I’m Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, What the Dog Saw, and David and Goliath. I’m also the co-founder of Pushkin Industries, an audio content company that produces the podcasts Revisionist History and Broken Record. Ask me anything.

This week I’ve published a new book, Talking To Strangers, which examines how we interact with strangers—and why those interactions often go wrong. The tools and strategies we use to make sense of the people we don’t know can sometimes send us down the road to conflict and misunderstanding.

Talking to Strangers is also available to listen to as an audiobook enhanced with interview clips, archival footage, and court transcripts brought to life. You can preview it here: https://www.gladwellbooks.com/excerpts/malcolm-gladwell-talking-to-strangers-audiobook/

Okay everyone! That's all she wrote. Thanks for joining me--and please rush out and buy multiple copies of Talking to Strangers. :)

Twitter: @malcolmgladwell

Proof: https://twitter.com/gladwell/status/1172590953896513536?s=12

Comments: 210 • Responses: 37  • Date: 

trynamatch20 karma

3 books (not yours) that you think should be essential reading for American adults?

_MalcolmGladwell_61 karma

i think that it would be real useful, right now, for Americans to read, or re-read, the New Testament, so they could see that Jesus spent nearly all of his time speaking to the poor and welcoming immigrants, refugees and outcasts. kind of a good thing to be reminded of these days.

crisolice4 karma

And the other two?

_MalcolmGladwell_32 karma

then i recommend that americans go back and read the new testament a second and then a third time

steeb2er19 karma

Technically, the New Testament is 27 books.

_MalcolmGladwell_18 karma

nice ;)

notscaryspice19 karma

Hearing you discuss how unfair the David v Goliath battle (can't remember if it was a TED talk or Radiolab) was has really changed my perspective on how history is written by the victors.

How do you think the current US presidential administration will be portrayed in 50 or 100 years?

_MalcolmGladwell_57 karma

i have vowed that at no point during the promotion of this book will i utter the "T" word. :)

Stalins_Grandson16 karma

Hi Malcolm, thanks for doing this AMA. I’ve been a huge fan of Revisionist History and your books for a couple years now (currently reading Talking to Strangers). What do you think makes a good podcast, and what inspires the themes of each season for Revisionist History? Also what did you and Camille get on the LSAT?


_MalcolmGladwell_16 karma

podcasts work best when there is a least one voice on the episode that the listener cares about. like when i did the boston tea party episode this season. l interviewed a hilarious tea expert named tony glebley, and after the interview was over i was sure that the episode would work because i was sure that almost anyone would want to listen to tony.

trynamatch14 karma

Would you rather take one punch from Mike Tyson or have his voice for the rest of your life?

_MalcolmGladwell_24 karma

i love this question. i'll take his voice. not sure i would survive the punch

trynamatch13 karma

What thing(s) do you most wish Americans understood better about Canada?

_MalcolmGladwell_63 karma

the best thing about canada--that americans don't recognize--is that we're a country whose citizens look for reasons to agree with each other. as opposed to vice versa. this is my great frustration with the US. i don't think americans really are divided. i just think that they work really hard at playing up their differences.

T7inga11 karma

Did your research in your new book lead you to think that Jerry Sandusky is innocent?

_MalcolmGladwell_24 karma

oh man. that's a tough question. after hours and hours of reading through the court transcripts, all i can conclude is that the case is really really weird and difficult. something happened. i'm just not sure anyone knows what it was. the fact that the kid who was seen in the shower with sandusky--which got the whole case started--never testified, because the PROSECUTION didn't believe his story, is something of a red flag...

Roger_mudd210 karma

Are you certain that the prosecution didn't believe his story? Could it have been that they were worried that his change in statements could have been used to impeach his credibility and the credibility of the case in chief?

Edit: In other words, can you say for certain that it was not a tactical decision vs. a credibility decision?

_MalcolmGladwell_15 karma

i do think there were worried about the witness's credibility. i mean--the boy in the shower surfaces after ten years and says--nothing happened! and then a week later, he lawyers up and changes his mind and the prosecution concludes that his statement was written by his lawyer. that's a bit . . . awkward.

sauersauce9 karma

Man, I can’t wait to read someone’s blogpost titled “Malcolm Gladwell is a Sandusky Denier”

_MalcolmGladwell_11 karma

please. i am agnostic on the case, not in denial.

danellender11 karma

How did you get started with your books? What prompted you to research the ideas presented in The Tipping Point?

And what's your favorite movie or tv series?

Xoxocrossitgirl3 karma

Yes! How did you pick up on those interesting phenomenons that are so easily overlooked?

_MalcolmGladwell_8 karma

its really hard! i spend the whole year gathering ideas and then halfway thorugh the production season i PANIC. i can't even think of what it will take to create another season without my heart racing with anxiety!

philedwardsinc10 karma

What is your response to this review, particularly this excerpt?


