An entertaining, surprising, and ultimately inspiring look at what happens when we talk to strangers, and why it affects everything from our own health and well-being to the rise and fall of nations, in the tradition of Susan Cain’s Quiet and Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens
In our cities, we stand in silent buses and subway cars, barely acknowledging one another, even as rates of loneliness skyrocket. Online, we retreat into ideological silos reinforced by algorithms designed to serve us only familiar ideas and like-minded users. In our politics, we are increasingly consumed by a fear of people we’ve never met. But what if strangers—so often blamed for our most pressing political, social, and personal problems—are actually the solution? In The Power of Strangers,with the help of sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, theologians, philosophers, and political scientists, Joe Keohane sets out on a journey to discover why we don’t talk to strangers, and what happens when we do. He learns that while we’re wired to sometimes fear, distrust, and even hate them, people and societies that have learned to connect with strangers have benefited immensely. Digging into a growing body of cutting-edge research on the surprising social and psychological benefits that come from talking to strangers, Keohane finds that even passing interactions can enhance empathy, happiness, and cognitive development, ease loneliness and isolation, and root us in the world, deepening our sense of belonging. And all the while, Keohane gathers practical tips from experts on how to talk to strangers, and tries them out himself in the wild, to awkward, entertaining, and frequently poignant effect. Warm, witty, erudite, and profound, equal parts sweeping history and self-help journey, this deeply researched book will inspire readers to see everything—from major geopolitical shifts to trips to the corner store—in an entirely new light, showing them that talking to strangers isn’t just a way to live; it’s a way to survive.