I just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know. So much of this book was a revelation, especially in light of the seismic cultural shifts we’ve witnessed in the last six weeks or so.
Gladwell bookends his text with the case of Sandra Bland, an African-American woman who in 2015 was pulled over by a Texas state trooper for failure to signal a lane change after he came speeding up behind her. Three days later, Bland committed suicide in her jail cell. How could such an interaction go so horribly wrong? As Gladwell points out, our daily interchanges are fraught with so much potential for misunderstanding, particularly when it comes to our interaction with strangers.
I think you’ll find Talking to Strangers to be a timely read. Gladwell makes applications that are salient in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the subsequent protests that have gripped our national consciousness. If you’re familiar with Gladwell’s writings, it comes as no surprise that he draws on a wide range of examples here: the Bernie Madoff investment scandal; Neville Chamberlain’s misplaced trust of Adolf Hitler; the Jerry Sandusky case; Sylvia Plath’s suicide; the record of New York judges; the interrogation of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed; and the TV show Friends. Through it all, Gladwell illustrates our default to truth, our general inability to spot a liar, and the important link of coupling an individual to their social, even geographic, location.
This is a really important book and I highly recommend it.