Talking to Strangers by Malcom Gladwell

Just finished reading Talking to Strangers by Malcom Gladwell.

As always, written very well and triggers thinking, but I was missing conclusion and tools. It is obvious that we bring bias when talking to strangers, that we do not really know when people lie to us. But are there there tools or methods for us to re-asses the situation, slow down and handler it better.

Malcom starts and ends the book with the story of Sandra Bland, describes the mistakes that where done as well as the police policy change that contributed to the incident. I found this analysis interesting, but not helpful as I live and Japan and do not encounter such scenarios.

Could relate a lot to transparency and how we perceive other people which also connected to my past work experience.

While working in a small startup, I kept feeling that my opinion is being ignored. Another Group Leader’s opinion was usually winning, when I felt (and sometimes knew) he was wrong. I realized back then that the way we communicate, look, perceived, determined this bias towards him. While I was being appreciated for being Technically strong and usually correct, I could not move the company and people towards my opinion. At some point, the R&D manager told me he perceived my opinion as pessimistic. I was rather shocked as I did not perceive myself the same way. I could have said I am more realistic, but definitely not “pessimistic”. That was an important lesson to me as I realized that my communication style was perceived wrong, not only by strangers, but by the people I work with every day.

Many years passed since then, but I keep seeing bias in companies towards employees that may be more charismatic, create an aura of “I know what I am doing”, while in some cases it is the wrong path. Companies and people do not have tools to distinguish between the “real deal” to the Charismatic “False Prophet”.

Diverging a bit, Sabbatai Zvi was a false prophet who started as a super star, as the prophet of the Jews, but ended up converting to Islam and bringing hardship to many Jewish communities.
Do we have tools to recognize the “false prophets” around us, and protect ourselves and companies ?

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