Talking to Strangers

The Highly Anticipated New Book From Malcolm Gladwell, No International Bestselling Author Of The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, What The Dog Saw And David And Goliath In July , A Young Black Woman Named Sandra Bland Was Pulled Over For A Minor Traffic Violation In Rural Texas Minutes Later She Was Arrested And Jailed Three Days Later, She Committed Suicide In Her Cell What Went Wrong Talking To Strangers Is All About What Happens When We Encounter People We Don T Know, Why It Often Goes Awry, And What It Says About UsHow Do We Make Sense Of The Unfamiliar Why Are We So Bad At Judging Someone, Reading A Face, Or Detecting A Lie Why Do We So Often Fail To Get Other People Through A Series Of Puzzles, Encounters And Misunderstandings, From Little Known Stories To Infamous Legal Cases, Gladwell Takes Us On A Journey Through The Unexpected You Will Read About The Spy Who Spent Years Undetected At The Highest Levels Of The Pentagon, The Man Who Saw Through The Fraudster Bernie Madoff, The Suicide Of The Poet Sylvia Plath And The False Conviction Of Amanda Knox You Will Discover That Strangers Are Never SimpleNo One Shows Us Who We Are Like Malcolm Gladwell Here He Sets Out To Understand Why We Act The Way We Do, And How We All Might Know A Little About Those We Don TTalking to Strangers

Malcolm Gladwell is the author of five New York Times bestsellers The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, What the Dog Saw, and David and Goliath He is also the co founder of Pushkin Industries, an audio content company that produces the podcasts Revisionist History, which reconsiders things both overlooked and misunderstood, and Broken Record, where he, Rick Rubin, and Bruce Headlam interview musici

[BOOKS] ⚦ Talking to Strangers  ✫ Malcolm Gladwell –
  • Hardcover
  • 400 pages
  • Talking to Strangers
  • Malcolm Gladwell
  • English
  • 07 September 2019
  • 9780316478526

10 thoughts on “Talking to Strangers

  1. says:

