Malcolm Gladwell Book Review
Malcolm Gladwell is a Canadian journalist, author, and public speaker. Many consider him a master storyteller who is adept at turning complex business concepts and behavioral science theories into easily digestible anecdotes and lessons.
The author of five New York Times Bestsellers, his sixth and latest is bound for the same level of success. He has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1996, and often writes in the areas of sociology, psychology, and social psychology. His latest, Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know, just came out last month and is already receiving praise and plenty of critiques.
The book is built around the premise of what Gladwell calls the “default to truth” or the truth-default theory that originated with a professor at the University of Alabama. As human beings, by our very nature, we are trusting—and sometimes, too much so. We trust other humans, we trust technology, we trust that our cars will not malfunction on the way to work and make us late for the second time that week. We suppress our negative thoughts of the worst-case scenario, because if we didn’t, frankly, we’d never leave the house.
Talking to Strangers uses recent headlines and stories from history books to talk about common communication breakdowns in society. Gladwell argues that because of the truth-default theory, we take everything people say to us at face value. Miscommunication and trusting the wrong people can lead to tragic consequences. By examining circumstances of police brutality, Gladwell argues that we don’t know how to properly communicate with strangers. In many cases, we don’t even communicate. He states that communicating with strangers requires both humility and thoughtfulness, as well as the looking beyond the stranger to the time, place, and context of the interaction. If we can learn how to properly talk to strangers, we may just avoid a lot of conflict and misunderstanding.
The book has been popular thus far and read by millions, but it’s also received a lot of attention from critics. It is darker than his other books—much darker. However, it might teach us valuable lessons about how to communicate with others.