Book review: Talking to Strangers, by Malcolm Gladwell

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I listened to the audio version of this book, which is more like an extended podcast format. I found it compelling.

When Joe Biden told the USA in his inauguration speech that “unity is the path forward” I saw a Tweet from a woman who said “I don’t want to unite with fascists”. I understood her sentiment.
But I was sad that she didn’t get it. He didn’t mean “share their views”. By finding shared ground, shared humanity, with someone totally unlike yourself, you can actually prevent and discourage such extreme views in the first place.

This is basically what Gladwell is saying. I’ve seen other reviewers criticising him for sympathising with racist police officers or child abusers. They, like the Tweeter above, miss the point. He’s not asking for your sympathy, but explaining how and why different attitudes and beliefs arise. It’s different.

By understanding one another we can begin to build bridges. When we segregate ourselves in our own bubbles, ignoring – or hating – those who are different to us, we are part of the problem.



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