Posted On: Thursday, 14 November 2019 by Rajiv Popat

Malcolm Gladwell is one of my favorite authors. If you have read Blink, Tipping Point and Outliers one thing you love about Malcolm Gladwell is that he is not a self help writer. The suggestions and tips that he provides in his books are purely a side effect of his research and not an end goal of the books he writes. Put simply Malcom Gladwell is a phycologist and a philosopher bundled inside one brain.

Talking to strangers is his book that takes his style of writing to the next level:


From the FBI failing to identify foreign spies working inside the FBI, right under their own noses, to parents failing to see their own kids being molested by their coaches and doctors, this is a book on biases and short comings of human beings and how we are really bad an analyzing people and their true intents.

This is also a book on erring on the side of good and defaulting to a position of trusting people.

If you head over to Amazon one of the biggest gripes that you see people having about this book in the review section of it's amazon listing, is that Malcolm doesn’t provide any ‘solutions’. Take this review on Amazon for instance:

Fascinating facts are revealed in typical Gladwell fashion which keeps the pace moving. But he comes terribly short on providing any sort of value for actually talking to strangers. Gladwell basically says, "Hey! We suck at talking to strangers. Here's some interesting situations that prove my point. But I have no ideas on how to be better at talking to strangers."

The review section in Amazon is littered with these kinds of comments. Looks like the readers are looking for a silver bullet or at least an assorted collection of solutions from Gladwell.

What the reviewers seem to be missing out is that, just like blink, tipping point and outliers, this is not a self help book. Malcolm Gladwell has spoilt his audience by giving them potential solutions in his past books even though the solutions proposed in his past books were always just the side effect of his research and never the end goal.

Gladwell was never trying to reach to ‘solutions’ in any of his books! Non biased, deep and not trying to hard to reach a solution, are exactly the qualities that make his books special.

And this book is no different. In fact, I would argue that this book takes his writing style to the next level.

For me, this is one of the best books written by Gladwell. He brings me face to face with our short comings to understand other human beings. We all think we know our friends, colleagues, relatives, spouse and partners.

We don’t.

In this book Malcolm brings out an important insight: if you are a good person and you err on the side of good, you are bound to make huge mistakes in understanding and talking to strangers and even people you know and love. And that is OK.

In a world where people pick up a book only to find a silver bullet or bunch of solutions that can improve or change them, this is a book that makes your brain take a pause, think hard and have a realization that maybe you are not as good at understanding people as you think you are. The book makes you mindful of your own short comings as a human being and sometimes, just having that mindfulness is the solution.

In a world where every author out there is busy giving answers, we need authors like Gladwell asking the right questions and making us think. To me this is by far one of my top ten books to read and I highly recommend you grab a copy and read it. And if you do, please login to your Amazon account and provide your reviews because most people downvoting the book seem to be missing the whole point of the book.

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