Talking to Strangers
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.

Talking to Strangers Details

TitleTalking to Strangers
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseSep 10th, 2019
PublisherLittle, Brown and Company
ISBN-139780316478526
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Psychology, Science, Sociology, Audiobook, Self Help, Business, Philosophy, Language, Communication, Social Science

Talking to Strangers Review

  • Mimi
    January 1, 1970
    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 As I sat at the airport, head deep in a book, I suddenly heard, "Hi!" What? To my left stood a handsome man. "I just thought I should say hi since I see you're reading Talking to Strangers." I too thought Malcolm Gladwell's new book was going to teach me how to literally talk with people I don't know, but as always he turns all my assumptions on their head with this book. If that's what the book was about, that stranger and I might be on a date by now. If I can convince you of one thing in this book, let it be this: Strangers are not easy... We think we can easily see into the hearts of others based on the flimsiest of clues.At the 2019 book conference BookExpo America, Malcolm pointed out that the problems exemplified by the death of Sandra Bland, a black woman arrested by a white policeman, are everywhere, not just in the darkest areas of America. It lies not only with these individuals but within each of us. In his book, he takes huge scandals (and who doesn't love to read about a scandal?), reaches deep inside like you would your skinniest jeans and then pulls them inside out. Except that when he does this, you suddenly realize your jeans had actually been inside out before. It is mind bending, which means that you have to follow along to at least page 54 before you start to understand where Malcolm is going. You will either find this too convoluted to keep going at some point or you will read it all in one sitting, as I did flying from NY to CA. My one frustration with this book is that at the very end Malcolm spends only 2 pages (2!) saying what we should do about all he just taught us. After speeding through the book, that feels like an abrupt stop. On the other hand, I can't stop thinking about what he reveals along the way. I can't unsee what he has shown me and now my framework of looking at the world is different. And isn't that the mission of any good book?SPOILER ALERT: For those of you who don't keep reading the book, here are my key insights. But to really understand what happened in cases like Fidel Castro's fooling of the CIA, the deceptions of Bernie Madoff, the trial of Amanda Knox, the suicide of Sylvia Plath, the Jerry Sandusky pedophilia scandal, and the death of Sandra Bland you need to read the whole book. 1. THE DEFAULT TO TRUTH PROBLEM We do not behave, in other words, like sober-minded scientists, slowing gathering evidence of the truth or falsity of something before reaching a conclusion. We do the opposite. We start by believing. And we stop believing only when our doubts and misgivings rise to the point where we can no longer explain them away.For a very few, there is no high threshold before doubts turn into disbelief - dishonesty and stupidity is everywhere. In Russian folklore, this archetype is called yurodivy, the "Holy Fool." We should be strategically inserting these people where our society has a blind eye, to be whistle blowers, however we don't want these to blanket their judgement on everyone. While we think we want our guardians to be alert to every suspicion, that is actually key to where the police officer so tragically failed Sandra Bland. It wasn't that he didn't do what he was trained to do, but that he did exactly what he was trained to do. He was taught to blanket perfectly innocent people with suspicion in case of the rare instance of a criminal. This kind of thinking leads to the distrust we see between police and the community today. To assume the best of another is the trait that has created modern society. Those occasions when our trusting nature is violated are tragic. But the alternative - to abandon trust as a defense against predation and deception - is worse.2. THE TRANSPARENCY PROBLEM Transparency is a myth. How people are feeling inside often does NOT perfectly match how they appear on the outside, which means we are misjudging other's intentions. This doesn't matter as much with close friends where you understand what their idiosyncratic expressions mean (I had a friend who would often abruptly get up and leave. Other people would think she was very angry at something someone had said, but I saw nothing wrong because I could tell she wasn't angry at all.) When we are confronted with a stranger, we have to substitute an idea - a stereotype - for direct experience. And that stereotype is wrong all too often. However while this strategy for dealing with