in everything from cutting-edge science to classic acting methods. His search began when he was host of PBS’s Scientific American Frontiers, where he interviewed thousands of scientists and developed a knack for helping them communicate complex ideas in ways a wide audience could understand–and Alda wondered if those techniques held a clue to better communication for the rest of us.

In his wry and wise voice, Alda reflects on moments of miscommunication in his own life, when an absence of understanding resulted in problems both big and small. He guides us through his discoveries, showing how communication can be improved through learning to relate to the other person: listening with our eyes, looking for clues in another’s face, using the power of a compelling story, avoiding jargon, and reading another person so well that you become “in sync” with them, and know what they are thinking and feeling–especially when you’re talking about the hard stuff.

Drawing on improvisation training, theater, and storytelling techniques from a life of acting, and with insights from recent scientific studies, Alda describes ways we can build empathy, nurture our innate mind-reading abilities, and improve the way we relate and talk with others. Exploring empathy-boosting games and exercises, If I Understood You is a funny, thought-provoking guide that can be used by all of us, in every aspect of our lives–with our friends, lovers, and families, with our doctors, in business settings, and beyond.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Alan Alda has earned international recognition as an actor, writer, and director. He has won seven Emmy Awards, has received three Tony nominations, is an inductee of the Television Hall of Fame, and was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in The Aviator. Alda played Hawkeye Pierce on the classic television series M*A*S*H, and his many films include Crimes and MisdemeanorsEveryone Says I Love YouManhattan Murder Mystery, and Bridge of Spies. Alda is an active member of the science community, having hosted the award-winning series Scientific American Frontiers for eleven years and founded the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University. Alda is the author of two previous bestselling books, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I’ve Learned and Things I Overheard While Talking To Myself.

This week’s selection ‘IF I UNDERSTOOD YOU, WOULD I HAVE THIS LOOK ON MY FACE?: MY ADVENTURES IN THE ART AND SCIENCE OF RELATING AND COMMUNICATING’ by Alan Alda ‘appears Monday thru Friday and comes to you courtesy of dearreader.com and BurlingtonPublicLibrary.ca Business Online Book Club.

Buy the Book

‘IF I UNDERSTOOD YOU, WOULD I HAVE THIS LOOK ON MY FACE?…’

‘… MY ADVENTURES IN THE ART AND SCIENCE OF RELATING AND COMMUNICATING’ part two

by Alan Alda
Published by Random House
ISBN: 9780812989144
eBook ISBN: 9780812989168
Copyright (c) 2017 by Mayflower Productions, Inc.

Buy the Book

 

 

“After the movie shoot, I called him and explained with saintly patience that I made a living with my face and sometimes I needed one that could smile.

His response was curt. “I told you there were two steps to the procedure. I haven’t done the second step yet.” I was a little reluctant to let him do the second step. Maybe this time he’d have a go at the frenum under my tongue. I didn’t have many frena left, and he seemed to have an unnatural attraction to them.

A couple of weeks later, I got a letter from him that was formal and cold. No hint that he was anything like sorry that I was feeling a little mutilated. It was clear that the point of the letter was to lay out his defense and discourage a possible lawsuit. Until I saw the tone of his letter, I hadn’t even thought of suing (and I never did)—but if he wanted to avoid a suit, he was going about it in exactly the wrong way.

 The experience wasn’t all bad, though. For one thing, I learned to work around my frenum-less smile, and my new, slightly off-kilter grin enabled me to play a whole new set of villains. Even better, that moment in the dentist’s chair was useful in ways I wouldn’t understand at the time.

I’ve come to see my exchange with the dentist that day as something that happens frequently in life—a brief encounter that threatens a relationship’s delicate tissue, the tender frenum of friendship. I wasn’t looking for friendship that day, but at least I wanted the feeling that I was actually being seen by him. Even though his gaze was intense, I realized that as far as he was concerned I wasn’t really there—not as a person. If I was there at all, I was something on his checklist. He was speaking into the vague mist of interpersonal nothingness.

