(Book Review) Talking to Strangers

You believe someone not because you have no doubts about them. Belief is not the absence of doubt. You believe someone because you don’t have enough doubts about them.

Talking to Strangers by Malcom Gladwell took me a bit by surprise, it delved into a lot of topics that I wasn't expecting it to touch. Just to be clear, this is not a book that will teach you how to talk with people you don't know, instead this book is about the mistakes we make when trying to judge character and honesty in strangers, and equally important, to show us the effect this mistakes can have in our lives.

The example chosen by Gladwell are pretty successful in drawing you in, from the spies used by Cuba to infiltrate the USA, Hitler's charm, police brutality, to recent sexual abuse scandals that shocked the world. Some people may find the skepticism used while narrating the events a bit distasteful but it usually does a good job of illustrating Malcolm's point without deviating too much from the narrative.

One of the key takeaways from the book is our tendency to what Malcolm calls 'default to truth', meaning, we tend to start by believing others, and only stop after our doubts reach up to a point where they can no longer be explained away.

While I don't agree with all the interpretations provided in this book (something I expect to be true for most people who read it), I think they do a good job of providing different perspectives, showing our general lack of skill while judging strangers, and opening debate on difficult topics.

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