Book Review: Talking to Strangers

How often are you in a business position where you are trying to determine if what you are hearing from a stranger is the truth? Maybe a job interview? A prospective new customer? New vendor?

I’d guess we find ourselves trying to determine whether a stranger is honest a dozen or more times a day. And how successful are we in those situations? According to bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell’s newest book, Talking to Strangers, we can detect deception in strangers less than 50% of the time.

When I was in school, that was a failing grade. That’s right. We fail to detect dishonesty in strangers over half the time.

Malcolm Gladwell is one of my favorite authors. He has five New York Times bestsellers including several of my favorites, The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers. In his latest book, Gladwell takes the reader through a challenging and intellectual excursion through history, psychology, and scandals taken straight from the news. He examines the deceptions of Bernie Madoff, the trial of Amanda Know, and the Jerry Sandusky pedophilia scandal at Penn State University in addition to many other high profile examples of stories involving interactions between strangers.

While the book lacks specific prescriptions for detecting deceptive behavior, it is rich in explaining why we are so bad at understanding those we don’t know. At the very least, the reader comes to understand how difficult it is to detect who is truthful and who is not.

I believe this book is a great read for any small business owner.