 Those few minutes I spent in his chair have become a symbol for me of really, really poor communication and of what causes it: disengagement from the person we hope will understand us. That disengagement can stand in the way of all kinds of happiness and success, from the world of business to the business of love.

Not being truly engaged with the people we’re trying to communicate with, and then suffering the snags of misunderstanding, is the grit in the gears of daily life.

It jams our relations with others when people don’t “get it,” when they don’t understand what we think is the simplest of statements.

You run a company and you think you are relating to your customers and employees, and that they understand what you’re saying, but they don’t, and both customers and employees are leaving you. You’re a scientist who can’t get funded because the people with the money just can’t figure out what you’re telling them. You’re a doctor who reacts to a needy patient with annoyance; or you love someone who finds ‘you’ annoying, because they just don’t get what you’re trying to say.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

For the last twenty years, I’ve been trying to understand why communicating seems so hard—especially when we’re trying to communicate something weighty and complicated. I started with how scientists explain their work to the public: I helped found the Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University in New York, and we’ve spread what we learned to universities and medical schools across the country and overseas.

 But as we helped scientists be clear to the rest of us, I realized we were teaching something so fundamental to communication that it affects not just how scientists communicate, but the way all of us relate to one another.

We were developing empathy and the ability to be aware of what was happening in the mind of another person.

This, we realized, is the key, the fundamental ingredient without which real communication can’t happen. Developing empathy and learning to recognize what the other person is thinking are both essential to good communication, and are what this book is about.

This is a personal story, too. It’s about what I’ve learned over the years as an actor that can help us all be clearer with one another, including about complicated things. Some of what I’ve learned has come from talking to smart people about their research, but much of it stems from the experience of standing face-to-face on stage with another actor. It’s changed the way I engage with other people in my daily life. And it can be learned by anyone, not just by those touched with a talent for acting. It’s an amazingly simple thing, a power we’re built to use, and yet too often ignore.

In acting, we call it relating.”


FROM THE BOOK JACKET: 

Alan Alda has been on a decades-long journey to discover new ways to help people communicate and relate to one another more effectively. If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? is the warm, witty, and informative chronicle of how Alda found inspiration in everything from cutting-edge science to classic acting methods. His search began when he was host of PBS’s Scientific American Frontiers, where he interviewed thousands of scientists and developed a knack for helping them communicate complex ideas in ways a wide audience could understand–and Alda wondered if those techniques held a clue to better communication for the rest of us.

In his wry and wise voice, Alda reflects on moments of miscommunication in his own life, when an absence of understanding resulted in problems both big and small. He guides us through his discoveries, showing how communication can be improved through learning to relate to the other person: listening with our eyes, looking for clues in another’s face, using the power of a compelling story, avoiding jargon, and reading another person so well that you become “in sync” with them, and know what they are thinking and feeling–especially when you’re talking about the hard stuff.

Drawing on improvisation training, theater, and storytelling techniques from a life of acting, and with insights from recent scientific studies, Alda describes ways we can build empathy, nurture our innate mind-reading abilities, and improve the way we relate and talk with others. Exploring empathy-boosting games and exercises, If I Understood You is a funny, thought-provoking guide that can be used by all of us, in every aspect of our lives–with our friends, lovers, and families, with our doctors, in business settings, and beyond.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Alan Alda has earned international recognition as an actor, writer, and director. He has won seven Emmy Awards, has received three Tony nominations, is an inductee of the Television Hall of Fame, and was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in The Aviator. Alda played Hawkeye Pierce on the classic television series M*A*S*H, and his many films include Crimes and MisdemeanorsEveryone Says I Love YouManhattan Murder Mystery, and Bridge of Spies. Alda is an active member of the science community, having hosted the award-winning series Scientific American Frontiers for eleven years and founded the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University. Alda is the author of two previous bestselling books, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I’ve Learned and Things I Overheard While Talking To Myself.

