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When Strangers Meet: How People You Don't Know Can Transform You

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  656 ratings  ·  86 reviews
Discover the unexpected pleasures and exciting possibilities of talking to people you don’t know—how these beautiful interruptions can change you, and the world we share.

When Strangers Meet argues for the pleasures and transformative possibilities of talking to people you don’t know. Our lives are increasingly insular. We are in a hurry, our heads are down, minds elsewhere
Hardcover, 107 pages
Published September 13th 2016 by Simon Schuster/ TED
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Average rating 3.37  · 
Rating details
 ·  656 ratings  ·  86 reviews

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Samuel Wayne Allen
This book made me happy! It wasn't anything new per se, but I love reading about anything that has to do with human interactions, cultural norms, social experiments, and the like! :D

Favorite quote:

"Everything really interesting that happens between strangers begins when you bend invisible rules in positive ways."
Jan 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. I am one of those people that gets a lot from interacting regularly with strangers and I have struggled over the years to communicate effectively about why it's so important to me. This book said everything I've wanted to and did so with a very fair, balanced, and critical lens. Here are a couple of my favorite quotes from different sections of the text:

"When something unexpected happens it calls you to full attention, turns your awareness outward to the world. You are awake.
Rift Vegan
Jun 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I found this book thru a newspaper article. I am excessively shy and highly introverted, and I was curious -- I had had several interactions with strangers on the bike path where I walk on the weekends...

Scene: Me walking home on the bike path that runs next to a creek. A guy on a bike rides towards me and notices the camera around my neck.
Guy on Bike: There's an Egret, around the curve!
My Thoughts: Highly Unlikely. I've never seen an egret at the creek.
Scene: I continue walking. Another guy
Feb 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kriti Andhare
Feb 08, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is quite ironic that I picked up this book one year into a worldwide pandemic and everyone being sequestered in their homes. A healthy melange of personal anecdotes, optimistic prose, and anthropological experiments, this quaint book is ideal for a coffee time read. Heartwarming in its romanticisation of street intimacy, it seems to be a love letter to the metropolis and its inhabitants. The book acknowledges the dark underbelly of street-side intimacy; harassment and prejudice. All in all, a ...more
Jt O'Neill
Dec 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I watched Kio Stark's TED Talk on this topic and that inspired me to read the book. I got a big kick out of it but that's mostly because I could have written it. As an adult, I have always enjoyed engaging strangers in conversation, even just small snippets. I like the way I feel when I make that connection and I think, generally speaking, the other likes it as well. Ms Stark's book makes a case for how these brief interactions push us to see the stranger as an individual with all the human expe ...more
I find myself gravitating to short books at the moment, my waking hours consumed with apartment renovations and trip planning. This one fit the bill nicely and was about a challenging topic for this misanthropic introvert! As I read, I started to notice and appreciate more my interactions with strangers, and the highlight of my week was actually having a 3-minute conversation about my day and travel plans with a flower seller who opened our interaction with a simple question to that effect. That ...more
Silvia Tavares
I love talking to and meeting strangers and this book is a pleasure to read. Although it is not directly about urbanism, there are so many aspects of human relationships that should be taken into account in urban design. How can we promote these encounters, this exchange?

"(...) a moment of communion like that isn't common, but you can find little ones when you offer a smile in passing by someone you don't know. For me this special way of feeling connected to people I share a world with is essent
Erica Clou
An interesting little book about chatting up strangers- though it doesn't really document anything life-shattering. There's a lot of little facts and studies sprinkled throughout. I enjoyed reading it, and I enjoyed its brevity. ...more
Maria Freeman
Dec 16, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: factual, xyz
Interesting concept but finished feeling unsatisfied. Something about the writing style also made it hard for me to get into the book.
Emily Krueger
dislike the perspective entirely
Tayler K
I happened across this book at work (library) during a period of intense loneliness and was hoping it might give me some lightning bolt advice to get out there and make connections. (Plus it's just the perfect physical size, very appealing to look at and hold and carry around!)

I was reading the last bit of this sitting here thinking that it was interesting, but that it didn't really give me (me personally, not necessarily readers in general) any applicable skills to go out and start having meani
Phil Dourado
May 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Three things I learned from Kio Stark's book:

1) You can, oddly, reach a deeper level of intimate talk with a stranger than with the person you live with. Because you won't see them again. We bottle up things with the people we live with to avoid ... lots of things. Try being as intimate and honest in what we disclose with our partners: that's a real test of connection and intimacy.

2) One bad experience with a member of a community or group that we don't know or are prejudiced against
Sean Fishlock
First book I've read based on a TED talk and it really reads like one - short and with some good insights. Unfortunately it doesn't deliver anywhere near what its title promises.
Some thought provoking psychological theory and also a few coaching tips for introverts and those that hide themselves behind digital devices. But the benefits of breaking the "civil inattention" cycle just aren't spelled out, instead are totally vague and subjective. The "transformational" experiences were actually pet
Nov 24, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
When I was growing up, I realized my Mom’s hobby was to go to the Hardees at the mall, buy a cup of coffee during non-lunch hours, and sit in a booth with a good view of the mall in front of Montgomery Wards, and to watch people. She rarely talked with strangers, though, and I grew up with that as a base. Going away to college I found myself talking to strangers quite often, and I have kept this up ever since. I was happy to see the suggested exercises in this book really starts with my Mom’s pe ...more
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kio Stark’s When Strangers Meet starts off wonderfully in examining how the notion of strangers is not so strange after all. Halfway through the book it reads increasingly like a TED Talk (it is a TED publication), but all in all, the book gives an apt reminder of why we need to open our hearts and minds to the world around us. What I really liked is that Stark paints a highly realistic picture; there were anecdotes of how she kept strangers at arm’s length when it came to her daughter and how t ...more
Shweta Ramdas
3.5 stars.

