Talking to Strangers book review

I just read Talking to Strangers by Malcom Gladwell and I have to say I was enamored by the storytelling. There were so many good stories that walked me through the serious issues of trust and learning to deal with people on a grand scheme that I identified with deeply. I appreciated the honesty of the book, the openness of what it means to open up to someone else, and of our inability to really know what’s going on in someone else’s head.

Talking to Strangers book cover

Personally, I am someone who defaults to trust and consider myself honest and open. I understand that most people are inherently good and are trying to do their best. This book was a reminder that not everyone is like that, BUT that defaulting to trust is the only way to have a functioning society.

My disappointment with this book was I didn’t feel like there was a conclusion on how to solve the problem. It presents the difficulty of defaulting to trust – you’ll probably get deceived by someone who is only looking out for their self-interest – but it never provides a solution other than to say society wouldn’t run if we were all suspicious of every stranger we interact with.

But maybe that’s just it, there is no way to be 100% correct about everyone else’s motivation, desires, and honesty. We live in an imperfect world where we only see things from our perspective. Even when we try to see things through other’s eyes, we only have the context we are aware of. So we default to trust hoping we learn from our mistakes and can move on quickly when we are deceived.

So I will continue to default to trust, with a wary eye when talking to strangers. My hope is that I see the times I am deceived before they become big problems. And my society will continue to work because of this.



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