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Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know

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In July 2015, 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 us. How do In July 2015, 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 us. How 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 simple. No 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 more about those we don't.


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In July 2015, 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 us. How do In July 2015, 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 us. How 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 simple. No 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 more about those we don't.

30 review for Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know

  1. 5 out of 5

    Emily May

    I was trying to work through my thoughts on this book when Goodreads did an interview with Malcolm Gladwell and this one thing he said just made everything clear for me: “I've never been a writer who's looked to persuade his readers; I'm more interested in capturing their interest and curiosity.” Because, truthfully, I don't know that Gladwell did fully convince me of his way of thinking with this book. I don't know that I actually agree that he can draw a link between the police officer “misunderstanding” San/> I was trying to work through my thoughts on this book when Goodreads did an interview with Malcolm Gladwell and this one thing he said just made everything clear for me: “I've never been a writer who's looked to persuade his readers; I'm more interested in capturing their interest and curiosity.” Because, truthfully, I don't know that Gladwell did fully convince me of his way of thinking with this book. I don't know that I actually agree that he can draw a link between the police officer “misunderstanding” Sandra Bland and Neville Chamberlain “misunderstanding” Hitler and make that work. And I don't know that I agree - actually, no, I'm pretty sure I don't - about the way he views the Stanford rape case as a "misunderstanding".* But, still, I couldn't look away from this book. It's the first book I've read by Gladwell and I can see now why he has become something of a pop-nonfiction writer because he definitely knows how to capture your attention. It's got some psychology, a bit of anthropology, a touch of politics, a dash of espionage... what's not to like? I found it absolutely fascinating and horrifying when he shows how a "blind" machine can more correctly judge the character and bail risk of criminals than human judges and trained law enforcement. I really enjoyed learning about the way we characterize and judge facial expressions and how this is both misleading AND differs across cultures, so not only do we often incorrectly judge those in our own society and culture, but we've got no chance when faced with someone from a different country. You ever been to a foreign country and thought people were looking at you weird? Turns out their face might just be in "neutral" or they're even being friendly! He backs things up with respectable studies and acknowledges limitations when appropriate, which I liked. I do thing he umbrellas a lot of very different examples under the "Talking to Strangers" label, and not all of them seem realistically linked to me. But they are interesting, nevertheless. We think we can easily see into the hearts of others based on the flimsiest of clues. We jump at the chance to judge strangers. We would never do that to ourselves, of course. We are nuanced and complex and enigmatic. But the stranger is easy. If I can convince you of one thing in this book, let it be this: Strangers are not easy. In the end, though, he brings all this information, all these studies and examples together to leave us with an idea that is nothing new, but that I think we are all too quick to forget: people are more complex than they first appear. Don’t judge a book by its cover, if you will. Some people are assholes; others are just socially-challenged (me!). Some people are guilty; others just get that shifty look when walking through the metal detectors at the airport (also me!). I can't deny that I now want to read all his other books. *In Gladwell's defense, he spoke with a number of sensitivity readers for this chapter and he discusses it in far more depth than I've given the impression of. He goes out of his way to stress that he isn't making excuses for the culprit, but is mostly critical of blackout drinking culture and how this makes an understanding of consent impossible. Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mimi

    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 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 Malcolm argues 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 more 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. *My honest review was made possible by an Advanced Reader Copy from Book Expo America.*

  3. 4 out of 5

    BlackOxford

    Never Trust a Blood Relative Talking to Strangers is an elaboration of a simple (trivial?) idea: It’s very difficult to tell when people are lying. According to Timothy Levine, the academic psychologist on whom Gladwell relies for his basic argument, the presumption that people tell the truth is almost universal, a few Holy Fools (and, I suppose, Judge Judy) excepted. Levine calls this his Truth Default Theory. Gladwell applies it entertainingly, if rather repetitively, to cases of duplicity ranging from double a/>Talking Never Trust a Blood Relative Talking to Strangers is an elaboration of a simple (trivial?) idea: It’s very difficult to tell when people are lying. According to Timothy Levine, the academic psychologist on whom Gladwell relies for his basic argument, the presumption that people tell the truth is almost universal, a few Holy Fools (and, I suppose, Judge Judy) excepted. Levine calls this his Truth Default Theory. Gladwell applies it entertainingly, if rather repetitively, to cases of duplicity ranging from double agents in government agencies to international financial fraud. The interesting part of Gladwell’s thesis is that we can’t be trained out of our predisposition to believe what ‘credible’ people, that is, folk who exhibit facial traits and body language which conform to cultural conventions, have to say. Police, judges, regulatory officials, even counter-espionage experts have equally poor records for detecting falsehood compared to the rest of us (it also works the other way round: truth-telling appears as lying if accompanied by ‘mis-matched’ behavioural signals). We are genetically programmed to be dupes (I suspect sex as the evolutionary motive!). And there is no reliable technology that does any better. The implication for me is that the more anyone is familiar with expected conventional behavioural responses, and can perform these as needed, the more credible they will be. Not a terribly innovative conclusion admittedly, but it does suggest that Gladwell has the wrong end of the authenticity-stick. We may have to worry about strangers being honest; but the real danger is the mendacity of those closest to us, those who know what we find credible, namely intimate family members, not strangers. There’s another issue as well. It’s clear that most 0f us lie to ourselves from time to time, that is, we conveniently and selectively recall events which confirm our self-rationalising narratives. We cannot observe our own physical behaviour to determine the extent of mismatch. Nor would it make any difference if we could since we may actually believe our own press, as it were. I know academics and business people who act this way as a matter of routine. It’s part of their strategy for success. They speak and write with total conviction about things they really know nothing about. One of these may be the president of the United States. Who knows, perhaps even Gladwell is amongst these experts at self-delusion and is simply scamming the rest of us with complete sincerity. Or am I merely projecting a sort of cynicism about Gladwell’s slick rapportage? Possibly. But he does seem to have a somewhat murky past as a defender of several dodgy industries like tobacco and pharmaceuticals (See: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1...). Presumably he was quite handy at spinning credible publicity out of otherwise damaging facts. “Transparency,” Gladwell says, “is a myth—an idea we’ve picked up from watching too much television and reading too many novels.” One wonders to what degree his book might be an instance of the phenomenon he is describing. Oh, and as an aside, the attribution of the death of a black student in the custody of a Texas jail to an ‘escalating miscommunication between strangers’ verges on the obscene. His use of this example to book-end his narrative and his references to it as a recurring theme suggest some serious judgmental deficiencies. I don’t feel myself defaulting to truth, or Gladwell’s purported truth, in the least. Postscript 18Sept19: it appears that Gladwell’s bubble is bursting: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/arc...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Betsy