This week’s selection ‘IF I UNDERSTOOD YOU, WOULD I HAVE THIS LOOK ON MY FACE?: MY ADVENTURES IN THE ART AND SCIENCE OF RELATING AND COMMUNICATING’ by Alan Alda ‘appears Monday thru Friday and comes to you courtesy of dearreader.com and BurlingtonPublicLibrary.ca Business Online Book Club.

Buy the Book

‘IF I UNDERSTOOD YOU, WOULD I HAVE THIS LOOK ON MY FACE?…’

‘…MY ADVENTURES IN THE ART AND SCIENCE OF RELATING AND COMMUNICATING’ part one

by Alan Alda
Published by Random House
ISBN: 9780812989144
eBook ISBN: 9780812989168
Copyright (c) 2017 by Mayflower Productions, Inc.

Buy the Book


FROM THE BOOK JACKET: 

Alan Alda has been on a decades-long journey to discover new ways to help people communicate and relate to one another more effectively. If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? is the warm, witty, and informative chronicle of how Alda found inspiration in everything from cutting-edge science to classic acting methods. His search began when he was host of PBS’s Scientific American Frontiers, where he interviewed thousands of scientists and developed a knack for helping them communicate complex ideas in ways a wide audience could understand–and Alda wondered if those techniques held a clue to better communication for the rest of us.

In his wry and wise voice, Alda reflects on moments of miscommunication in his own life, when an absence of understanding resulted in problems both big and small. He guides us through his discoveries, showing how communication can be improved through learning to relate to the other person: listening with our eyes, looking for clues in another’s face, using the power of a compelling story, avoiding jargon, and reading another person so well that you become “in sync” with them, and know what they are thinking and feeling–especially when you’re talking about the hard stuff.

Drawing on improvisation training, theater, and storytelling techniques from a life of acting, and with insights from recent scientific studies, Alda describes ways we can build empathy, nurture our innate mind-reading abilities, and improve the way we relate and talk with others. Exploring empathy-boosting games and exercises, If I Understood You is a funny, thought-provoking guide that can be used by all of us, in every aspect of our lives–with our friends, lovers, and families, with our doctors, in business settings, and beyond.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Alan Alda has earned international recognition as an actor, writer, and director. He has won seven Emmy Awards, has received three Tony nominations, is an inductee of the Television Hall of Fame, and was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in The Aviator. Alda played Hawkeye Pierce on the classic television series M*A*S*H, and his many films include Crimes and MisdemeanorsEveryone Says I Love YouManhattan Murder Mystery, and Bridge of Spies. Alda is an active member of the science community, having hosted the award-winning series Scientific American Frontiers for eleven years and founded the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University. Alda is the author of two previous bestselling books, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I’ve Learned and Things I Overheard While Talking To Myself.


“INTRODUCTION

When it finally became clear to me that I often didn’t understand what people were telling me, I was on the road to somewhere good.

Some of the things they were trying to communicate were complicated, but that didn’t seem like a good reason why I didn’t understand them. If they could understand these things, why couldn’t I? An accountant would tell me about the tax code in a way that made no sense. A salesman would explain an insurance policy that didn’t seem to have a basis in reality. It wasn’t any consolation when I came to realize that pretty much everybody misunderstands everybody else. Maybe not all the time, and not totally, but just enough to seriously mess things up.

People are dying because we can’t communicate in ways that allow us to understand one another.

That sounds like an exaggeration, but I don’t think it is.

When patients can’t relate to their doctors and don’t follow their orders, when engineers can’t convince a town that the dam could break, when a parent can’t win the trust of a child enough to warn her off a lethal drug, they can all be headed for a serious ending.

This book is about what we can do about that; about how I learned what I believe is the essential key to good communication, and to relating to one another in a more powerful way. Surprisingly, I found that key in my training and experience as an actor, and it’s helped me teach others how to communicate better, especially about things that are difficult to talk about or hard to grasp.

IT ALL BEGAN WITH MY TOOTH

The dentist had the sharp end of the blade inches from my face.

It was only then that he chose to tell me what he was seconds away from doing to my mouth. “There will be some tethering,” he said.

