Talking To Strangers || Not Simply Black & White

“Because we do not know how to talk to strangers, what do we do when things go awry with strangers? We blame the stranger.”

Title: Talking To Strangers
Author: Malcolm Gladwell
Page Count: 388 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ 
Publisher: Little, Brown
Release Date: September 10, 2019
Buy It: Chapters Indigo


How did Fidel Castro fool the CIA for a generation? Why did Neville Chamberlain think he could trust Adolf Hitler? Why are campus sexual assaults on the rise? Do television sitcoms teach us something about the way we relate to each other that isn’t true?

While tackling these questions, Malcolm Gladwell was not solely writing a book for the page. He was also producing for the ear. In the audiobook version of Talking to Strangers, you’ll hear the voices of people he interviewed–scientists, criminologists, military psychologists. Court transcripts are brought to life with re-enactments. You actually hear the contentious arrest of Sandra Bland by the side of the road in Texas. As Gladwell revisits the deceptions of Bernie Madoff, the trial of Amanda Knox, and the suicide of Sylvia Plath, you hear directly from many of the players in these real-life tragedies. There’s even a theme song – Janelle Monae’s “Hell You Talmbout.”

Something is very wrong, Gladwell argues, with the tools and strategies we use to make sense of people we don’t know. And because we don’t know how to talk to strangers, we are inviting conflict and misunderstanding in ways that have a profound effect on our lives and our world.


When I’m in the mood to read a non-fiction book I must immediately drop whatever I’m reading because the mood does not strike twice, or often. Malcolm Gladwell is one of those authors I’ve always been meaning to pick up but never had due to the aforementioned mood issue.
I had thought this book would be about mundane everyday interactions with people you pass by but this book was more than that. it was about the assumptions that people make based on their own examples and experiences and how those reactions can be extremely incorrect. Societal belief systems are looked at through a microscope and inspected. When counter evidence is shown to us it’s difficult to see the truth and that is what ultimately fails us when trying to understand case studies that are not simply black and white.
Gladwell does an excellent job at taking interesting societal examples to make his voice heard. There’s a mix of psychology, mystery, politics and science that keeps you turning the pages. This book was gripping in the way that case studies were pulled together with theories to explain why people generally cannot tell when someone is lying.
Truth Default Theory, Transparency, and Coupling are all delved into and explained in this book to help you see from Gladwell’s perspective why we have such a difficult time reading people and situations. The real life examples he drew on were really fascinating. I had heard of many of the cases from news articles and I remember being appalled at how these people got away with what they did. It’s that fascination that shows how truly difficult it is to know a persons true motives.
Sandra Bland, CIA double spies, Amanda Knox, Brock Turner, and wall street politics are some of the examples Gladwell depicts in Talking to Strangers. I learned a lot and will definitely pick up his other books in the future.

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