    9/2/2019--I'm knocking this down to two stars. Gladwell's really bad takes on things like race and sexual assault just don't deserve an okay rating. Wow, does this book ever suffer from a severe case of foot-in-mouth disease! I almost didn’t make it past the introduction. In my pre-publication copy, Gladwell writes, “The Sandra Bland case came in the middle of a strange interlude in American public life” and then goes on to discuss a series of cases of police violence against black people that happened around 2014. “Strrating.Wow, 9/2/2019--I'm knocking this down to two stars. Gladwell's really bad takes on things like race and sexual assault just don't deserve an okay rating. Wow, does this book ever suffer from a severe case of foot-in-mouth disease! I almost didn’t make it past the introduction. In my pre-publication copy, Gladwell writes, “The Sandra Bland case came in the middle of a strange interlude in American public life” and then goes on to discuss a series of cases of police violence against black people that happened around 2014. “Strange interlude.” Really? That phrasing suggests that this treatment was some sort of aberration in American history and that the violence only happened during the few years he references. Did Gladwell really mean to ignore America’s long history of this problem? I don’t think so? I think he may have meant that the attention paid to police violence was unusual, but dude, choose your words much more carefully. Later on, there are some good points made about how and why we tend to misunderstand each other. But, again, I almost put the book down, this time while reading the chapter on the Brock Turner sexual assault case. Without going into detail, that chapter could only have been written by someone who's buried his head in the sand over the past five years or so. It’s tough to ignore the problematic elements of Talking to Strangers. I could absolutely see the discussion of the causes of sexual assault offending some readers to the point that they abandon the book altogether. I’ve definitely enjoyed other books by the author a lot more than this one. Three stars, but that’s being generous. Thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for giving me a DRC of this book, which will be available for purchase on September 10th.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Allie

    TW: detailed descriptions of rape and pedophilia If it were possible to give a book negative stars, this would be a -10 for me. Malcolm Gladwell is incredibly influential. From books to podcasts to TED talks, he seems to be everywhere and his story-based approach reaches a large number of people who don't question his credentials as a journalist (with no scientific training) who writes about science. I enjoyed Blink and Outliers despite the often dodgy claims Gladwell makes based on stu TW: detailed descriptions of rape and pedophilia If it were possible to give a book negative stars, this would be a -10 for me. Malcolm Gladwell is incredibly influential. From books to podcasts to TED talks, he seems to be everywhere and his story-based approach reaches a large number of people who don't question his credentials as a journalist (with no scientific training) who writes about science. I enjoyed Blink and Outliers despite the often dodgy claims Gladwell makes based on studies that are small, poorly designed and/or not replicable. The man does know how to create an engaging narrative and create ‘aha’ moments that excite the reader. And, after all, he admits he isn't a scientist, but instead "...a storyteller who uses research to augment the stories—who places the stories in the lead and the science in a supporting role, rather than the other way around." Okay, I hear you shrugging. So what? Well, in Talking to Strangers, Gladwell brings his folksy approach and tendency to present his opinions as truth to a painful and horrifying subject: sexual abuse. The book explores our inability to tell when people are lying, especially when they are confident and lack obvious tells (e.g., shifty eyes, covered mouth). Gladwell suggests most people "default to truth" when interacting with strangers and that considerable evidence is needed before we believe someone is lying. Moreover, he feels this approach is vital to our social compact. By contrast, he believes approaching people with distrust as a default (such as police officers who see every person as a potential suspect) would make normal functioning impossible. In making his case, Gladwell describes two cases of serial pedophiles who operated for decades before being caught: Larry Nassar, the doctor who molested young female gymnasts in his care (often in the presence of their parents), and Jerry Sandusky, the coach who sodomized young boys in his sports programs and foster care. Reading these stories--which described how the young victims were raped and assaulted in page after page of excruciating detail--made me want to scrub my brain with bleach. And then we get to Gladwell's conclusion: that our inability to detect lies means that we should not be too harsh in judging the various adults who failed to protect children who were being sexually assaulted. Here's how he puts it: "...those victimized by default to truth deserve our sympathy, not our censure." To clarify, the "victims" in this sentence are not the children who were raped, but the adults (parents, teachers, employers of pedophiles) who ignored warning signs and suspicious behavior for years. People who buried evidence. People who dismissed the discomfort expressed by the children who lacked the vocabulary to explain the horror of being violated by an adult in a position of trust. Graham Spanier, the former UPenn President, was told by one of his own employees that Sandusky was seen in the shower with a young boy, at night in deserted gym facilities, with his body right up against the child. He did not go to the police. He did not call Child Services. He accepted the suggestion from another staff member that Sandusky was just "horsing around" and let the matter drop. Gladwell has a lot of sympathy for Spanier, stating: "...people liked Grahman Spanier. It's why he had such a brilliant career. It's why you and I would want to work for him. We want Graham Spanier as our President. We think we want our guardians to be alert to every suspicion. We blame them when they default to truth...without stopping to consider the consequences of those actions." Actually, no. I don't want Spanier as my university President. Or anywhere except in a prison cell. Nor do I think any consequences could be worse than a society that allows children to be abused. A little distrust (or a trust but verify approach) is a good thing when the vulnerable are involved. Gladwell also spends quite a bit of time throwing doubt on the stories of the boys victimized by Sandusky, noting contradictions and inconsistencies. Gladwell is not a trained psychologist, psychiatrist or a trauma abuse counselor. He has zero experience in dealing with the victims of sexual abuse. Contradictory stories are common in cases of child molestation, as the victims often try to repress or justify their abuse. Gladwell did not personally know any of the children involved. It's unclear if he knows anyone who has suffered from sexual abuse. Yet he feels it is appropriate to suggest that the victims were lying (or wrong) and that Spanier was mistreated for being too trusting. Later in the book, he defends rapists, including Brock Turner. (In case the name rings a bell, that was the frat guy who undressed, fingered, and tried to rape an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, only to be scared off by two other students.) Gladwell feels that alcohol and mixed signals are mainly responsible for rape. Brock's victim calls for sensitively training on college campuses to help men learn to respect women and says that while heavy drinking was a factor in what happened, it was not the reason for her rape. Her powerful open letter to the court made me cry. Yet Gladwell disagrees with her assessment of why the rape happened, stating: "Brock Turner was asked to do something of crucial importance that night-to make sense of a stranger's desires and motivations. That is a hard task for all of us under the best circumstances. Asking a drunk and immature nineteen-year-old to do that in the hyper-sexualized chaos of a frat party, is an invitation to disaster." Not raping someone is a hard task? Gladwell acknowledges harm was done, but he also asks whether the victim flirted with Brock, whether she struggled, or whether she stumbled outside willingly! I agree alcohol clouds judgement and have no problem limiting it as part of a strategy to address assault on campus. But a good man doesn't rape a women, regardless of how much he has been drinking. At best, limiting alcohol might deter monsters like Brock by getting them to think about the possible consequences of their actions (e.g., jail). Reading this book was like wading through a sewer. The fact that someone with Gladwell’s influence is using his platform to excuse people complicit in sexual assault is disgusting. I will certainly never read anything by Gladwell again. For more on Gladwell's misrepresentation of science: https://slate.com/technology/2013/10/... https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/arc... For more on him as an apologist for abusers: https://www.theguardian.com/books/201...

