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The cover is not the book



Recently listened to Malcolm Gladwell talk about his book Talking with Strangers on the How to Fail podcast with Elizabeth Day and it's a fascinating read. It considers how we think we can read others through how they appear and behave but how sometimes making assumptions can have disastrous consequences as we often fail to get a true understanding of the real picture. Using stories of deceit and fatal errors to cast doubt on our strategies for dealing with the unknown, he invites us to rethink and challenge our beliefs which can often be founded on shaky ground.


One of the stories centres on Sandra Bland, a young African American woman who was driving to a job interview in 2015 when she was pulled over by a police officer who told her she had failed to signal a lane change. Courteous at first, he asked her to step out of the car. She refused saying he didn't have the right to make her get out of the car. The exchange got more and more heated as the police officer tried to get her to comply whilst Sandra stood her ground. It ends with the police officer drawing his gun and pointing it at her. Sandra is then arrested and jailed. Three days later, she committed suicide in her cell. How did this escalate in such a way? Each side was right in their own way but the exchange was just the tip of the iceberg. Neither wanted to back down but there must have been so much going on for both individuals lying below the surface that neither was aware of for the consequences to be so dire.


Everyone has a story but how much time do we invest in hearing that story before making dangerous assumptions. Building true connections takes time, compassion and understanding but sadly are often blocked by assumptions, looking through a lens at others which is clouded by our own experiences and we jump to conclusions about people that may be very wrong. Calm for ourselves and calm for others is much more achievable if we can develop a better understanding of this in our relationships both old and new and trying to ensure we read the book before making a judgement on the cover.

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