“A mind-expanding and heart-opening book” (Daniel Goleman, author of Social Intelligence) that reveals the value of everyday interactions with people in our communities – and what we lose without them.
Our barista, our mechanic, our coworker—they populate our days, but we often take them for granted. Yet these are the people who bring novelty and information into our lives, allow us to exercise different parts of ourselves, and open us up to new opportunities. In their unprecedented examination of people on the periphery, psychologist Karen Fingerman, who coined the term “consequential strangers,” collaborates with journalist Melinda Blau to expand on and make her own groundbreaking research come alive. Drawing as well from Blau’s more than two hundred interviews with specialists in psychology, sociology, marketing, and communication, the book presents compelling stories of individuals and institutions, past and present. A rich portrait of our social landscape—on and off the Internet—it presents the science of casual connection and chronicles the surprising impact that consequential strangers have on business, creativity, the work environment, our physical and mental health, and the strength of our communities.
While, as the authors state, "practically every article and book, every therapist, and every relationship guru in the media focus almost exclusively on 'primary relationships,' " there is a dearth of attention paid to individuals' secondary or tertiary connections: the butcher, the dry cleaner, the proprietor of the bodega where we shop daily. Transient individuals, friends of friends and their acquaintances play critical roles in our lives, say Baby Whisperer Blau and Purdue professor Fingerman. These people have access to resources intimates might not and can challenge our belief systems. This book is especially cogent today when so many unemployed are relying on social networking contacts on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, where "friends" most likely aren't part of an inner circle, but could know of a job not publicly advertised. Anecdotes, television, scholarly studies and Blau and Fingerman's own experience they were "consequential strangers" who first met via telephone illustrate the importance of individuals we often take for granted yet who enrich our lives in ways not immediately noticeable but that could prove highly significant.