  6. 4 out of 5

    Gretchen Rubin

    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.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    UPDATE 9/23/19 I have now changed this to one star. The more I read about this and other pseudo psych crap he pushes...no no no. The enjoyment of some parts of the book does not outweigh the total garbage of parts of it. Two examples are linked below, with a particularly shocking tidbit from one: https://deadspin.com/malcolm-gladwell... UPDATE 9/23/19 I have now changed this to one star. The more I read about this and other pseudo psych crap he pushes...no no no. The enjoyment of some parts of the book does not outweigh the total garbage of parts of it. Two examples are linked below, with a particularly shocking tidbit from one: https://deadspin.com/malcolm-gladwell... https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/arc... The most important part of the first link: Gladwell: You know I have that chapter on Jerry Sandusky in my book, and it’s all about how I feel the leadership of Penn State was totally, outrageously attacked over this. I think they’re blameless. Simmons: Yeah. Gladwell: But with Joe Paterno... Joe Paterno essentially did nothing wrong. He hears the allegation and immediately tells his superiors, and the critique of Joe Paterno was essentially, “Why was a 75-year-old football coach not behaving towards a suspected pedophile with the savvy and insight of a psychiatrist?” Simmons: Right. Gladwell: He’s a football coach! He doesn’t even know what the word—there was this hilarious—[regretful sigh] hilarious—there was this moment in, I think one of the trial transcripts, where someone was asked, “Did you use, when you went to”—the quarterback who goes to Paterno, McQueary, the former quarterback, goes to Paterno to tell him this allegation—“Did you use the word sodomy?” And he’s like, “No I didn’t use the word sodomy.” And then there’s this sort of thing, I think, where they’re wondering whether Paterno actually knew what the word sodomy was [laughing]. Simmons: Right. Gladwell: He doesn’t! He’s been thinking football 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for 60 years. He is not going to be alert to the darkness inside the heart of one of his former coaches. You can’t ask him to do that. That’s why you have mental health professionals or fit, trained psychologists in the world to handle those kind of problems. We do this thing sometimes when a crisis happens, when we suddenly expect our leaders to be skilled at absolutely every job under the sun. They’re not. NO, I JUST EXPECT LEADERS TO HAVE A FEW BRAIN CELLS THEY CAN POOL TOGETHER TO UNDERSTAND APPROPRIATE RELATIONSHIPS!! WWWWTTTF! Also as a teacher (and there are many other professions that wear many hats--doctors, nurses, social workers, business owners, entrepreneurs, literally almost any job) I am ABSOLUTELY expected to perform more than one specific role. I manage data, help with emotions, involve the community, report suspected abuse and so on. As do many other underpaid and undervalued professions. So it's DISGUSTING and insulting to literally everyone to imply we can allow and expect rich football coaches to be all, "aw shucks, I was only thinking about my next game." ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Ugh. The positive is, Gladwell always keeps me interested. He somehow finds the most interesting anecdotes and stories. Even the ones you have heard before---he has a way of making them seem like there is always more than meets the eye and that they are more interesting. I was never bored listening to this because even if you don't like one section, he's almost on to something else. But then.. His thing is to take stories that on the surface are completely unrelated and tries to jam them together to fit his central thesis. In this book, the main thesis is the idea that we can't appropriately understand/analyze strangers because we try to get them to fit in a box. That doesn't work because we don't understand everything about that person and their context/background. For example, If a person is mean, he acts like __________. If a person is a crook, he will act__________. Them acting opposite of what we assume they should act like causes us to misjudge them and get the wrong idea. Well, surely this is not a new idea...? To me, many of the examples he use either don't fit this, have many other factors involved, or at times he even contradicts his own theories. Let's start with Sandra Bland. His favored incident in the book. His argument here is that she didn't fit the idea of "law abiding citizen" the cop had in his head when he pulled her over and it caused him to be afraid and assume she was a criminal. She was "shifty", "irritable," and generally not happy to be pulled over. Well, who is? I've had some tickets in my day and I have only once been what would be called a bit snappy to a cop, but even when polite, I generally always feel on edge. I've even cried before when I was struggling with money and afraid of getting a ticket. I don't want a ticket, and if I'm getting one, I want the situation to be over ASAP. Don't we all? So compare me to Sandra, who as a black woman has a whole extra level of fear of the situation, as well as the fact that she has had many more traffic stops than I over generally minor stuff. These cost her a lot of money and are very stressful. Even if the officer didn't know she got stopped often in the past, anyone who has been watching the news LIKE EVER knows African-Americans may at times act more nervous or aggregated than white drivers because of cases like Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, etc etc. And if ANYONE knows this, it damn well would and should be a cop! How are we to believe he had no clue about the racial subtext of pulling over African-American drivers? Beyond the facts of race, cops should know about de-escalation which if you hear the tape, he did not do this at all. He didn't even attempt it. Let's recall she is pulled over for not signaling which Gladwell fully admits the cop caused by tailing her. Which adds to her irritation. He gets petty with her over lighting a cigarette and screams at her to step out of the car over it. So this pseudo-psych theory that "she isn't acting as he would expect and it made him 'terrified' of her," is just.....BS. I don't discount cops have a hard job and it's harder than we can ever know to stay calm and read strangers. But....but....this was literally all on the cop. If me, being an average citizen knows about deescalation and how race plays a role in traffic stops, no way he did not. Was she a little rude? Maybe, but public service employees (cops, teachers, nurses, etc) have to be able to deal with people who are a little rude. You don't scream at them to get out of the car or say you are going to light them up or say 'good' when they tell you they have epilepsy and they are worried for their health now. I also don't think he was terrified of her and if he was and that's all it took, he's either racist, has power issues, or just an awful cop. Or all of the above? No psych about it. She should never have walked away with felony charges. To be fair, he is not at happy with how the cop acted that day, but I am more bothered by his over-analysis of the cop. Like this psychology explains his bad behavior. Then comes Jerry Sandusky. REALLY?? Is this the hill you wanna die on, Malcolm? That Sandusky was "unfairly treated?" Is it possible he is innocent? I guess. Save video tape of someone committing a crime and dozens of witnesses, it's possible ANY convicted criminal could be innocent. I tried really hard to keep an open mind but it's never even clear WHY he believes this so strongly. He says "it's nothing like the Larry Nassar case," which it is often compared to. Why does a crime have to be very similar to another crime of it's type to be true? He says they had more victims. Those victims also never waver in their stories and told many people over the years. First of all, those were girls and these are all boys. One would imagine they may behave differently in the situation. Second of all, and hear me out---is it possible these victims of assault didn't act the way Gladwell felt victims of assault "should act?" Which is his whole theory (we have set ideas of how people should act in certain situations) and yet he comes out on the other side implying Sandusky may be innocent?! Then also, what exactly is the naked showering with slapping sounds if not sex? Just horseplay?? More BS, and if it was .... what adult man would not know horseplay of that manner with a child is destined to be construed as something else?? He never even comes down or attempts to explain why a grown man would engage in naked horseplay with a child. Then of course, Brock Turner. Yes, college kids should probably drink less alcohol. Wow. Revolutionary. The fact he has to say outright it's not victim blaming reveals he knows what shaky ground he is on. Just, ugh. He tries sooooo hard and has so many holes and flaws in his arguments. I wish he would just tell the stories and stop trying to be intellectual about it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    carol.