_MalcolmGladwell_29 karma

well, this is a good example of why i sometimes find reviews of my work very frustrating. this particular passages critiques the basis for the romantic notion that poets commit suicide more than other professions. but i only referred to that belief in the context of a chapter where i ALSO critiqued the romantic interpretation of poet's behavior. sometimes critics work very hard to create controversy where none exists.

roryd610 karma

How many comedians have brought up your comments regarding their job being easy? Did you realize you were entering the danger zone?

_MalcolmGladwell_13 karma

hah! very funny. but remember. i didn't saw that the job of comedian was easy. I just said that the job of a teacher was harder. big difference. i'm not sure i could handle either of those gigs.

roryd65 karma

Being a teacher myself, I can tell you that the thought of doing 5 minutes of stand-up is more than a little daunting. Haven't you ever done a guest lecture or something of the sort?

_MalcolmGladwell_2 karma

i have done lectures. but no one is putting me under any pressure to be funny in my lectures, and i don't have to worry about unpredictable responses from my audience, like a teacher does. i suspect that you are unaware of how skilled you are!

die_Chemikerin9 karma

I’m about halfway through the new audiobook and I’m already questioning my own judgements I’ve cast on people based on their facial expressions or lack thereof. In particular, I’ve judged someone harshly for showing lack of remorse...and now I feel unsure. Have you felt anything similar during your research for the book?

_MalcolmGladwell_10 karma

oh sure. i've become obsessed with watching people's faces as they listen to other people. its incredibly how many different ways people signal interest. some people will say (convincingly) that they are FASCINATED by what they are hearing. but their faces look completely bored. i wonder if i'd be better off as a conversationalist if i were blind

StefieMISC8 karma

Hi Malcolm! I'm due to fly overseas in October right before your Edmonton show-- its honestly too bad! Thanks for everything you and your team do, its incredibly informative and so intriguing to listen to.

My question is, what were those final LSAT scores between you and Camille?

More seriously, what do you really want to achieve with the Revisionist team? What do you want Revisionist History and your next titles to achieve ultimately? :)

_MalcolmGladwell_24 karma

i see lots of questions about who did better at the LSAT, me or camille. i am taking that information to my grave! what do i want to achieve with RH? i want people to get better at changing their minds about things. i think that ability is the hallmark of a thoughtful person.

trynamatch5 karma

Follow-up: what episode(s) do you think have been the most impactful?

_MalcolmGladwell_13 karma

the RH episode that i STILL get the most comments one was the one about vassar versus bowdoin. i think that i must be on a dart-board all over the bowdoin campus.

trynamatch2 karma

Hahaha and considering your circles that makes sense.

_MalcolmGladwell_8 karma

close second: mcdonalds broke my heart. for obvious reasons

Achoooo_7 karma

I am halfway through the Talking to Strangers audiobook and am impressed with how it was produced and how much more compelling it is to listen to than traditional audiobooks.

How has doing a podcast changed the way you wrote this book?

_MalcolmGladwell_12 karma

doing a podcast makes you very aware of emotion. as my friend charles always says, we think with our eyes and feel with out ears. so when i started writing TTS--which is a VERY emotional book--i immediately started to think about how it made much more sense for the audiobook to resemble a podcast. i actually think the audiobook is a "better" book than the physical in this case. actually hearing sandra bland, or the CIA guy discussing "enhanced interrogation" or any of the other voices, makes the story really REAL

c3pottyO6 karma

Is there a revisionist history episode that deserves a second look? An episode that was probably overlooked or misunderstood in your opinion?

_MalcolmGladwell_18 karma

nothing would be truer to the spirit of revisionist history than someone doing a revisionist history of revisionist history. :)

Housingrico6 karma

You and the documentarian Ken Burns have recently shared an interest in the country music genre. Have you ever considered working together on a project?

_MalcolmGladwell_14 karma

i would do that in a heartbeat. are you kidding. ken! call me!

Housingrico5 karma

Hi Malcolm! Welcome to the AMA. I have really enjoyed how you have been able to create quality content across platforms. Who are some of your favorite creators?

_MalcolmGladwell_16 karma

i have many. but i've long been in awe of how bill simmons manages to so effortlessly be interesting, day in day out, on such a wide variety of topics.

trynamatch5 karma

If you had to interview/meet one person alive today and one person from the past who would they be?

_MalcolmGladwell_9 karma

easy. Alexander Pushkin, the patron saint of the audio company I just started with my friend Jacob Weisberg named. . . . Pushkin Industries! He was a brilliant, bi-racial writer. I mean. . .

die_Chemikerin4 karma

Is it hard to change your mind? When have you ever completely changed your stance on something, even with minimal evidence or influence.