strangers is deeply flawed, it is also socially necessary. The requirement of humanity means that we have to tolerate an enormous amount of error. That is the paradox of talking to strangers. We need to talk to them. But we're terrible at it... we're not always honest with each other about just how terrible at it we are."3. THE MISMATCH PROBLEM We are bad lie-detectors in those situations when the person we're judging is mismatched. A mismatch is where someone's level of truthfulness does NOT correspond with the way they look. I think someone is honest based on how they look and act but in actuality they are lying and I can't tell the difference. Malcolm dissects the case of Brock Turner, where because these two strangers were blind drunk, myopia removed the highest order constraint on their behavior. Myopia makes it hard to consider the long-term consequences, so a sexually aggressive teenager's impulses are no longer kept in check by an understanding of how inappropriate those behaviors are and the long term risks of those behaviors. Combine that with mismatching and transparency problems and it's a disaster. If you want people to be themselves in a social encounter with a stranger - to represent their own desires honestly and clearly - then they can't be blind drunk. 4. THE COUPLING PHENOMENON The first set of mistakes we make with strangers... have to do with our inability to make sense of the stranger as an individual. But there's a second category of error that has to do with our inability to appreciate the context in which the stranger operates... Coupling is the idea that behaviors are linked to very specific circumstances and conditions.For instance, both crime and suicides are coupled - tied to very specific places and contexts. Outside of those places and contexts, the rate of both go down drastically. That means when you confront the stranger, you have to ask yourself where and when you're confronting the stranger - because those two things powerfully influence your interpretation of who the stranger is.SO WHAT SHOULD WE DO? We could start by no longer penalizing each other for defaulting to truth... We should also accept the limits of our ability to decipher strangers... But far 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.
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  • Gretchen Rubin
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • BlackOxford
    January 1, 1970
    Never Trust a Blood RelativeTalking 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 rang Never Trust a Blood RelativeTalking 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...
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  • Emily May
    January 1, 1970
    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 “misund 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
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  • Betsy
    January 1, 1970
    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 ha 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.
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  • David
    January 1, 1970
    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 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.
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  • Toni
    January 1, 1970
    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 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
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  • SheAintGotNoShoes
    January 1, 1970
    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. A 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++++++
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  • Kelly
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • David Wineberg
    January 1, 1970
    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
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  • Megan Bell
    January 1, 1970
    This was my first Malcolm Gladwell, and now I have to go read everything else! In Talking to Strangers, Gladwell investigates what goes wrong when we interact with people we don’t know, using dramatic scenarios ripped from the headlines, history, psychology, and criminology. Gladwell begins and ends with the tragic death of Sandra Bland, and it’s impossible to ignore how urgently we need better strategies of understanding strangers.
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  • Rachel
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • KC
    January 1, 1970
    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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  • Janday
    January 1, 1970
    I read a sample of this book that I obtained as an employee of Hachette book group. Longer review closer to pub date.
  • RuthAnn
    January 1, 1970
    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 A 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.