    Not for me, unless I feel like doing a rant-review. Which I'm not ruling out. Allie's insightful review on excusing those who excused pedophiles: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... Leftbanker's thoughtful comments on the Sandra Bland case: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... Guardian's review on the obviousness of Gladwell's talking points and race-blind approach: https://www.theguardian.com/books/201... Atlantic's review on the lack of thesis: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/arc... Best review ever: "To put it in Hamlet’s words, one may smile, and smile, and be a villain. Makes you think, doesn’ever: Not for me, unless I feel like doing a rant-review. Which I'm not ruling out. Allie's insightful review on excusing those who excused pedophiles: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... Leftbanker's thoughtful comments on the Sandra Bland case: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... Guardian's review on the obviousness of Gladwell's talking points and race-blind approach: https://www.theguardian.com/books/201... Atlantic's review on the lack of thesis: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/arc... Best review ever: "To put it in Hamlet’s words, one may smile, and smile, and be a villain. Makes you think, doesn’t it? If any of this is surprising to you, then you are in exalted company, because it also surprises Malcolm Gladwell, whose job it is to be puzzled by banalities and then replace them, after a great pseudo-intellectual circumambulation, with banalities." --Steven Poole, The Guardian

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I DNF'd this book after reading too many cringey statements from Gladwell. He wants to categorize a whole range of evils -- from the victimization of unarmed black people (Sandra Bland) to women being raped at colleges parties (Brock Turner) -- as mere "communication" issues between people. Sure, there might be some element of miscommunication, but it completely misses the point that there are much larger problems and bigger things going on beyond that. I get that he's trying to cram these situa I DNF'd this book after reading too many cringey statements from Gladwell. He wants to categorize a whole range of evils -- from the victimization of unarmed black people (Sandra Bland) to women being raped at colleges parties (Brock Turner) -- as mere "communication" issues between people. Sure, there might be some element of miscommunication, but it completely misses the point that there are much larger problems and bigger things going on beyond that. I get that he's trying to cram these situations into his premise in order to write this book, but the result is completely tone-deaf and helps to justify crimes and ignorance. Instead of encouraging people to be educated on things the don't understand like consent or why prejudice against black people can lead to excessive force against them, Gladwell chalks it up to "communication" barriers. To be clear, Gladwell doesn't try to say that Bland was at fault for her death, but rather that the officer didn't properly de-escalate. However, he also takes time to explain why race had nothing to do with the situation. For example, he ignores the mountain of evidence that shows that black people are routinely pulled over more frequently. Instead, Gladwell explicitly states that the officer's decision was not race-motivated. However, he reaches this conclusion based on nothing. His sole support for that statement is the statistic that shows this officer often wrote tickets -- to the tune of 1,557 just that year -- but it's a meaningless number that doesn't prove anything if we don't know if those tickets were evenly or fairly distributed. There's also the question of whether this book states anything new. The idea that black people are treated exactly the same as everyone else and racism is a myth or that women who drink are partially to blame for being raped are two extremely old arguments. There's nothing new or interesting about it. It's old, tired and not worth anyone's time. There's also questionable logical leaps that Gladwell makes to put forth his antiquated arguments. Mystifyingly, a survey showing that people have different ideas on what constitutes "consent" leads him to the conclusion that there "are no rules" when it comes to consent. Umm what? So if I took a survey that showed that most people don't know where the Ukraine is located, does that mean the Ukraine has no location or does it mean that people are ignorant? Gladwell's tortured logic for the sake of justifying rape is mind-boggling. Skip this awful, intellectually vapid book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Leftbanker

    If this had just been stories about spies and the meeting between Hernán Cortés and Montezuma or whatever, I would have rated it five stars. There’s no question that Malcolm Gladwell is a good storyteller, I just wish that he would leave it at that and stop trying to shoe-horn a bunch of tall tales into some sort of coherent statement about the state of the world. I’m not a scientist, but I think that I know science when I see it. I ain’t seeing it here. “The death of Sandra Bland is what h/>“The If this had just been stories about spies and the meeting between Hernán Cortés and Montezuma or whatever, I would have rated it five stars. There’s no question that Malcolm Gladwell is a good storyteller, I just wish that he would leave it at that and stop trying to shoe-horn a bunch of tall tales into some sort of coherent statement about the state of the world. I’m not a scientist, but I think that I know science when I see it. I ain’t seeing it here. “The death of Sandra Bland is what happens when a society does not know how to talk to strangers.” This is the stupidest thing I’ve heard concerning this tragedy. This was also the whole point of this book and Galdwell’s facile explanation is completely without merit. The cop was, quite simply, a ginormous fucking asshole. We have it all on film, for Christ’s sake. He just couldn’t let it go that this black woman wasn’t bowing down to him and had the temerity to light up a cigarette in his majestic presence. He pulled her over (as he states) for failing to signal a lane change when he pulled behind her. Are you kidding me? What kind of cop does that? Brian Encinia: OK, ma’am. [Pause.] You OK? Bland: I’m waiting on you. This is your job. I’m waiting on you. When’re you going to let me go? Encinia: I don’t know, you seem very, really irritated. Bland: I am. I really am. I feel like it’s crap what I’m getting a ticket for. I was getting out of your way. You were speeding up, tailing me…so yeah, I’m a little irritated. Brian Encinia: Are you done? “Are you done?” What a total asshole! There is absolutely no question that his tone was completely nasty, just listen to the video. He asked her if she was OK. What does he expect her to say? “Thank you for pulling me over and fucking with me for no reason whatsoever.” This was that point when it went from a bullshit traffic stop to something sinister on his part where he had something to prove to himself. Unfortunately, it came at the expense of another human being who was simply trying to make it through the day. I wish that Sandra Bland had asked him, “Is this why you became a cop? To hassle people for no good reason?” She was so incredibly reasonable, and the cop was just a huge asshole. End of story. There are no two sides to this. He is unfit for the job. He either hates black people, or he just hates people. Either way, he doesn’t deserve the public trust that is necessary to be a policeman. This brings up the entire nature of police work. Like most other American kids, I grew up on a steady diet of TV and movies in which the heroes were cops, yet I never consider being a policeman for even a split second. Why? Probably because I just never felt the need to have power over anyone else, I never felt that I had something to prove. We need to test police recruits for this tendency and weed them out if they have a chip on their shoulder, like Brian Encinia. He should definitely not be a policeman. He is a terrible human being, especially after the fact when he testified that he felt his life was in danger. Human beings are sometimes—or oftentimes—fooled by a load of shit some stranger passes off on them. Gladwell is now infamous for cherry-picking examples that prove his point while ignoring volumes that tell of a different outcome. People are often wrong about the intentions of strangers they talk to…except when they are right. In all of his ramblings about the CIA, the only conclusion we should come to is that the U.S. should just stop spying and try being straightforward and open as a nation, just to see where that gets us. Spying has produced so little benefit, especially when you consider how much money we’ve poured into that black hole. OK, we got Bin Laden, but how much did it cost us to hunt down and assassinate one hairy, old religious fanatic? Imagine instead if we had used all of that money to build schools and hospitals around the world thus building goodwill. I think goodwill trumps some dead fanatic. “The issue with spies is not that there is something brilliant about them. It is that there is something wrong with us.” I couldn’t disagree with this more. I would turn this thought on its head: The issue with spies is not that there is something brilliant about them. It is that there is something wrong with them. Of course, the Soviets, East Germans, and Cubans beat the U.S. in spy-craft over the course of decades, because they are a people hatched in duplicitous dictatorships where obfuscation and deceit are required for survival. This is precisely why we should have never tried to battle them in this realm. We should have gone the route of honesty and full disclosure. As a nation, would we rather excel at deception or honesty? “Why are we so bad at detecting lies?” This is a stupid, meaningless question that makes about as much sense as asking why we are so bad at predicting the outcome of a sporting event. You win some, you lose some. With that said, if your job is to ferret out double agents in an intelligence organization and you interview someone you suspect, and then let them off the hook, you suck, to put it mildly. Gladwell extrapolates some incredibly outrageous outcomes from his little modern fairy tales. I had to skip over almost the entire section on the Penn State pedophile story. So, you are a grown man in a locker room. You see another man having sex with a child in plain sight, and you run away without doing anything? What a bunch of cowards we are! The McQueary guy “ran upstairs to call his parents.” What I would have done, had I been in that same situation, before running upstairs to call my parents, would have been to beat that pedo half-to-death. That would have been a better story to tell mom and dad than to say that I had witnessed a child rape and did fuck all about it. I couldn’t live with that level of cowardice. I had to skip over Chapter Six because it deals with the TV show Friends which makes me physically ill.