I froze. Tethering? My mind was racing. What does he mean? How could the word tethering apply to my mouth? He seemed impatient and I didn’t want to annoy him, but he was, after all, about to put a scalpel in my mouth. I asked him what he meant by tethering. He looked surprised, as if I should know the meaning of a simple word. He began barking at me. “Tethering, tethering!” he said.

I was well over the age of fifty, and certainly old enough to ask him to put the knife down and answer a few questions. But there he was in his priestly surgeon’s gown, and getting increasingly impatient. “Okay,” I said, a little too accommodatingly. Then he put the scalpel into my mouth and cut.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was a watershed moment for me.

For the rest of my life, I would be living with the results of these few seconds of poor communication—in ways that were both good and bad.

First the bad: A few weeks later, I was acting in a movie. The camera was in close on me as I smiled. A relaxed, happy smile. After the take, the director of photography came over, looking puzzled, and said, “Why were you sneering? I thought you were supposed to smile.”

“I’ was smiling,” I said.

“Nooo. Sneering,” he said.

I looked in a mirror and smiled. I was sneering.

My upper lip drooped lazily over my teeth, and no matter how I tried I couldn’t form an actual smile. The problem was my frenum. I no longer had one.

In case you’re not familiar with your frenum, it’s just above your front teeth, between the gum and the inside of the upper lip. If you put your tongue at the top of your gums above your front teeth, you’ll feel a slim bit of connective tissue, or at least you will if a barking dentist hasn’t been in your mouth. The tissue is called the maxillary labial frenum, and he had severed mine.

The procedure was one he had invented. It enabled him to pull a flap of gum tissue down over the socket of the front tooth he had extracted. The idea was to give the socket a fresh blood supply while it healed. He was proud of his invention and it seemed perfectly suitable for the gum’s blood supply, but not so good for using my face in movies. Without my frenum, my upper lip just hung there like a scalloped drape in the window of an old hotel.”

This week’s selection ‘IF I UNDERSTOOD YOU, WOULD I HAVE THIS LOOK ON MY FACE?: MY ADVENTURES IN THE ART AND SCIENCE OF RELATING AND COMMUNICATING’ by Alan Alda ‘appears Monday thru Friday and comes to you courtesy of dearreader.com and BurlingtonPublicLibrary.ca Business Online Book Club.

Buy the Book

‘THE TRANSFORMATIONAL CONSUMER: FUEL A LIFELONG LOVE AFFAIR WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS…’

‘…BY HELPING THEM GET HEALTHIER, WEALTHIER, AND WISER’ part five

 by Tara-Nicholle Nelson
Published by Berrett-Koehler Publishers
ISBN: 9781626568839
eBook ISBN: 9781626568846
Copyright (c) 2017 by Tara-Nicholle Nelson

Buy the Book


”And Transformational Consumers are responding. They engage in love affairs with the companies that help them change their lives, their habits, their bodies, and their finances for the better all the time. But these love affairs don’t always look the way you might expect. Brand-love, affinity, or sentiment metrics begin to capture the emotion of this phenomenon, but they do little to reveal the profound business impact of the “love” of a Transformational Consumer.

Some of those love affairs are wild and rollicking and sexy. The love of some Transformational Consumers for lululemon gear or SoulCycle spin classes is something they proudly proclaim, literally wearing their hearts on their sleeves (and headbands and pant legs). This doesn’t mean these relationships are necessarily short-term infatuations. Rather, the branding and subject matter and life-improving impact of these brands has enough power and cachet that people tend to talk about them, a lot.

But many Transformational Consumer love affairs with the products that make their lives healthier, wealthier, and wiser look much more like a long, lovely, devoted marriage than a heady entanglement. Customers may not wander about starry-eyed or head over heels, but they do read the blog every day. They do open the newsletters. They do share the content. They do buy or use the product every day, week, month, or every time it becomes relevant in their lives. They do tell their friends, when asked, what their go-to budget or online learning software is and who their go-to real estate broker, life coach, CPA, or insurance agent is.

I may not go about wearing T-shirts proclaiming my love for my go-to protein powder, but I buy it every month.