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  • Celeste
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Kiwiflora
    January 1, 1970
    When we meet people for the first time - a stranger - we are programmed to want a positive interaction with that person. We greet them courteously, as we have been taught; we look for body language cues and cues in what they say or how they say things that we are familiar with, that we can relate to. We want to be liked by this new person, and have a good exchange of whatever it may be - medical advice, shop assistants, the police, our children's friends, potential work colleagues, love interest When we meet people for the first time - a stranger - we are programmed to want a positive interaction with that person. We greet them courteously, as we have been taught; we look for body language cues and cues in what they say or how they say things that we are familiar with, that we can relate to. We want to be liked by this new person, and have a good exchange of whatever it may be - medical advice, shop assistants, the police, our children's friends, potential work colleagues, love interest. When assessing those we aren't quite sure about, we still look for common threads and characteristics, and when some time later we find that we have been had, that that person is not whom we had let ourselves believe they were... well, then we have that massive sense of betrayal, anger, feeling like we have been a fool of. It happens to all of us and for some the consequences of this, despite maybe a nagging doubt or a little intuition antennae flapping way, can be terrible, heart breaking and long lasting. In this latest from Malcolm Gladwell, he has taken as his starting point an exchange that occurred between a young black woman from Illinois driving in Texas with out of state plates on her car. She had just left a successful job interview at the nearby university and was on her way back to Illinois to pack up her life and start again. She is pulled over by a white traffic officer and immediately the exchange of words gets off to a bad start. The officer's prescribed list of visual cues for trouble is working overtime as he dealtswith the young woman in the car. It did not end well. Two strangers for a whom a routine traffic stop went absolutely off the rails. But why?In his usual brilliant narrative way, weaving anecdotes, court judgements, research papers, investigations, high profile news stories, the author makes his case as to why again and again in life we fail to read people properly. Bernie Madoff and his Ponzi scheme; how Castro and his spies fooled their American counterparts; the sad story of Amanda Knox found guilty of murder in Italy simply because she didn't behave like a grieving friend should; the issue of sexual consent being given when one or both parties are clearly very intoxicated; the sports coaches and teachers who are also sexual predators and how they get away with it for years. All this and more the author covers in this fascinating insight into how we behave. In a world where we really do need to be kinder to each other, and yet also more aware and wary of those around us, this book is marvellous and easy reading. I love this author's books, I have read them all, and own most of them, this is another really good one.
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  • Elaine
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC of Talking to Strangers. I was stoked when I saw my request was approved. I'm a Malcolm Gladwell fan and I love his writing.In Talking to Strangers, Mr. Gladwell examines some of the most controversial scandals in American history, from the spy games our government dealt with in regards to Fidel Castro, to the horrific crimes perpetrated by pedophiles Sandusky and doctor pervert Nassar, to the tragedy of Sandra Bland, from the context that p Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC of Talking to Strangers. I was stoked when I saw my request was approved. I'm a Malcolm Gladwell fan and I love his writing.In Talking to Strangers, Mr. Gladwell examines some of the most controversial scandals in American history, from the spy games our government dealt with in regards to Fidel Castro, to the horrific crimes perpetrated by pedophiles Sandusky and doctor pervert Nassar, to the tragedy of Sandra Bland, from the context that people are ill informed when it comes to speaking to strangers.He highlights the preconceptions and prejudices every individual possesses and how we use use such notions to inform and dictate the way we speak, handle and deal with strangers in everyday interactions.These include:1. The default to truth problem - Most people will assume people are telling the truth (which is a good thing) but bad when we maintain the assumption when red flags are waving in the air like the wacky, waving, inflatable tube man.2. The mismatch problem - We can't tell when people are lying, especially if their appearance does not match what we assume a liar is supposed to look like.3. The transparency problem - How we feel on the inside rarely matches how we feel on the outside. You can't predict behavior and personality just from appearance alone.4. The coupling phenomenon - No, I'm not talking about Gwyneth Paltrow here.Crime and suicide are tied to time and place so when you are speaking to an individual in a tense situation, consider where and how you are speaking to this person because these two factors influence how you treat and regard this person.This was an incredible and fascinating read and has opened my mind when speaking not only to strangers, but to friends, family, and colleagues.I am more self aware of how I regard a person, especially someone I have just met, and will incorporate what I have read in Talking to Strangers into my own life.I do wish Mr. Gladwell had provided more insight and feedback on how to rectify such issues. How can I not make the mistakes some of the people he profiled did?How can I do better?How can we do better as a society? Talking to Strangers makes you think and want to do better, the hallmark of any good book, regardless of genre.