I loved the premise of this book. When Strangers Meet is about opening ourselves up to serendipitous interactions with people we don't know, taking that little leap of faith more often than we do, and the rewards such interactions can bring.

While I found myself nodding along with most of Stark's observations (the surprising fact that a quick hello shared with a stranger on an elevator can boost our mood, the intersection of safety, identity and the ability to interact in public spaces
Kushal Asnani
Apr 29, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I purchased this book after being fascinated by Kio Stark's TED Talk. And boy the book is even more fascinating. It gave me a whole new perspective about the people around us and how we can communicate with them in the most subtle ways. What makes it better is she's made it practical, at the end of the book we've also been told how we can apply these principals and get better at them. It was a short, sweet, enlightening read. I'll probably keep going back to it as a handbook whe
Jun 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: american, society
This is a TED book and it definitely feels like the book equivalent of a TED talk. It takes a single key idea (in this case, talking to strangers can enrich your life) and elaborates on it for a little while, but not very long. This book explores some of the politics and dynamics of encounters with strangers and the factors that inform how people in different contexts are willing or unwilling to engage with strangers. It also offers some strategies to try talking to strangers. I would not call t ...more
Sasha Boersma
Great handbook for those who enjoy small talk and want more of it. Or for people who like to think at an academic level about communication.

It was on a booklist about conversation, but I didn't feel there was much actually on meaningful conversation. All very small talk oriented.

The author does expand into emotional connections, but this may be a cultural difference between Canadians and Americans - if you talk to a stranger and share something personal to someone on public transit or in a store
Feb 10, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked the overall thought behind the book. It caused me to think differently and critically think about my engagement with other people. I didn’t agree with certain parts of the book, like the necessity of interactions with strangers and how they provide something we need/crave that is missing from interactions with those closest to us... i don’t quite get that. I also found myself not really getting into the book and skimmed the second half because it felt like it was dragging a bit.

But, aga
Maya Man
Aug 09, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
grabbed this off the bookshelf of the library in the creative lab thinking it looked interesting. have recently been contemplating public interactions now that everyone's on their smart phones so thought it might be relevant. wasn't too thrilled by it though. pretty obvious observations to me. there was some interesting research about strangers interacting but I wanted it to get me more excited about talking to strangers and honestly it didn't. kind of disappointed. p quick read though. ...more
Povilas Balciunas
The book had good ideas: why to talk to strangers, how to do it and how to leave a conversation you no longer interested, etc.
But at the same time author would digress to topics like racism and common sense about identifying bad strangers which sounded like a disclaimer if anything goes wrong.
All in all I felt like this book could have been a single article.
But you can't charge 10$ for an article, hence the book.
May 19, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction

I enjoyed this exploration of human connection and the examples of the richness that can come from interactions with strangers. I also liked the exploration of the beauty and meaning that can come from someone we don't know recognising our individual and shared humanity. I'm an introvert and while I am unlikely to initiate these sorts of conversations, I finished this book feeling like I am much more likely to catch and throw back these sorts of conversational openers/tidbits if they are offe
Brian Mctribouy
Quite interesting, though nothing really revolutionary, helped me stop and think about just what or who a stranger is. Helped me to also start paying attention to the people, environment and things around me, and of course also start making deliberate efforts to to talk to, notice & acknowledge the people around me
Neil Funsch
Feb 27, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: self-help
Some interesting concepts. A very personal approach for the author and not a whole lot of research data. This book is an expanded TED talk so it is brief (100 large print, small format pages) so worth a read to get one thinking about ways to just be a little more engaged with fellow humans. One takeaway was that one positive experience even though fleeting can make a difference.
Nice little quick read. Nothing groundbreaking other than the acknowledgment that I need to try to talk to more strangers. I tried it at the gym (just pleasantries) and it did seem to brighten their faces — and mine too. I’m the one the author talks about (earbuds in, looking at the window, and no eye contact) typically.
Michelle Connell
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
An interesting look at how we see strangers. What is a stranger, really? Someone we don't know at all? Someone who rides the bus with us? Also about how we can brighten our day by talking to others we don't know with a brief hello, nice day, whatever. ...more
Mar 13, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a fun and quirky TED Books read. The idea is to get out there and talk to people you don't know. Yes, talk to strangers! It can open up a whole new world. This is something I like to do anyway, and this book has inspired me to do more of it. ...more
Mr Kip Darling
Jun 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Refreshing and life-affirming

It's a deceptively quick read. Like the premise, the author reaches out to the reader, and offers a space for transformation. I found myself lingering over certain passages, re-reading, and prolonging the interaction. I wish more books were like this.
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I'm a writer, teacher, researcher, and passionate activist for independent learning. I currently coordinate the Knight-Mozilla OpenNews Learning initiative. I also write fiction, my first novel is Follow Me Down (2011). ...more

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