Unprecedented growth, beating the competition, lifelong customer loyalty, and word-of-mouth referrals: that’s what it looks like when Transformational Consumers engage in lifelong love affairs with the companies that help them change their lives.

How to Use This Framework

Leaders, brands, and companies use the Transformational Consumer framework to get clear direction and answers to the kinds of questions that executive teams struggle with regularly:

* What products should we build or invest in next?

* Will this marketing, message, content, or campaign resonate with people? What messages will work?

* What features do our customers really want—and will they want next year or three years from now?

* How should we take this product to market? How should we package and market it?

* Where are our customers, and what do they care about? 

* Why are our customers disengaged, and what should we do about it?

It provides direction on some of the big, strategic questions to ask and clear direction for how to answer them: 

* What is the human-scale problem we aim to solve, as a company?

* What do we have to do over and over in order to achieve the impact we want to have on the world?

* Should we focus on growth, engagement, or both, and which teams should be held to account for these objectives?

* How might we drive innovation here, on an ongoing basis?

And it also translates into more tactical guidance for R&D, product launches, and marketing campaigns:

* How can we reach our audiences? Who are they, where are they, and what messages will resonate with them?

* How can we create lifelong relationships with customers? 

How to Use This Book

First, I’ll introduce you to the Transformational Consumer in a lot more depth. I’ll help you to understand exactly why it’s so important that you continue to study, reach, and engage these people. The business case for behavior change is a compelling one. 

Then I’ll issue a call to action, a call to adventure, really, to you as a business leader.

The last half of the book is the change-management section. That’s where you’ll learn how to embark on the journey of actually reorienting your company to transcend the transactional by focusing on serving the Transformational Consumer. I will walk you through the process of elevating the way your teams think about five elemental focus points of your business: your customer, what you sell, your marketing, your competition, and your team. 

All along the way, I’ll share stories, case studies, insightful data, and tools for asking higher-level questions and getting transformative answers.

This excerpt ends on page 9 of the hardcover edition.


FROM THE BOOK JACKET: 

The Transformational Consumer

They are the most valuable, least understood customers of our time. They buy over $4 trillion in life-improving products and services every year. If you serve their deeply human need to continually improve their lives, they will eagerly engage with your brand at a time when most people are tuning out corporate messages. 

They are Transformational Consumers, and no one knows them like Tara-Nicholle Nelson. Her Transformational Consumer insights powered her work at MyFitnessPal, which grew from 40 million to 100 million users in her time there. 

Nelson takes readers on a hero’s journey to connecting with customers in ways both profitable and transformational. After going inside the brains, emotions, and behaviors of Transformational Consumers, Tara issues a call to adventure: a rallying cry to leaders to shift their focus from simply making products to solving their customers’ problems. 

Nelson uses stories and cases studies from every industry to guide readers through this journey in five stages, shedding light on how to rethink their customers, their products and services, their marketing, their competition, and even their culture. 

The key to growing a business today is not building an app or getting new social media followers. The key is engaging people over and over again by triggering their deep, human desire for growth and transformation.

When a company reorients every initiative to serve Transformational Consumers, it kick-starts a lifelong love affair with its customers—a love affair that results in unprecedented revenue growth, product innovation, and employee engagement. 


AUTHOR INFO: 

Tara-Nicholle Nelson is the founder and CEO of Transformational Consumer Insights. She is the former vice president of marketing for MyFitnessPal, now part of Under Armour, where her teams covered brand, growth, engagement, content and digital/social media, and media relations. She holds a masters degree in psychology and a juris doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley, and is the board president of City Slicker Farms, a nonprofit food justice organization in West Oakland.

This week’s selection ‘THE TRANSFORMATIONAL CONSUMER: FUEL A LIFELONG LOVE AFFAIR WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS BY HELPING THEM GET HEALTHIER, WEALTHIER, AND WISER’ by Tara-Nicholle Nelson ‘appears Monday thru Friday and comes to you courtesy of dearreader.com and BurlingtonPublicLibrary.ca Business Online Book Club.

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