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  • Morelia (Strandedinbooks)
    January 1, 1970
    I’m actually very unsure about my rating. Perhaps I stand with 3.5, but let’s stick to 3 for a bit because I’m stuck and have many many thoughts.For starters, the first half of the audiobook was really good! I appreciated learning about new cases that I’d never even heard about and getting to explore the topic about how and why we suck at talking to or dealing with strangers, but then...The entire coverage of the Brock Turner case in this one just didn’t sit right with me. I felt that the author I’m actually very unsure about my rating. Perhaps I stand with 3.5, but let’s stick to 3 for a bit because I’m stuck and have many many thoughts.For starters, the first half of the audiobook was really good! I appreciated learning about new cases that I’d never even heard about and getting to explore the topic about how and why we suck at talking to or dealing with strangers, but then...The entire coverage of the Brock Turner case in this one just didn’t sit right with me. I felt that the author straddles that line of trying to be unbiased and victim blaming. It shouldn’t matter how much Emily had to drink or if both her and Brock were drunk, he *raped* her. That’s that. I wanted the same treatment and careful examination that the author did for the Sandra Bland case to have been done with the section about Brock Turner but it didn’t happen and ultimately left a bad taste in my mouth. Couldn’t get behind it.Other than all that, the audiobook was produced so well and I fairly enjoyed it!
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  • Magen
    January 1, 1970
    I have decided to not read this book based on the statement from this review: "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.'" I don't need more hate crime or rape apology in my life.
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  • Megan
    January 1, 1970
    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 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.
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  • Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    "Talking to Strangers" by Malcolm Gladwell is one of the most important books of the year. In a time where mass communication, often leads to conflict, it is essential to understand why we often misinterpret another’s behaviour, their words and intentions leading us to judge their character and alter our own actions to respond unjustly.Malcolm Gladwell is always effective in illustrating his point. In this book he vividly uses five infamous examples to do so: a case of espionage during the cold "Talking to Strangers" by Malcolm Gladwell is one of the most important books of the year. In a time where mass communication, often leads to conflict, it is essential to understand why we often misinterpret another’s behaviour, their words and intentions leading us to judge their character and alter our own actions to respond unjustly.Malcolm Gladwell is always effective in illustrating his point. In this book he vividly uses five infamous examples to do so: a case of espionage during the cold war, Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, the conviction of Amanda Knox and the Suicide of Sylvia Path. He also bookends his thesis discussing how heartbreakingly needless the unjust conviction of Sandra Bland. How assumptions, miscommunication and prejudice led to the unjust conviction of Sandra Bland.I would want my high school students to read this book. It easily supports curriculums in Religious Studies, Ethics, Social Studies and Social Sciences and would inspire in-depth discussion in the classroom.
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  • John Munday
    January 1, 1970
    First of all, I would like to thank my coworker for getting me this ARC (Thanks KC!). I have always loved Gladwell's books and podcasts, and this title is no exception. "Talking to Strangers" explores the difficulties that we face every day when talking to other people, through historical anecdotes, psychological studies and statistics, and research in sociology. It builds up a foundation with each chapter and then ends by bringing everything together when looking at one specific case. The book First of all, I would like to thank my coworker for getting me this ARC (Thanks KC!). I have always loved Gladwell's books and podcasts, and this title is no exception. "Talking to Strangers" explores the difficulties that we face every day when talking to other people, through historical anecdotes, psychological studies and statistics, and research in sociology. It builds up a foundation with each chapter and then ends by bringing everything together when looking at one specific case. The book reminds the reader that bringing humility and understanding when interacting with strangers is vital to navigating in this complicated, confusing world. Overall the book was a fascinating read with similar ideas to one of his previous books, "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking"
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  • Leah
    January 1, 1970
    3.5/5 stars. More detailed review TK. For now: Gladwell makes some logical leaps that I didn't find myself quite comfortable with, and also fails to explore the nuances of some of his key anecdotes. (Particularly where issues of gender bias and neurodiversity are concerned.) That said, he makes salient points about how poorly we perform when trying to evaluate the behavior of people we don't know, and provides a good deal of food for thought.