    As I sat at the airport, head deep in a book, I suddenly heard, Hi What To my left stood a handsome man I just thought I should say hi since I see you re reading Talking to Strangers I too thought Malcolm Gladwell s new book was going to teach me how to literally talk with people I don t know, but as always he turns all my assumptions on their head with this book If that s what the book was about, that stranger and I might be on a date by now If I can convince you of one thing in this book, let it be this Strangers are not easy We think we can easily see into the hearts of others based on the flimsiest of clues.At the 2019 book conference BookExpo America, Malcolm pointed out that the problems exemplified by the death of Sandra Bland, a black woman arrested by a white policeman, are everywhere, not just in the darkest areas of America It lies not only with these individuals but within each of us In his book, he takes huge scandals and who doesn t love to read about a scandal , reaches deep inside like you would your skinniest jeans and then pulls them inside out Except that when he does this, you suddenly realize your jeans had actually been inside out before It is mind bending, which means that you have to follow along to at least page 54 before you start to understand where Malcolm is going You will either find this too convoluted to keep going at some point or you will read it all in one sitting, as I did flying from NY to CA My one frustration with this book is that at the very end Malcolm spends only 2 pages 2 saying what we should do about all he just taught us After speeding through the book, that feels like an abrupt stop On the other hand, I can t stop thinking about what he reveals along the way I can t unsee what he has shown me and now my framework of looking at the world is different And isn t that the mission of any good book SPOILER ALERT For those of you who don t keep reading the book, here are my key insights But to really understand what happened in cases like Fidel Castro s fooling of the CIA, the deceptions of Bernie Madoff, the trial of Amanda Knox, the suicide of Sylvia Plath, the Jerry Sandusky pedophilia scandal, and the death of Sandra Bland you need to read the whole book 1 THE DEFAULT TO TRUTH PROBLEM We do not behave, in other words, like sober minded scientists, slowing gathering evidence of the truth or falsity of something before reaching a conclusion We do the opposite We start by believing And we stop believing only when our doubts and misgivings rise to the point where we can no longer explain them away.For a very few, there is no high threshold before doubts turn into disbelief dishonesty and stupidity is everywhere In Russian folklore, this archetype is called yurodivy, the Holy Fool We should be strategically inserting these people where our society has a blind eye, to be whistle blowers, however we don t want these to blanket their judgement on everyone While we think we want our guardians to be alert to every suspicion, that is actually key to where the police officer so tragically failed Sandra Bland It wasn t that he didn t do what he was trained to do, but that he did exactly what he was trained to do He was taught to blanket perfectly innocent people with suspicion in case of the rare instance of a criminal This kind of thinking leads to the distrust we see between police and the community today To assume the best of another is the trait that has created modern society Those occasions when our trusting nature is violated are tragic But the alternative to abandon trust as a defense against predation and deception is worse.2 THE TRANSPARENCY PROBLEM Transparency is a myth. How people are feeling inside often does NOT perfectly match how they appear on the outside, which means we are misjudging other s intentions This doesn t matter as much with close friends where you understand what their idiosyncratic expressions mean I had a friend who would often abruptly get up and leave Other people would think she was very angry at something someone had said, but I saw nothing wrong because I could tell she wasn t angry at all When we are confronted with a stranger, we have to substitute an idea a stereotype for direct experience And that stereotype is wrong all too often. However while this strategy for dealing with strangers is deeply flawed, it is also socially necessary The requirement of humanity means that we have to tolerate an enormous amount of error That is the paradox of talking to strangers We need to talk to them But we re terrible at it we re not always honest with each other about just how terrible at it we are 3 THE MISMATCH PROBLEM We are bad lie detectors in those situations when the person we re judging is mismatched. A mismatch is where someone s level of truthfulness does NOT correspond with the way they look I think someone is honest based on how they look and act but in actuality they are lying and I can t tell the difference Malcolm dissects the case of Brock Turner, where because these two strangers were blind drunk, myopia removed the highest order constraint on their behavior Myopia makes it hard to consider the long term consequences, so a sexually aggressive teenager s impulses are no longer kept in check by an understanding of how inappropriate those behaviors are and the long term risks of those behaviors Combine that with mismatching and transparency problems and it s a disaster If you want people to be themselves in a social encounter with a stranger to represent their own desires honestly and clearly then they can t be blind drunk 4 THE COUPLING PHENOMENON The first set of mistakes we make with strangers have to do with our inability to make sense of the stranger as an individual But there s a second category of error that has to do with our inability to appreciate the context in which the stranger operates Coupling is the idea that behaviors are linked to very specific circumstances and conditions.For instance, both crime and suicides are coupled tied to very specific places and contexts Outside of those places and contexts, the rate of both go down drastically That means when you confront the stranger, you have to ask yourself where and when you re confronting the stranger because those two things powerfully influence your interpretation of who the stranger is.SO WHAT SHOULD WE DO We could start by no longer penalizing each other for defaulting to truth We should also accept the limits of our ability to decipher strangers But far important than a little grace and humility over what we cannot do, we should be clear about what we can do There are clues to making sense of the stranger But attending to them requires humility and thoughtfulness and a willingness to look beyond the stranger, and take time and place and context into account Malcolm Gladwell was motivated by a need to understand the truth of what happened with Sandra Bland and other recent scandals His conclusion is that the truth is not some hard and shiny object that can be extracted if only we dig deep enough and look hard enough The thing we want to learn about a stranger is fragile just by stressing someone out you can affect their memory of what happened We need to accept that the search to understand a stranger has real limits We will never know the whole truth We have to be satisfied with something short of that The right way to talk to strangers is with caution and humility.Because we do not know how to talk to strangers, what do we do when things go awry with strangers We blame the stranger.

