Breakroom Book Review: Talking to Strangers

Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know was the inaugural selection for SLKone’s Breakroom Book Club and marked the beginning of a new adventure for our internal company culture. The goal for our book club initiative is to expand our own perspectives while creating stronger connections with our teammates – especially now that work is so much more remote – and I think it’s safe to say that this read evoked mixed reviews from our voluntary gathering.

On one hand, Gladwell presents several thought-provoking perspectives on why humans are innately bad at detecting deception, why we assume we can accurately assess a stranger based on his or her outward appearance, and why the theories of coupling and the Law of Crime Concentration may explain some of our present issues with policing. On the other hand, his conversational use of story to illustrate his points – while entertaining – is at times almost a distraction. The first half of the book, in particular, had a few of us wondering where things were headed.

Overall, it was a relatively quick read that made for a couple of engaging Teams video chats, so we’ll count this one a win. Plus, it gave us a new lens through which to consider and discuss our world, current events, and politics. And the final verdict of the book? Spoiler alert: we need to practice restraint and humility when dealing with people we don’t know; we need to stop and consider context; and we need to accept our own limits with regard to our ability to understand strangers – a timely sentiment indeed.