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  • Henri
    January 1, 1970
    Some of the science I think is slightly questionable as it conflicts with what other experts say on the subject of universal expression and worldwide emotion Web. Mostly superb though. Super engaging in the usual Gladwell style, this basically almost leaves the theory for the last few sentences in the paragraph and rather leads with experiments, practice and exercises instead. Should be another "smart thinking" bestseller this year. Couldn't put it down
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  • Jill
    January 1, 1970
    The failure to communicate accurately with one another is the subject of Gladwell’s latest compendium of anecdotes and scientific studies that can explain them. Looking at incidents ranging from confrontations between black Americans and police, to the inability of supposedly expert authorities to evaluate criminal behavior and lies, Gladwell argues that human beings are more prone to misunderstand each other than the reverse, and he believes he knows why.Gladwell documents several tendencies in The failure to communicate accurately with one another is the subject of Gladwell’s latest compendium of anecdotes and scientific studies that can explain them. Looking at incidents ranging from confrontations between black Americans and police, to the inability of supposedly expert authorities to evaluate criminal behavior and lies, Gladwell argues that human beings are more prone to misunderstand each other than the reverse, and he believes he knows why.Gladwell documents several tendencies in assessing strangers that have been discovered by research. He reports that our default assumption is that a person - even a stranger - is telling the truth if his or her demeanor seems persuasive. If there is a “match” between the message and the facial expressions and appearance of the person delivering the message, we tend to give such people the benefit of the doubt; we prefer to think we are not subject to being deceived, and respond accordingly. On the other hand, if a person is a stranger, perhaps someone with whom we do not share a culture and history, and whose language, behavior, and appearance differ from our own, we might just as easily default to distrust. Does this sound a little glib and empirically messy? Once again, as in previous books, Gladwell takes a Procrustean approach to data and conclusions. (In Greek mythology, Procrustes either cut up or stretched out his guests to fit his iron bed. Therefore a “procrustean bed” refers to a theory for which data is manipulated in order to fit its premises.)Gladwell has decided that problems in interpreting stressful encounters can be explained because “we do not know how to talk to strangers.” But take the case of Sandra Bland, about which he begins and ends his book. Sandra Bland, a black woman, was pulled over by a white policeman for not using her turn signal when she was in fact moving her car out of the way of the policeman! The tension escalated, with Gladwell providing a transcript made at the time of the encounter revealing exactly what happened. Gladwell concluded that the whole ordeal - so traumatic Bland ended up committing suicide three days after being incarcerated by the policeman - was a manifestation of the stranger problem. At no time does Gladwell consider other factors that may have played an even larger role, such as endemic racism and the preconceived notions that accompany it; the legacy of that racism both in the behavior by whites in power against blacks, and the reactions by blacks to that behavior; positive reinforcement for toughness and racism from the very top of government; or even the recruiting practices of police and the type of people who (a) apply for the opportunity to wield power with a weapon and (b) are hired to do so. [In an interview with The UK Guardian, Gladwell was asked why he didn’t mention race. He responded:“‘The problems with framing it in terms of race is not that it is inaccurate, it absolutely is effective,’ Gladwell says, when I bring this up, ‘but the minute you raise race, you derail the conversation and it becomes possible to dismiss this whole story as a story about a racist cop. Now he may be a racist cop, but that is not the issue, the issue is that the system with the best intentions set him up in a certain way.’”]Or maybe the issue is that he was a racist cop. Or, perhaps, something else entirely.The case studies supplied by Gladwell support his thesis, only because we never hear about either counterfactual cases or competing theories that would be just as explanatory, if not more so. Some of the data he cites as definitive appears to be more anecdotal than representative. Even the concept of what constitutes a "stranger" morphs as needed to make his analysis work.Gladwell's conclusion shows the same questionable relevance. He emphasizes that society cannot function without a certain level of trust. But, he asserts, we also need to abandon trust when it is appropriate. We need to exercise thoughtfulness, he urges. What is required, he suggests, is “restraint and humility.” Right - admonitions about as effective as “thoughts and prayers” after episodes of gun violence.Evaluation: This book is darker than Gladwell’s previous works, which dealt with subjects like the love of ketchup or the talent of the Beatles. Moreover, in wanting to impress the seriousness of the subject matter on readers, he seemed a little too inclined, in my view, to include sordid details of sexual assaults that weren’t essential to proving his points. His default [to borrow one of his favorite verbs in this book] to catchphrases can be confusing rather than illuminating. Throughout, Gladwell's reasoning was not persuasive to me; he cherry-picked stories that matched his thesis, and cherry-picked explanations for them as well.Finally, I thought the book could have been condensed into a long magazine article without losing much in the process.Rating: 2.5/5
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  • Leftbanker
    January 1, 1970
    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 scientist but I think that I know science when I see it. I ain’t seeing it here.Human beings are sometime—of oftentimes—foole 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 scientist but I think that I know science when I see it. I ain’t seeing it here.Human beings are sometime—of 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.
