As a person who studies and talks about human psychology and interaction as my business, Malcolm Gladwell is one of the best to learn from.
Gladwell is a critical thinker by nature, a person who examines and questions things that most of us passively accept as “what is.” His Revisionist History Podcast is a great primer for what you get in Talking To Strangers.
Gladwell’s aim in Talking To Strangers is to look at situations in which we misinterpret the thoughts, intentions and actions of people whom we don’t know — the strangers — and try to figure out why this happens so often to so many of us.
The situation Gladwell uses to bookend the story-filled book is that of Sandra Bland, a Black woman who commits suicide after a bad run-in with a White police officer in Texas.
Many people were quick to jump to the “racist cop” conclusion in the wake of the Bland case. Malcolm’s examination of the underlying rules and beliefs that led to the unfortunate altercation show that the officer was doing some uselessly-proactive policing that he’d actually been trained to do.
I won’t give the story away. Read the book and understand it for yourself.
Even better, get Talking To Strangers in audiobook — Gladwell & Co. produced a great audiobook experience: using actual audio from the actual people being discussed (including audio from the Bland-officer altercation), and utilizing background music to break the possible monotony of one singular voice going for hours.
Another great, thought-provoking work by Malcolm Gladwell.
You Should Read Talking To Strangers IF: You’re interested in people, how we interact, and you’re less than 100% sure of your ability to read the kinds of people you don’t know.