  11. 5 out of 5

    David

    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 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.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    What I love about Gladwell's books is the thing that I think many people find frustrating: I don't agree with everything he says. But what brings me back is that he finds interesting threads and premises and manages to weave them together in such a way that it makes me think about my own beliefs a little different. This book begins with the Sandra Bland case. Why did she die? Why did this situation even occur? It then goes into looking at a series of incidents of the CIA overlooking spies from C What I love about Gladwell's books is the thing that I think many people find frustrating: I don't agree with everything he says. But what brings me back is that he finds interesting threads and premises and manages to weave them together in such a way that it makes me think about my own beliefs a little different. This book begins with the Sandra Bland case. Why did she die? Why did this situation even occur? It then goes into looking at a series of incidents of the CIA overlooking spies from Cuba who embedded themselves in US operations and how because, as humans, we default to truth, we are really bad at sniffing out those who are deceiving us. This is the case even for the most highly trained. A few people, however, don't default this way. And this is precisely why Bernie Madoff played such a ponzi scheme -- one person who spoke up and out because things didn't feel right was made to feel as though he was overreacting. That no way could someone like Madoff, who looked too good to be involved in something like that, be a master criminal. Gladwell then takes us to the Amanda Knox case and explores why it is she was believed to be a key suspect in the death of her roommate. The answer is that Knox's behavior doesn't align with how people think it ought to be in the midst of a crisis and grief. She's goofy by nature, and her actions after such a crime didn't fit with the model people have of how she should act. So, they read her behaviors as signs of guilt, rather than considering that, perhaps, she acted the way she always did. The Brock Turner rape case is explored, too, and it's looked at not from the perspective of rape culture and toxic masculinity -- the narrative we all know and agree with because those aren't incorrect -- but rather, it's looked at from the point of alcohol and how it inhibits cognitive function. This was the case both for the victim and for Turner, making it impossible for a truthful account of what happened that night. There's no rape apologizing here; instead, it's a look at the context of the case that makes piecing it together challenging. This is coupling: alcohol was linked here. So what of the Bland case then? Gladwell talks about research done in academia about crime and how context matters there. "Dangerous" places often aren't. The problem is almost always isolated to a tiny portion of a place, like a few blocks in a city. This understanding led to Kansas City trying out a new method of policing, being highly concentrated in the worst areas in order to decrease crime. It worked. Why? People were willing to give up some of their privacy for the safe of their safety. They live in an area with high crime and significant drug use and gun violence, a visit from the police didn't bother them knowing that it had a direct effect on their environment. The problem was when that tactic was used outside the context. This was what Gladwell links together for the Sandra Bland story. A police officer, trained in the Kansas City method, removed the context from the situation. He also leaned heavily into not defaulting to truth. Bland? Her behavior didn't conform to the ideas of how someone "should" behave in the situation. The same pieces of the puzzle -- the coupling, the lack of context -- allows the Kansas City policing method to default to fault, as opposed to truth, too easily. See what happens in Ferguson (and not just the Michael Brown case, but in additional cases of unnecessary policing of a community). It's a really interesting premise and one that makes a good bit of sense. What Gladwell doesn't do, though, is address sexism here. He does touch on race -- especially about how black communities are already over policed -- but gender doesn't come into it quite enough. I wish we'd seen that layer here, especially as it tied into the Knox case AND how to relates back to the Bland case. Overall, it's one that will make me think a lot more about interactions with strangers, both those I have and those I don't. It's fascinating to think about how this might, too, connect with social media and how we do/don't connect with other people who are strangers to us. Rather than default to truth, it seems that in places like Twitter, we've come too quick to ignore the context, ignore the coupling effect, and we quickly default to anywhere but the truth. Something to really chew on, and surprisingly connected to the powerful first essay about Twitter in Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Celeste

    This is certainly a provocative book, enough so that despite my anger and frustration I finished reading it in the hope it would conclude with a complex and thoughtful analysis of why our differences and history result in so much misunderstanding when strangers interact with each other. Sadly my expectations were not realized. The real life examples that he used were not truly examined in depth and the lack of complexity often left me frustrated. I may just be unable to feel any sympathy for a c This is certainly a provocative book, enough so that despite my anger and frustration I finished reading it in the hope it would conclude with a complex and thoughtful analysis of why our differences and history result in so much misunderstanding when strangers interact with each other. Sadly my expectations were not realized. The real life examples that he used were not truly examined in depth and the lack of complexity often left me frustrated. I may just be unable to feel any sympathy for a convicted sex offender like Brock Turner, even if he drank too much, I just don't see that as an excuse for his behavior. But that was the basis I got from that example, they were both drunk and so there was misunderstanding, when I was waiting for rape culture to be brought up and added into the mix. Maybe the author doesn't see rape culture as a problem or a factor in this case. I am sure there are people that will benefit from reading this book, it certainly isn't bad. But I do not think I was the audience the author was writing for.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Peter Tillman

