Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know

October 16, 20202 min read

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You’re complex, why can’t we think of strangers the same way? Throughout a series of case studies Gladwell attempts to answer why we are so bad at dealing with people we do not know.

It comes down to 3 main topics:

  1. We default to truth - doubt is not the enemy of belief, but its aid. There’s a threshold of doubt that we all have, but only when we reach the point when the evidence becomes insurmountable do we act on our worst suspicions.
  2. We assume transparency - people handle emotions differently to what’s shown on TV and books, and that’s true within a culture and even more true between cultures. The danger lies in being mismatched, where your actual emotions and your perceived emotions/demeanour are different as it leads to misunderstanding.
  3. We neglect coupled behaviours - certain behaviours are coupled to the context; i.e. time and place. If you remove the person from the context, they probably won’t behave the same way. This notion has serious ramifications when looking at topics like suicide, and crime. Gladwell expands on this to account for the widespread police searches in vehicles endemic throughout the US.

I found the way Gladwell interweaves stories with science very compelling and digestible, and the audiobook was great!

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Apurva Shukla

Created by Apurva Shukla.

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