The Power of Strangers: The Benefits of Connecting in a Suspicious World
July 08, 2021
Talking to people you don’t know is one of the best ways to get the most out of every day and to form lifelong bonds of friendship and understanding.
The Power of Strangers: The Benefits of Connecting in a Suspicious World by Joe Keohane, Random House
We are taught not to talk to strangers from an early age. But that advice, carried out and into adulthood, is adding to the predicament of divisiveness we find ourselves in, and—long before the epidemic that kept us physically distant from each other over the past 16 months—has played a part in creating an epidemic of loneliness in our society. As Joe Keohane shares in his new book:
Studies have found epidemic levels of loneliness in the United States and United Kingdom—affecting everyone, but especially the young, who, in a remarkable development, report levels of loneliness that surpass even those of the elderly. And loneliness, medical researchers have found, is as bad for you as smoking, making it a bona fide public health threat.
Not talking to strangers is why we seem so strange to another and makes us estranged from one another. We become unable to comprehend other people’s reality and are fearful of it, doubling down on our own beliefs and retreating to the ideological and emotional barriers we’ve built around ourselves. Keohane’s book helps us realize how the “others” we’ve learned to fear are those who hold the most opportunities for us—to learn and to grow personally and professionally—and perhaps, together, even politically. Talking to people you don’t know is one of the best ways to get the most out of every day and to form lifelong bonds of friendship and understanding, to walk through life enriched rather than enraged.
He starts by asking three questions:
Why don’t we talk to strangers? When will we? What happens when we do? […] And what happens is this: We become better, smarter, and happier people, and strangers—and by extension, the world—become less scary to us.
The Power of Strangers is a book about adding the satisfying friction of human engagement back into our everyday lives. It is as simple, scary, and ultimately satisfying as speaking to someone you don’t know, and as profound as reinvigorating our civic life.