  2. says:

    I always feel lucky when I get to read a book before its official publication date A fascinating, accessible examination of the miscommunications that can arise when we talk to strangers We re going to interview Malcolm Gladwell for the Happier podcast, can t wait for that.

  3. says:

    I m glad that those nice people at Goodreads chose me randomly to receive an old school paper copy of this book, free of charge It will be a novel feeling to actually have read a controversial book before it hits the shelves and generates the predictably shallow hot takes in the few moments before the world s attention moves onto something else.Perhaps I m engaging in a display of unwarranted optimism to think that a mere book can have an effect on the way people think, but this is what Talking to Strangers attempts to do, to its credit I lump this book in with two others I ve read recently see here and here which champion or criticize attempts to find third way solutions to our problems This pretty damn eccentric book actually only directly addresses its main issue in the initial and concluding five percent or so of the text The rest is a long trip through apparently at first unrelated phenomena including Cuba US relations, Amanda Knox, and waterboarding before returning to the main point.Reading books about third ways is an exercise in optimism, because third way books imply that there are always new and interesting ways to look at old problems In addition, as the Long Suffering Wife LSW recently said, Reading Malcolm Gladwell always makes you feel smart Since I suffer a chronic deficit of optimism, I am constantly mainlining any literature which seems to say that the world could be a better place, non fiction or no.The issue which gets the third way treatment here is the alarming number of police traffic stops in the US which end up with someone usually the driver of the car dead This is a problem which is ripe for a third way analysis, because as it stands now it seems like you either must be in the tribe that says Police are racists or the tribe that says Liberals are apologists for criminals.I admire Gladwell for defying the large number of people who are so vested in one of these orthodoxies that he will no doubt find, for years to come, his Twitter feed polluted with poorly proofread denunciations of everything he has ever done or said.Sometimes Gladwell demonstrates an obvious truth so clearly that you are almost ashamed to be surprised by it, like when he describes an psychology experiment which demonstrates that while most of us regard ourselves as creatures of unknowable complexity and depth of character, we also tend to engage in ridiculous reductions of the personalities of others into easy to dismiss stereotypes based on the flimsiest of evidence.On the other hand, reading Gladwell means spending a lot of time saying to yourself, Hey, wait a minute, what about fill in thing you know a little something about here For example, Gladwell has a long chapter about someone who managed to be a mole for Cuban intelligence in the US bureaucracy for many years Having toiled in the vineyards of the sprawling federal bureaucracy myself, I felt that Gladwell missed some very important details about how people act there, and why Without getting into too much spoiler ish detail, I think Gladwell doesn t really understand the intensity with which fecal matters rains down on those who rock the boat here in the nation s capital, a factor that certainly influenced the events he narrates Overall, though, I was very happy to have been gifted this smart book and look forward to seeing if the world can, for once, defy my grouchy pessimism and actually allow a mere book to increase the amount of understanding in world and improve how we live.

  4. says:

    Thanks so much for choosing me as winner in the giveaway I loved this book I always thought about the disparity of meeting someone who seemed so nice and someone you wanted to develop a friendship or relationship with, only to have an opposite view shortly after Did I misjudge Am I too picky, critical and judgmental Are they really a sociopath This book explains a lot of that thru mismatching, which is basically how someone appears at a given time as opposed to who they really are Another theory in misjudging strangers is the fact that some people appear to be not nice , guilty or some other trait which many would deem as a red flag that proves false Not everybody who is sad cries, not everyone who big hearted is a smiley face.High recommended reading A

  5. says:

    Malcolm Gladwell s latest foray into human folly is its seemingly innate trust in strangers We assume strangers are transparent, and can take what they do and say at face value Sometimes we are wrong, but assuming everyone is evil is far worse Talking To Strangers focuses mostly on a number of very high profile criminal cases we are all likely to be familiar with They include the Amanda Knox case, the Jerry Sandusky case, the Brock Turner case, the Sandra Bland case, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, and the Bernie Madoff case Gladwell looks at them differently He looks at them not from simple guilt or innocence, but from the misread signals that have surrounded them The result can be a ruined life, prison or even death, unearned On the other side the investigator side , they can result in self delusion, missed opportunities and complete wastes of time achieving nothing It s an imperfection he exploits repeatedly throughout the book.It all hinges on the notion of transparency, what people assume about strangers just by looking at them Judges make decision about bail, college students make decisions about having sex, investigators make assumptions about guilt all just by looking and talking to strangers Gladwell shows we do pretty poorly, especially compared to machines given raw data Systems have a far better record of assigning or withholding bail, for example Judges, even after decades of experience, fool themselves daily.There is a side trip into coupling, where people fixate on something In his chapter on the suicide of Sylvia Plath, he examines the role of town gas, saturated with carbon monoxide, which was the favorite method of suicide until it was phased out in favor of natural gas As it disappeared, the suicide rate plunged If people didn t have their town gas, they didn t kill themselves They did not, as expected, look for alternatives It was town gas, or nothing Similarly, the Golden Gate Bridge is a favorite suicide tool, even though faster and easier methods are readily available.Gladwell discovers that different cultures appreciate facial expressions differently There are no real universals He finds that people default to trusting others unless they know them already Otherwise we would all be like television Vikings, constantly killing each other for lack of trust.Talking To Strangers feels incomplete and unsatisfying It s no news to anyone that first impressions might not prove correct It s why it takes five to ten years for a marriage to break up, or months for a teenage relationship How people we thought we knew could turn out to be evil on some level We feel betrayed but we betrayed ourselves Suspension of disbelief a term Gladwell does use at any point in the book means we ignore the defects and faults we are presented with, and assume the best for this stranger Later, those same faults become intolerable But we know this.Oddly, he does not examine American gun culture as substitute for this normal transparency and trust.He discovers that alcohol doesn t reveal, it transforms There are good drunks and bad drunks, good trips and bad trips The real you is not revealed by alcohol you become a stranger to yourself We drink so much per session today that blackouts have become common and even measurable and predictable Drink too much and your brain shuts down so you remember nothing You leave yourself in the hands of a complete stranger yourself This is also not news.Still and as usual, Gladwell is easy to read He packs his pages with these fascinating sidelights, and confirms much of what we have always suspected Too trusting is being gullible Non trusting means a monster.The most clear and chilling example he gives was the Ana Montes case, in which a Cuban intelligence mole worked her way up through the US security establishment with such great accomplishments and accolades that no one suspected her, despite the gigantic clues and traceable events Leaks followed her everywhere It was a case of suspension of disbelief as clear and dramatic as a teenager watching a terrible sci fi flick The CIA counterintelligence officer in charge, who finally outed her and stopped the hemorrhaging, kicks himself for not putting 2 2 together years earlier The best quote comes in the Khalid Sheik Mohammed case Years of torture, both physical and psychological led Mohammed to finally confess He confessed to pretty much everything in the world The investigators began to think he was puffing himself up for posterity, knowing under no circumstances would he ever be set free It made them as so many have before them rethink torture Trying to get information out of someone you are sleep depriving is sort of like trying to get a better signal out of a radio that you are smashing with a sledgehammer It makes no sense to me at all But we carry on, regardless Gladwell has great command of his thoughts He handles his subject with comfort and ease He will take you down strange paths and bring you back when he s ready And not before So while it might be incomplete, it is engaging and entertaining.In the end, Gladwell has so immersed himself in the Sandra Bland case and the psychology and tactics at every level, that he can explain it way beyond simply a cop gone bad He says according to the known science he has explained, the police should not have been making stops on that stretch of road, and not in broad daylight That the directions of management to make as many stops as possible was wrong, as was the police manual on obtaining and maintaining control over suspects Mostly, from the context of this book, the officer took all the clues he found an out of state license, an aggravated driver, fast food wrappers on the floor, no other keys on the keychain, failure to put out a cigarette on command as nefarious instead of ordinary He was trained to do the opposite of what we all do innately assume truth and transparency in a stranger That drivers should not be suspects they are simply strangers While that might let the occasional bad guy get away, the pain for treating everybody as a suspect is the kind of thing that can stop human society in its tracks Our fundamental baseline must lean toward assuming transparency and trust It is a necessary illusion.David Wineberg

