An interrogation of why we don't talk to strangers, what happens when we do, and why it affects everything from the rise and fall of nations to personal health and wellbeing, in the tradition of Susan Cain's Quiet and Rutger Bregman's Humankind
When was the last time you spoke to a stranger?
In our cities, we stand in silent buses and tube carriages, barely acknowledging one another. Online, we retreat into silos and carefully curate who we interact with. But while we often fear strangers, or blame them for the ills of society, history and science show us that they are actually our solution. Throughout human history, our attitude to the stranger has determined the fate and wellbeing of both nations and individuals. A raft of new science confirms that the more we open ourselves up to encounters with those we don't know, the healthier we are.
In The Power of Strangers, with the help of sociologists, psychologists, neuroscientists, theologians, philosophers, political scientists and historians, Joe Keohane learns how we're wired to sometimes fear, distrust and even hate strangers, and discovers what happens to us when we indulge those biases. At the same time, he digs into a growing body of cutting-edge research on the surprising social and psychological benefits that come from talking to strangers; how 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.
Warm, erudite and profound, this deeply researched book will make you reconsider how you perceive and approach strangers: paradoxically, strangers can help us become more fully ourselves.