    Off to a rousing start, and written to Gladwell's usual high standards. He does his homework, and surprises us at many turns. The Nature review that follows is full & fair. I doubt that I will find anything substantial to add. But I didn't end up liking the book as much as I expected. 3.5 stars, rounded down for the wandering and discursive narrative, and the inconclusive & disappointing ending. So: read Nature's review first, and if you are intrigued, and especially if you ha Off to a rousing start, and written to Gladwell's usual high standards. He does his homework, and surprises us at many turns. The Nature review that follows is full & fair. I doubt that I will find anything substantial to add. But I didn't end up liking the book as much as I expected. 3.5 stars, rounded down for the wandering and discursive narrative, and the inconclusive & disappointing ending. So: read Nature's review first, and if you are intrigued, and especially if you have liked Gladwell's previous books, you should try this one. I did both, and ended up a bit disappointed. But it's still a worthwhile book, and I learned quite a lot. I skimmed most of the drunken student sex-crime stuff, and I'm not sure why he spent so much time on the Penn State coach and flagrant pederast. Well, the latter does show why the coach's bosses defaulted to believing his defenses, until the evidence of his guilt became overwhelming. And their hesitation came back to bite them in the ass, big time! His thesis that our predisposition to believe and trust strangers is essential to the functioning of our open, wealthy society -- even though it leads to injuries and injustice to a (usually small) minority. Who sometimes get redress, even if (often) years later. And he tells some heartbreaking stories. So I may change my mind and round up to 4 stars. Today, though, I'm rounding down. 😎 “Those occasions when our trusting nature is violated are tragic,” Gladwell writes, and repeats for emphasis. “But the alternative — to abandon trust as a defense against predation and deception — is worse.” Nature's review: https://www.nature.com/articles/d4158... Excerpt: In 1996, an operative in the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) — Ana Belén Montes, known as “the Queen of Cuba” for her specialist knowledge — was suspected of being a double agent. A counter-intelligence officer, reviewing her file, decided that she had passed the test: “This woman is gonna be the next Director of Intelligence for DIA. She’s just fabulous.” She was arrested in 2001. She was not even a particularly accomplished spy, Gladwell notes. Her secret codes from Havana were in her purse, her shortwave radio in a shoebox in her cupboard. “The issue with spies is not that there is something brilliant about them,” Gladwell writes. “It is that there is something wrong with us.”

  15. 5 out of 5

    Stephie

    Well. I think I’ve gotta jump off the Malcolm Gladwell bandwagon. This book really irritated me. First of all, with his previous books, the main argument has been very clear. But ‘Talking with Strangers’ is directionless and, at times, confusing. I didn’t even know what he meant by “strangers” as his definition seemed to keep changing. And I found myself wondering what his point was on more than one occasion. Furthermore, Gladwell has an annoying habit of presenting his opinions or his “research Well. I think I’ve gotta jump off the Malcolm Gladwell bandwagon. This book really irritated me. First of all, with his previous books, the main argument has been very clear. But ‘Talking with Strangers’ is directionless and, at times, confusing. I didn’t even know what he meant by “strangers” as his definition seemed to keep changing. And I found myself wondering what his point was on more than one occasion. Furthermore, Gladwell has an annoying habit of presenting his opinions or his “research” (it’s debatable how much of it is actually *his* research) as facts. He is very good at picking and choosing data and statistics and framing them to make whatever point he wants, while ignoring all the other evidence that might disprove his statements. Makes for a good bestseller, I guess. But funny for a book that talks largely about truth and the ‘default-to-truth’ theory. I guess we should just assume that he’s telling us the truth? Maybe the book is a psychological experiment in itself to see how many people buy this bullshit? He makes some bizarre arguments. He excuses the defenders of paedophiles because of this ‘default-to-truth’ ethos. He seemingly empathises with them, because despite all evidence to the contrary it’s still (according to him) perfectly understandable that we would ignore said evidence because we like to assume that people are telling the truth. According to Gladwell’s claim in the Brock Turner chapter, that rape was a case of “miscommunication” compounded by alcohol consumption. It verges on victim blaming. Hmmm. And for the icing on the cake, he attributes the death of Sandra Bland, a young black American woman, again to a “miscommunication between strangers” instead of acknowledging the rather obvious systemic racism that lead to her death. It just doesn’t sit right with me. I feel that placing the blame on “miscommunication” ignores other very important factors like racism, sexism, corruption and so on. It’s an oversimplification, in my opinion. Also, I listened to this on Audible, and Gladwell says “Artic” instead of “Arctic”. Wtf.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    What to say about Gladwell? I read everything he writes and I listen to his podcasts. Even as I cringe when he oversells his simplistic theories and misinterprets academic data to fit into cute stories. There are a lot of great stories in this book and some new takes on old ones, but at the end of the day the lens through which he demands we see these stories (i.e. our "default to truth" in talking to strangers) doesn't work. Sandra Bland's exchange with the officer did not result in her death b What to say about Gladwell? I read everything he writes and I listen to his podcasts. Even as I cringe when he oversells his simplistic theories and misinterprets academic data to fit into cute stories. There are a lot of great stories in this book and some new takes on old ones, but at the end of the day the lens through which he demands we see these stories (i.e. our "default to truth" in talking to strangers) doesn't work. Sandra Bland's exchange with the officer did not result in her death because we aren't good at talking to strangers. Neither did Brock Turner's raping the Stanford woman nor Sandusky, etc. I get that these stories are all complicated. I think everyone gets that it's complicated and that there are two sides to these stories, but I don't think this telling is all that helpful in understanding these intricacies. In fact, it seems to trivialize them. Still, I don't think the book is bad. He's an excellent writer and storyteller and there are two few good writers these days so I will read all of them if I can--even without buying what they're selling.

  17. 5 out of 5

    David Wineberg

    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, 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 more 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

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tanja Berg

    I started reading this book right after I had managed a social gaffe - or so I thought. After I separated from my husband this summer, I started dancing swing. Not to look for anything, but to get out of the house and learn something new. Most of the people at the course were in pairs or retirees. Except a boy in his 30’s. We started talking and we started going to the dance evenings on Wednesdays in addition to the Monday classes. I would dance with others, but he would only dance with me. So I I started reading this book right after I had managed a social gaffe - or so I thought. After I separated from my husband this summer, I started dancing swing. Not to look for anything, but to get out of the house and learn something new. Most of the people at the course were in pairs or retirees. Except a boy in his 30’s. We started talking and we started going to the dance evenings on Wednesdays in addition to the Monday classes. I would dance with others, but he would only dance with me. So I eventually interpreted this as interest and came on pretty strong with ambiguous results. After I thought, “oh lord, I misread”. A week of silence followed. I started reading this book and apparently misreading people is really very common - particularly in regards to sexual interest. We really are clueless as to what the subject of our interest might really want. Another Wednesday came along and the situation is no longer ambiguous. Either it just needed more time to mature or I just to the inner swing of a turn we were going around anyway. Malcolm Gladwell takes us through real cases of misunderstandings and shows us how we misinterpret strangers. Life isn’t a “Friends” episode and people are not transparent. Here’s another example: at work I am told I am easy to read. I took a moment to consider this. It’s a part of my authenticity and part of my constructed image. What I say and do and feel needs to match. It makes others perceive me as safe. I need them to believe me or I cannot lead. That doesn’t me I can’t hide what I’m feeling, but most of the time being transparent serves my purpose. We don’t do well with “mismatched” people. Nervous truth tellers or calm liars. We default to the truth. People trained to detect lies do worse than lay people in detecting the mismatched. That’s a scary thought. Best to behave according to expectations. This book definitely gave me some new insights, many more than the few tidbits laid bare here. Definitely recommended!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Toni