  6. says:

    This was my first Malcolm Gladwell, and now I have to go read everything else In Talking to Strangers, Gladwell investigates what goes wrong when we interact with people we don t know, using dramatic scenarios ripped from the headlines, history, psychology, and criminology Gladwell begins and ends with the tragic death of Sandra Bland, and it s impossible to ignore how urgently we need better strategies of understanding strangers.

  7. says:

    I read a sample of this book that I obtained as an employee of Hachette book group Longer review closer to pub date.

  8. says:

    Recommended, with a lot of inner conflict and trigger warnings Thank you to and Hachette Audio for my free copy of the audiobook for review I am a huge Malcolm Gladwell fan, and I jumped at the chance to listen to his newest release Gladwell is an excellent reader of his own work, and he takes it up a notch here by translating his book into a full audio production with music, news clips, and voice reenactments Fans of his podcast, Revisionist History, or other radio shows like This America Life, will appreciate the level of production and what it brings to the storytelling On that point, I give this audiobook 5 stars However, in regard to content, I give it 3 stars This book was confusing and difficult for me Confusing because I never really felt like Gladwell tied up his concepts in a stepwise, logical way His past books string together seemingly disparate ideas to support his central thesis, but this one felt really scattered to me Yes, we find it difficult to talk to strangers, but what can we do with that as a society in a meaningful way This question was left unanswered I don t expect him to resolve this very difficult, complex question by himself, but it was very unsatisfying, even to the point where I feel fairly bleak about the entire idea On the difficulty side, this book needs to come with a multitude of trigger warnings police brutality, sexual assault, suicide, torture, and profanity Suicide is almost a nonstarter for me, and there were points at which I considered not finishing the book The other triggers, especially the overly detailed, in my opinion coverage of the Jerry Sandusky, Larry Nassar, and Brock Turner assault cases, require caution Upon reflection, I wondered if I reacted so negatively to these examples because some of what I remember most clearly from Gladwell s past books are droll cocktail party type anecdotes the broken windows theory, the impact of birthday on hockey player success, and so on I was caught off guard by the severity and seriousness of the palette of examples I don t blame Gladwell for using these examples they are effective and illustrative But I want to make the trigger warnings perfectly clear for other potential readers In my reading experience and I have read all of Gladwell s books , this latest is remarkably different in content than his other writing The book is worth reading, and I will reflect on it as I give the content space in my brain I will be curious to discuss it with others as people read it, especially those who are familiar with Gladwell s work If you choose to read it, do so with awareness of the heavy subject content and triggers mentioned above.

  9. says:

    I m always fascinated and provoked by Gladwell s work this book is no exception But there are some big leaps here that make me itchy Still processing Bottom line We re generally terrible at understanding the actions of strangers, and when things take a turn for the worse unexpected, we blame the stranger Got it Feel it And I like how Gladwell sheds light on the Sandra Bland case The section on Brock Turner It troubled me.

  10. says:

    In Gladwell s latest work, he explores our misconception and often mistakably inconsistence of innocence or guilt, happy or sad, trustworthy or criminal Reflecting on historic situations, from Hitler to Sylvia Plath, Bernie Madoff to Amanda Knox, humankind has made slow efforts to uncover what someone else is really feeling or who they truly are This book does not offer any advice for a quick fix but reminds us all how terribly difficult it is to really see the person sitting next to you I finished this book feeling a bit underwhelmed and yet quite distressed.

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