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  • Charlotte
    January 1, 1970
    In his new book, Talking to Strangers, Malcolm Gladwell takes a unique approach to understand the dynamics when a person encounters a stranger. In a manner that has become synonymous with Malcolm Gladwell, he makes his point through stories, some you may be familiar with, some may be unknown to you. But first, he illustrates a few key points about human nature. Like the fact that humans tend to believe in truth and transparency. We want to believe that somebody is genuinely kind when they greet In his new book, Talking to Strangers, Malcolm Gladwell takes a unique approach to understand the dynamics when a person encounters a stranger. In a manner that has become synonymous with Malcolm Gladwell, he makes his point through stories, some you may be familiar with, some may be unknown to you. But first, he illustrates a few key points about human nature. Like the fact that humans tend to believe in truth and transparency. We want to believe that somebody is genuinely kind when they greet us like an old friend. We want to believe that if a person acts guilty, they are guilty. We want to believe that a reputable doctor is going to treat our children like a reputable doctor would treat a patient. But as the author tells the story of Hitler meeting Neville Chamberlain we know that Hitler is not an honorable man, but a monster. We know that Amanda Knox was innocent of murder, no matter how guilty she acted. We know that Dr. Nassar molested hundreds of young women, some with their parents in the room. Why did those parents ignore what was happening before their very eyes? Because they believed the truth that Dr. Nassar was a reputable doctor who would never molest children.The story that starts and punctuates the book is that of Sandra Bland. Sandra Bland, by all accounts, was an upstanding citizen. She was on her way to start a new job at a Texas university when pulled over for a minor infraction. That traffic stop escalated in a way that it never should have and three days later she was dead by suicide in her jail cell. The author goes deeper than just a traffic stop, though. And explores the history of traffic stops in the United States and a shift in the approach to traffic stops that started in Kansas City during the 90's. Why did a simple traffic stop end up with a dead woman? Because we struggle with knowing how to talk to strangers.Bottom Line - Malcolm Gladwell is a genius. Every book he writes starts conversations in our country that need to happen. Talking to Strangers is no different. It is our differences that make this country so great, but we need to know how to talk to each other. That is what is lacking and causing the divisiveness that is taking over our how country. How do we open dialogue that is conducive to growth and progress with those who are different from us? Unfortunately, that HOW is not discussed in Talking to Strangers, but the WHY is there and that is a necessary first step.
