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

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Gladwell, Malcolm

Malcolm Gladwell, host of the podcast Revisionist History and #1 bestselling author of The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, David and Goliath, and What the Dog Saw, offers a powerful examination of our interactions with strangers---and why they often go wrong. 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? Talking to Strangers is a classically Gladwellian intellectual adventure, a challenging and controversial excursion through history, psychology, and scandals taken straight from the news. He revisits the deceptions of Bernie Madoff, the trial of Amanda Knox, the suicide of Sylvia Plath, the Jerry Sandusky pedophilia scandal at Penn State University, and the death of Sandra Bland---throwing our understanding of these and other stories into doubt. 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. In his first book since his #1 bestseller, David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell has written a gripping guidebook for troubled times.

Discussion Guide: 

What story impacted you the most? 

What is a stranger? Does the author define the term?

How do you view strangers? Do you “default to truth?”

Have you ever been deceived by a stranger? What was that experience like?

Should people be prosecuted for being deceived, as in the Sandusky case and the Larry Nassar case?

What problems does the author identify in our society? 

Do you agree with the author’s statement of the problem and assessment of human behavior?

Are the author’s explanations of why things happen sufficient? Do they take into account all factors?

Does the author tell the whole story in his case studies? What’s missing?

What elements regarding power, gender, sexual orientation, or race does this book leave out? What role do these factors play?

Do you think the author achieved his stated goal “to find out how to fix” the “strategies we as a society use to translate one another’s words and intentions?”

What does our future as a society look like? Does this book change the way you will behave?

Has this book changed the way you see strangers? Has it changed the way you see yourself?

How has Talking to Strangers affected your views on what happened with Sandra Bland? What do you think about her story as the main focus of the book?