_MalcolmGladwell_9 karma

i actually think its easy, because the world is much more forgiving of mind-changing than you think. if you read my books, you'll see that i had a chapter on crime in The Tipping Point that I have been repudiating ever since.

die_Chemikerin3 karma

In Talking with Strangers, and besides Harry Markopolos, did your research lead you to examine those people who are actually really good at reading people and discerning truth vs deception?

_MalcolmGladwell_9 karma

i did that in blink--and in a New Yorker piece I wrote years ago on the work of Paul Ekman. The super-detectors, as a group, are fascinating. but they are really, really rare.

merplotter3 karma

I'm a 33 year-old woman with a huge crush on you. Love your podcast! I'm a more recent transplant to NYC, so my question is how has NYC changed since you moved here in the 90s?

_MalcolmGladwell_10 karma

welcome to NYC! the city is cleaner and richer and arguably more boring. but the coffee is DEFINITELY better.

trynamatch3 karma

Who is your favorite superhero and why?

_MalcolmGladwell_4 karma

well, she's not a "classic" superhero. but my favorite superheroish runner of the moment is the bad-ass scottish miler laura muir. watch her race sometimes!

HeyBCool1 karma

What's your take on Eliud Kipchoge's attempt to go sub-2 in the marathon?

_MalcolmGladwell_5 karma

kipchoge is the greatest runner i've ever seen. but i'm still dubious he can break two. it is absolutely SURREAL to think that a human being can run that fast for that long...

YellowSharkMT2 karma

Howdy sir. Thanks for the good reads & listens.

I'm intrigued with your five liquids thing. Just wondering if there are any times where you broke your rules, though? Alternately, would be interested to hear about a time when you were severely tempted, but ultimately remained true.

Meantime, remain excellent.

_MalcolmGladwell_3 karma

very interseting. all rules, of course, are made to be broken. my adherence to the five liquid rule--espresso, tea, water, milk, red wine--is observed in the main. but last night, for example, i had a martini. it wasn't bad. but the effect of having it was only to reinforce my commitment to the BIG FIVE. one thing i will never drink, by the way, is white wine. why? its like bad red wine.

BlindDoorman2 karma

Hello Malcolm! The message I took from your book Outliers was that talent doesn't mean much in a long run but can be a good start. So my question is: how many publications did you write before the Outliers and did you find a talent for writing in yourself in the beginning of your career?

_MalcolmGladwell_12 karma

i'm not sure that's what i meant in outliers. the bigger point in that book was that talent is not enough: that it also requires luck and assistance and LOTS of hard work. in my case, i did a solid ten years on a newspaper (10,000 hours!) before i was anywhere close to ready to write a good book. and then another ten years at the new yorker before i was ready to create a quality podcast.

trynamatch2 karma

What's your biggest fear in life?

_MalcolmGladwell_10 karma

that i will wake up in the morning and not be excited to start the day

stoneyhamster2 karma

What would you say is essential when listening to people from a different political affiliation?

How can we make those interactions more constructive?

Specially with Canada and the US heading to elections soon, this should be on everyone's agendas.

_MalcolmGladwell_10 karma

here's the thing. political beliefs represent only a TINY fraction of someone's overall set of beliefs. i would listen to their differences and then encourage them to talk about the things the two of you have in common. way more productive use of your time

AdmiralFoxx2 karma

Sir, having read two of your books during my college course I am very interested in you as an individual.

What would you say is the one childhood experience that has influenced your life the most?

_MalcolmGladwell_21 karma

i used to go for long walks with my dad. he would a) never slow down for me, even though my legs were way shorter, which i thought was beautiful, because it meant he saw me as an equal. and b) almost nothing was said on those walks, which made me realize that for him my company was sufficient. i have never forgot either lesson.

trynamatch1 karma

IF you had to give up one: running or reading, which would it be?

_MalcolmGladwell_5 karma

definitely running. because i could always still walk and bike, right? but without reading i would be a lost soul....

trynamatch1 karma

Favorite indulgent breakfast food?

_MalcolmGladwell_5 karma

i don't eat breakfast! i find it a baffling meal. i mean who wants to load up on calories after they've JUST been asleep. seems crazy to me.

energyballsfuture1 karma

Malcolm would you rather have no knees or no elbows? Meaning that either your arms or your legs would be straight for the rest of your life and You lose the ability to flex at either your knee or elbow joint. The limbs are still functional only not bendable

_MalcolmGladwell_2 karma

easy. i'll give up the elbows. although having said that, i'm not so sure why i chose elbows. is there a consensus on this? data? polling of the relevant experts? :)

trynamatch1 karma

What's your biggest weakness as a writer?

_MalcolmGladwell_3 karma

its the flipside of my strength. i'm an intellectual serial monogamist. i fall in love with the newest, best idea!