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  • BOOKLOVER10
    January 1, 1970
    Malcolm Gladwell is a gifted writer who engages our minds and emotions in his works of non-fiction. In "Talking to Strangers,” he tells us true stories that, at first, seem to be unrelated. A police stop ends in tragedy; Neville Chamberlain and other political figures famously misconstrued Hitler's bellicose intentions; experienced judges grant bail to defendants who, they realize too late, should have remained in jail; the sociopath, Bernie Madoff, conducted a fraudulent investment scheme for y Malcolm Gladwell is a gifted writer who engages our minds and emotions in his works of non-fiction. In "Talking to Strangers,” he tells us true stories that, at first, seem to be unrelated. A police stop ends in tragedy; Neville Chamberlain and other political figures famously misconstrued Hitler's bellicose intentions; experienced judges grant bail to defendants who, they realize too late, should have remained in jail; the sociopath, Bernie Madoff, conducted a fraudulent investment scheme for years, deceiving many individuals who thought that he was a genius at making money; Amanda Knox served prison time for a murder that she did not commit. Studies show that most of us who encounter apparently benevolent individuals are predisposed to believe that they are not putting on an act. Conversely, when we meet a man or woman who behaves weirdly or inappropriately, we are likely to jump to negative conclusions about him or her, even when there is little hard evidence to support our assumptions. The author suggests that many of us have an inflated opinion of our ability to size up people. Research suggests that we are not as objective as we would like to believe, and are therefore prone to misinterpret comments, intonations, facial expressions, and gestures. Moreover, we do not always realize that people whose backgrounds differ from ours may communicate in unfamiliar ways. Gladwell asks: How did double-agents who telegraphed their guilt get away with their treasonous behavior for so long? Why didn't everyone recognize Madoff for what he is—a ruthless swindler? Which of Amanda Knox's personality traits, remarks, and deeds convinced Italian authorities that she killed her roommate? These compelling examples raise intriguing questions about why we sometimes reach erroneous conclusions when we assess the truthfulness of our fellow human beings. it should be noted that a few chapters in this book—such as the essays on suicide, young adults who drink so heavily that they black out, and the efforts of police to cut down on crime—are thought-provoking but oversimplified and not particularly relevant to Gladwell's central premise. Still, this work of non-fiction is an entertaining and enlightening wake-up call. We should be cautious when we decide who our friends are as opposed to who is likely to stab us in the back. Too often we are dead wrong.
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  • NinaB
    January 1, 1970
    Malcolm Gladwell is an excellent writer; this, his most recent book, is engaging, factual without being boring and covers a topic I am very much interested in. The title, I believe, should be more accurately called “Reading Strangers” as it analyzes how to perceive strangers, more so than how to talk to them.He uses examples, ripped from the headlines, of people misreading others that lead to disastrous and undesirable consequences. Analyzing Adolf Hitler’s ability to deceive PM Chamberlain, Ber Malcolm Gladwell is an excellent writer; this, his most recent book, is engaging, factual without being boring and covers a topic I am very much interested in. The title, I believe, should be more accurately called “Reading Strangers” as it analyzes how to perceive strangers, more so than how to talk to them.He uses examples, ripped from the headlines, of people misreading others that lead to disastrous and undesirable consequences. Analyzing Adolf Hitler’s ability to deceive PM Chamberlain, Bernie Madoff’s ponzie scheme, Federal agents who spied for Cuba, Jerry Sandusky’s child abuse crimes, CIA tactics to get information from Al-Qaeda operatives, and the more recent tragedies involving police shootings of African Americans, Gladwell makes his point clear that we cannot accurately predict others’ intentions and evil schemes. The conclusion is one that Reformed Christians have already known from Scripture - that man is totally depraved. Humans are naturally deceptive and we often miss on seeing this when we default to believing humans are basically honest. Gladwell doesn’t really offer a solution, but a hopeful suggestion that as bad as it is (being deceived by or not being able to read strangers), the alternative of always being suspicious of others would make things worse. We have to continue with a level of trust among strangers, or we would not be able to function in society. I believe the answer is found outside of unpredictable and unreliable man. The solution to our deceptive hearts relies in the trustworthy Triune God who alone can make true, lasting changes in us to enable us to act in wisdom and to react in humility when dealing with unknown strangers, and to make our world a better place.(A word of warning to the more sensitive/younger readers, this book covers the sexual crimes of Sandusky, Dr. Nassar’s abuse of the US gymnasts, and the rape cases in Stanford. I had to skip some parts as the author included more details than I cared to know.)
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