    In Talking to Strangers, I believe all Malcolm really wants to tell us, is everything our parents use to tell us: 1. Don’t believe everything you read in the papers (or in magazines, or the internet.) 2. Trust only family, not strangers; but be careful everywhere. 3. Don’t believe anything anyone tells you until you check it out first. (This could’ve meant, ask Mom and/or Dad, go to the library, ask someone we know and is smart.) Most people have their default setting at TRUST; we want to b In Talking to Strangers, I believe all Malcolm really wants to tell us, is everything our parents use to tell us: 1. Don’t believe everything you read in the papers (or in magazines, or the internet.) 2. Trust only family, not strangers; but be careful everywhere. 3. Don’t believe anything anyone tells you until you check it out first. (This could’ve meant, ask Mom and/or Dad, go to the library, ask someone we know and is smart.) Most people have their default setting at TRUST; we want to believe you; we really want you to tell us the truth, and we really hope that’s what you’re doing. We have high hopes! And if you grew up in America you just can’t help being positive and optimistic. Well, most people, not all. Growing up in New Jersey, in a second-generation, Italian American family; our default setting was SKEPTICAL; meaning you have to prove yourself trustworthy first. My parents would try to figure out if someone was lying rather than discuss the topic. That’s what their immigrant parents taught them. (Living in NJ just added to sarcasm.) I taught my kids the same thing; never believe someone at face value, consider your source first. Then try to figure out what they’re asking or telling you, based on what you already know. THINK! Obviously, Malcolm delves deeper into why we trust strangers, and why we initially believe them. What cues are we missing, what didn’t we hear, what in their tone didn’t I pick up on?! As is his way, Malcolm brings several nationally known examples and valuable research to explain why and how this happens, frequently. The case that stuck with me the most is the Sandra Bland case in Texas, from 2015. The case where the young officer stopped her for a minor traffic error, but because she acted nervous, he thought she was hiding something and misread as suspicious. He bullied her every action, ending up pulling her out of the car, to ground in cuffs. She died three days later, in jail, by suicide. Malcolm describes the entire encounter, case, and final trial in the book. (In the audio, which is excellent, Malcolm plays all original recordings; such as this encounter.) This story alone is worth reading this book! My opinion. Many examples you will recognize are discussed, theories are raised and labeled. No need for me to list them here; better to encounter them with the case they match, and Malcolm’s words to describe them. Very interesting book wanders some here and there, but solid. Superb audio. Thank you Netgalley, Little, Brown and Co. and Malcolm Gladwell

  20. 4 out of 5

    Traci at The Stacks

    This book has some MAJOR issues and was pretty enraging and frustrating. The biggest technical issue is that there is no definition of “stranger” which allows Gladwell to mold his thin arguments to any hot button topic he chooses. It feels like a publicity stunt to cram as many controversial people/events into the book for maximum shock value. The other huge issue is about how he discusses rape/racism/abuse without talking about race/power/toxic masculinity etc. it’s negligent and dangerous. Gla This book has some MAJOR issues and was pretty enraging and frustrating. The biggest technical issue is that there is no definition of “stranger” which allows Gladwell to mold his thin arguments to any hot button topic he chooses. It feels like a publicity stunt to cram as many controversial people/events into the book for maximum shock value. The other huge issue is about how he discusses rape/racism/abuse without talking about race/power/toxic masculinity etc. it’s negligent and dangerous. Gladwell is fantastic at crafting arguments which is what holds this book together but the content is flimsy and offensive.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    Gladwell is an excellent storyteller, but I think he's very wrong on some of his major arguments. First of all, he seems sort of surprised that people are gullible and that social trust is important for social animals to thrive. He talks about the Milgram experiments, and gets lost in the weeds about how they were bad theater, underemphasizing the main point, i.e. that 65% of people were sheep who obeyed authority figures telling them to do insane evil things. The implication for what he's talki Gladwell is an excellent storyteller, but I think he's very wrong on some of his major arguments. First of all, he seems sort of surprised that people are gullible and that social trust is important for social animals to thrive. He talks about the Milgram experiments, and gets lost in the weeds about how they were bad theater, underemphasizing the main point, i.e. that 65% of people were sheep who obeyed authority figures telling them to do insane evil things. The implication for what he's talking about is that decisions are made by a few people who create the conditions that then affect everyone else. And so what really matters is what the shepherds and sheepdogs are doing to protect the sheep from the wolves and other perils. Those protectors are supposed to sniff out wolves in sheep's clothing--that's their job. So yeah, it's literally ancient wisdom that we can't have everybody crying wolf all the time, but we do need someone to look out for wolves. When the president of Penn State hears about a former employee coming back to the college at night to "horse around" with a naked 11-year-old boy, well the most likely explanation is not benign. Gladwell keeps saying people default to the "truth" and to the "most likely" explanation. But in examples like this people are defaulting to denial. And that's not okay for those whose job is to be suspicious and responsible. I don't get journalists who don't get that some people have the role in society of being skeptical. If Gladwell's facts are correct about the Sandra Bland case, then the big issue there is the corruption of the scientific evidence on effective policing (basically the 80/20 rule: concentrate police scrutiny where the crimes are). Doing traffic stops everywhere all the time is just BS, regardless of racism issues. Wouldn't it be nice if someone had the job of calling BS on bad public policy? Michael Lewis's podcast series "Against the Rules" is so far all about the decline of the "referee" in America, and I think his insights are more apposite for this discussion about trust and social cohesion than Gladwell's. You can't play a game without referees. Referees can't just defer to the players/cheaters on whether or not they've broken the rules. The undermining of arbiters is what destroys societies.

