Where do I even start with this book recommendation? It was first recommended by a friend when we were discussing the upsetting events that provoked the Black Lives Matters protests in late May of this year. My husband and I share an Audible account, and he listened first. He was sucked in from the beginning and talked about it so much, encouraging me to “read” it to discuss it.
If you can get Talking to Strangers, by Malcolm Gladwell, in the Audible version, I believe that is the recommended way to go. In the audio version, you hear clips of several events and interviews discussed by the author. Get ready for some paradigm shifts. Gladwell sets out to understand the circumstances around Sandra Bland, whom you might recall was an African American pulled over for a traffic violation that quickly escalated and led to an arrest, followed by Bland killing herself while in custody. Gladwell discusses various nuances of communication, as well as beliefs that may be misguided. He reviews several cases, beyond the conflict between African Americans and police. He brings it full circle by explaining the many factors that played a role in the tragic loss of Sandra Bland’s life.
Within this book, there are some valuable pieces around understanding victim responses to trauma and narratives around how we can “read” people’s body language and know definitively if someone is being truthful (spoiler alert—no, we can’t). My takeaway point from the book is to be careful not to blame it on the other person when there’s a misunderstanding. Let’s take responsibility for truly understanding each other, checking our presumptions at the door so that we can better talk to strangers.
Be careful if you read this book, as some content can be difficult to read about—and even more impactful when you hear the actual recordings of some interactions.
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