I know I am late to the Malcom Gladwell fan club, but I am here anyways, might have taken me a while 😅. Needless to say, after picking up this book- I couldn’t put it down! To say it was eye opening and in some ways provided many many aha moments. So, this week on the blog we share our review of Malcom Gladwell’s Talking With Strangers, have a read and let us know if you have picked up this book.
The right way to talk to strangers is with caution and humility.
Malcom Gladwell is one of the greatest minds in our lifetime, his insight, eye opening detail and fact backed/based information provides readers a different perspective on some of the BIGGEST social talking points in modern times. He covers a handful of events, from The Amanda Knox Trial, The Death of Sandra Bland and The Penn State Child Abuse Scandal.
You believe someone not because you have no doubts about them. Belief is not the absence of doubt. You believe someone because you don’t have enough doubts about them.
The Run Down:
This wasn’t the typical type/style of book I would normally gravitate towards, especially as it’s not a work of fiction, but I had been hearing so many great things about Malcom Gladwell. About his impeccable insight, ultimately, this is what pushed me to pick Talking With Strangers up and I finished it much sooner than I expected. It’s interesting that upon hearing about the cases I was already aware of, I already had a pretty set viewpoint or opinion of what I believed to be true. But reading this book gave me a different perspective but also added details I didn’t know about. If there’s one thing I can say I have taken away from this book, it’s the fact that as humans, the perceptions we make or create about others and in particular strangers, we base it on what we believe to be true about them. Many of the cases mentioned were simply cases of people not putting themselves in the shoes of others or assuming the worst and thus making false assumptions which resulted in escalated situations. Knowing the backstory, ( which we only have due to hindsight ), you begin to realize just how complex human beings are, how not everyone reacts or makes decisions we deem to be “typical” and sometimes people are not straightforward nor predictable. Thus is the complexity of being human and despite all of the studies and theories at the end of the day we can never predict or esteem to fully know just how our minds work.
One of the things I found even more impressive was Gladwell’s ability to be neutral or use neutral language when it came to writing about the major cases he chose in his book. Of course on some level the reader probably has a good idea of the stance he doesn’t occupy, but he is very careful and thoughtful in the way he presents his ultimate argument of us, as humans needing to “talk to strangers is with caution and humility”, in his caution, he warns of all of the ways in which doing the opposite has caused issues, misunderstandings and ultimately death. He references events we all know, the world over, ie: the murder of George Floyd, and explains why someone like Sandra Bland would have been weary of the police, he also explains it from the officer’s perspective, explaining why he would have been on edge or more “fearful” for his life. Not in an attempt to make excuses, but to merely shed light but also to help us see that things are not always black and white or so clear cut. In the case of The Penn State Child Abuse Scandal, he talks about whistleblowers coming forward and being ignored, and how complex it would be to see the truth when a victim comes forward, but also still pays the perpetrator visits. And the complexities of assault cases. It was truly a very eye opening book, because I was so assured in my viewpoint when it came to how I felt about the Stanford Rape case and how appalled I was that someone could rape an unresponsive person. In my mind it was 100% clear cut, and thought I still fully believe Brock Turner is and was fully responsible for his behaviour and should bear the brunt of the consequences, Malcom Gladwell setting the “scene” for that day and giving a back story to the amount of alcohol consumed by both parties. He’s not excusing anyone’s behaviour, but merely giving context to what it could have been like based on the accounts and what typical party culture was like on campus. This didn’t entirely change my viewpoint but the added context helped me to be a little less judgemental and understand the fact that he was a young man and under the influence of alcohol was not able to make the best of choices in his given situation. This doesn’t take away from how devastating the situation is for everyone involved, especially the victim- it merely humanized the parties involved.
To assume the best about another is the trait that has created modern society. Those occasions when our trusting nature gets violated are tragic. But the alternative – to abandon trust as a defense against predation and deception – is worse.
My negatives are really not in regards to the book itself, but more because I wanted much more detail- I almost didn’t want the book to end. He gave such a wonderful insight and viewpoints I never would have thought to explore, so for this, I wanted it to be a bigger book.
Would I recommend:
More than 100% this book should be read, it’s not only important- I think it adds a layer to how we should approach situations. Things are never black and white or as clear cut as we seem to think. Pick. This. Book. Up.
4 out of 5 stars.