  22. 4 out of 5

    SheAintGotNoShoes

    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 t 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++++++

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    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.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Candie

    3.5 stars. I really enjoy Malcolm Gladwell's books. I enjoy his writing style a lot and his books are so thought provoking. He leaves you thinking about things you never would have thought about, in ways you never would have considered. I like how he gets you to look at things from different perspectives I am torn on this book. I did really enjoy reading it but I did not agree with everything he said, especially in the areas regarding racism and sexual abuse. The situation 3.5 stars. I really enjoy Malcolm Gladwell's books. I enjoy his writing style a lot and his books are so thought provoking. He leaves you thinking about things you never would have thought about, in ways you never would have considered. I like how he gets you to look at things from different perspectives I am torn on this book. I did really enjoy reading it but I did not agree with everything he said, especially in the areas regarding racism and sexual abuse. The situation involving Sandra Bland he would have us conclude that the officer was just doing the job that the higher ups trained him to do so the fault should be with the people who implement these tactics. I agree that the tactics need to be reviewed, but I don't think that they explain the officers choices in this situation. I see no reason why he should have ever tried to physically force her from her car in any way. Not to mention that he escalated to power really quickly and it appeared to be more about his pride because she was arguing with him. I think there was a lot of truth in much of the things he talked about such as how we naturally default to truth as it is the more likely situation. We can totally miss or ignore something that is right in front of our faces because that something rarely happens. So we reason it away. It couldn't be that. Also, how we judge and evaluate people and feel like we can read people or know what they are all about and we often have it all wrong. We don't think people have us all figured out though because we are very complex and our thoughts and actions are based around so much; others are just as complex. I also feel like in this book he made some generalizations that I didn't feel fit in order to make his point and he oversimplifies some things and made some people's actions seem okay based on miscommunication, when they very clearly were not okay. Suicide being coupled seemed a bit oversimplified. I mean he had a chart showing data that once the type of gas in stoves were changed, suicide rates went down. So he concluded that people only wanted to commit suicide in that way; once that way was taken away the majority of people no longer would. This leaves out so many variables and I think greatly oversimplifies the data. I'm not saying he is wrong but there didn't seem to be any mention of any further study to see if he was right. What if death by suicide was just more obvious in that way? Maybe people who committed suicide by taking pills were just mislabeled as an overdose? Or people who committed suicide by driving into a big truck or off a cliff were just mislabeled as car accidents? I don't know that this is the case either, I'm just saying it seems to be a bit of a post hoc fallacy to me. This book left me with so much to think about and I had to stop many times to just think about or research topics or ideas further. Although there was much I didn't necessarily agree with, I still found it very interesting and I really did enjoy reading it and couldn't put it down. I will definitely read another book by him if he comes out with one.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Brandon Forsyth

    I really like Malcolm Gladwell, and I think some of his writing belongs in the Hall of Fame, but it’s hard to read this book and not feel like he’s sort of missed the point. No chapter on race? No chapter on gender? I can (maybe) understand trying to look beyond those things to the root of what makes us so bad at interacting with other people, but it feels like many of the examples he’s taken here (Sandra Bland in particular) have huge factors of sexism and racism that are key to understanding t I really like Malcolm Gladwell, and I think some of his writing belongs in the Hall of Fame, but it’s hard to read this book and not feel like he’s sort of missed the point. No chapter on race? No chapter on gender? I can (maybe) understand trying to look beyond those things to the root of what makes us so bad at interacting with other people, but it feels like many of the examples he’s taken here (Sandra Bland in particular) have huge factors of sexism and racism that are key to understanding the interactions. Mr. Gladwell instead overlooks those factors to focus in on the minutiae of what else might have been happening in these interactions, and the result is either something slight and inconsequential or shockingly naive.

  26. 5 out of 5

    RuthAnn

    Recommended, with a lot of inner conflict and trigger warnings [Thank you to Libro.fm 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 Recommended, with a lot of inner conflict and trigger warnings [Thank you to Libro.fm 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 more as I give the content space in my brain. I will be curious to discuss it with others as more 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.

  27. 5 out of 5

    BookOfCinz

    Like Cortes, we need translators to make sense of the world. Talking to Strangers is about why we are so bad at that act of translation Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know at the core set out to show why we are so bad at communicating with strangers and what gets in the way. Gladwell, through a series of stories showed how talking to strangers can go really far left. Is this my favourite Gladwell book? No. I felt the book meandered a lot. I felt a lot was Like Cortes, we need translators to make sense of the world. Talking to Strangers is about why we are so bad at that act of translation Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know at the core set out to show why we are so bad at communicating with strangers and what gets in the way. Gladwell, through a series of stories showed how talking to strangers can go really far left. Is this my favourite Gladwell book? No. I felt the book meandered a lot. I felt a lot was thrown at me but there was no real grounding point of the book. Yes, the book started and ended with Sandra Bland but the in-between I kept wondering well.., "how does one make sure we are good at talking to strangers?" - I don't feel that was sufficiently answered. No solution was offered really. I felt Gladwell was showing off a bit in this book- I mean why not- he is hella knowledgeable and well read but.... Did I learn anything new? OF COURSE! I now have a longer reading list. I cannot shut up about all I have leaned specifically about Cuba and the CIA, the truth default, the mismatch etc... all were really great! Do I recommend this book- HIGHLY RECOMMEND! Overall a great read, I just felt that the book needed tightening up or better direction.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Laura ☾

    Gladwell is brilliant as always, making engaging connections and providing clever insights. In Talking to Strangers, Gladwell tackles questions such as: What can we actually gather from interactions? Can we really assess a strangers character? How does this affect our lives? Our interactions with authorities? Why is it so easy for strangers to deceive us?  In exploring these questions, he weaves together illustrations from the intelligence community, policing, policy, the justice syst Gladwell is brilliant as always, making engaging connections and providing clever insights. In Talking to Strangers, Gladwell tackles questions such as: What can we actually gather from interactions? Can we really assess a strangers character? How does this affect our lives? Our interactions with authorities? Why is it so easy for strangers to deceive us?  In exploring these questions, he weaves together illustrations from the intelligence community, policing, policy, the justice system, the effects of alcohol on our behaviour, terrorism, Sylvia Plath and even ‘Friends’ the tv show in a thoroughly entertaining yet still informative narrative that captures the reader's attention.

  29. 4 out of 5

    M. Nasiri

    Life isn’t like an episode of Friends – what you see on people’s faces doesn’t tell the whole story. We are incapable of spotting deception – it’s human nature to default to the truth.  Humans are ill-equipped to understand strangers. We assume that people tell the truth, so we can’t detect lies. And we believe that we can judge strangers based on little, usually deceptive, information. The result of this misplaced confidence is that we don’t invest enough time and patience in truly Life isn’t like an episode of Friends – what you see on people’s faces doesn’t tell the whole story. We are incapable of spotting deception – it’s human nature to default to the truth.  Humans are ill-equipped to understand strangers. We assume that people tell the truth, so we can’t detect lies. And we believe that we can judge strangers based on little, usually deceptive, information. The result of this misplaced confidence is that we don’t invest enough time and patience in truly listening to and understanding each other. When British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain traveled to Munich to meet with Adolf Hitler in 1938, he wanted to get the measure of the man. Initially fearful of another world war, Chamberlain left Germany confident and satisfied that he fully understood what the German Führer had in mind. Hitler, he believed, was a man who could be trusted. History, though, proved Chamberlain catastrophically wrong.  (blinkist summary)

  30. 5 out of 5

    KC

    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 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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