Most of my work is spent helping professionals to strengthen interpersonal relationships, deal with difference and develop respect for the other. These are the key factors for personal and professional success. Within the organisations I work with I have seen that this leads to stronger social networks and the ability to influence people. So I could not have been happier when I got my copy of Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know,”

Essentially this book is all about the perils of trusting people we don’t know.

Journalist and New York Times best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell examines his theory that prejudging people we don’t know can lead to dangerous consequences. Through well-known cases like the Bernie Madoff scandal, the Amanda Knox trial, the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse trial, and the racially charged arrest and death of Sandra Bland, Malcolm explains his belief that many of us unconsciously encourage conflict and misinterpretation into our own lives.

Talking to Strangers is an exploration of human behaviour that challenges much of our given wisdom about behaviour and its motivations. In this book, Gladwell argues that we can’t tell when people are lying, we default to believing them and that a person’s outward behaviour isn’t always a good barometer of what’s going on inside.

Based on the Truth-Default Theory by psychologist Tim Devine. Gladwell uses the idea that when we communicate with other people, we not only tend to believe them but the thought that maybe we shouldn’t does not even come into our minds. Indeed, as he explains the central premise of TDT is that people tend to believe others and that this “truth-default” is adaptive and we assume that people we deal with are honest or, as Gladwell puts it, we “default to the truth”. Conversely, we can also misread the context in which strangers operate and see behaviour as a good guide to character.

For me the story of a black woman Sandra Bland who was pulled over by a white police officer and died three days later hanging in her jail cell was simply heartbreaking; and as he says we need to address these biases and not move on….

How exactly do we achieve a more thoughtful society? How should we embark upon to understanding strangers? I hope Malcolm Gladwell’s book teaches us all how to talk with people we don’t know. This is certainly a provocative and rousing book but one that will leave you with more questions than answers…. and in my world that is not a bad thing.

Reference Talking To Strangers


  • Sunita Sehmi

    Organisational Dev I Exec Leadership Coach I Author I Mentor I

    Walk The Talk

    Org Dev Consultant I Exec Leadership Performance Coach I DEI Warrior I Author I Mentor I Work smarter I Live better I Think deeper.