Malcolm Gladwell (@gladwell) has written bestsellers that are probably on your shelf right now, including The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, and What the Dog Saw. His latest book is Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know.
[Featured photo by Ryan Hartford of Ecliptic Media]
What We Discuss with Malcolm Gladwell:
- Why, if we don’t know how to talk to strangers, we invite conflict and misunderstanding in ways that have a profound effect on our lives and our world.
- Why the information we gather from face-to-face human interaction isn’t as uniquely valuable as we think it is.
- Why television makes us worse at reading other people.
- Why we think we can tell if someone is lying, guilty, or deceptive — and why we’re almost always wrong.
- What determines the direction of Malcolm’s projects, and how he researches and organizes the massive amount of information that goes into them.
- And much more…
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To long-time listeners of this show, Malcolm Gladwell is probably a household name. He’s written bestsellers that are likely on your shelf right now — like The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, and What the Dog Saw — and he writes and hosts the popular Revisionist History Podcast, which goes back and reinterprets “something from the past: an event, a person, an idea. Something overlooked. Something misunderstood.” An interview with him has been on our wish list for more than a decade, so this is especially exciting for all of us at Harbinger HQ.
In this episode we talk to Malcolm about his latest book (which he considers his angriest work to date), Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know. We discuss why the tools we have when we talk to our friends betray us when we talk to strangers — and what we can do about it — as well as delve into Malcolm’s intense research, writing, and project selection process. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
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THANKS, MALCOLM GLADWELL!
If you enjoyed this session with Malcolm Gladwell, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources from This Episode:
- Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell
- Other Books by Malcolm Gladwell
- Revisionist History Podcast
- Malcolm Gladwell’s Website
- Malcolm Gladwell at Instagram
- Malcolm Gladwell at Facebook
- Malcolm Gladwell at Twitter
- Robert Greene | What You Need to Know about the Laws of Human Nature, TJHS 117
- Death of Sandra Bland, Wikipedia
- Shooting of Michael Brown, Wikipedia
- Malcolm Gladwell on the Future of Books, Kanye Tirades, Sandra Bland, Donald Sterling, Joe Paterno, and Intuition, The Bill Simmons Podcast
- “The Whole United States is Southern!!:” Brown v. Board and the Mystification of Race by Charles M. Payne, Journal of American History
- Donald Sterling’s Racist Outburst, Vox
- Brown Face, Big Master by Joyce Gladwell
- David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell
- Robert Hanssen: American Traitor, History
- To Catch a Spy: 25th Anniversary of the Aldrich Ames Arrest, CIA
- CIA Organised Fake Vaccination Drive to Get Osama bin Laden’s Family DNA, The Guardian
- The Illusion of Asymmetric Insight, You Are Not So Smart
- You Aren’t at the Mercy of Your Emotions — Your Brain Creates Them by Lisa Feldman Barrett, TED
- Can AI Help Judges Make the Bail System Fairer and Safer? Stanford Engineering
- Facial Action Coding System (FACS), Paul Ekman Group
- Bernie Madoff, Investopedia
- Amanda Knox
- Truth Default Theory (TDT) by Timothy R. Levine
- How Did Larry Nassar Deceive So Many for So Long? New York Magazine
- Telling the Story of the Stanford Rape Case, The Atlantic
- What is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)?, Concussion Legacy Foundation
Transcript for Malcolm Gladwell | What We Should Know about Talking to Strangers (Episode 256)
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:00:00] People are wiring millions of dollars and vanishes into the ether and you trust it's going where you want it to go and being invested according to the instructions you gave. The mindset and proclivity that gets rewarded in a place like wall street is the propensity to trust.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:19] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. As always, I'm here with producer Jason DeFillippo. On The Jordan Harbinger show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most brilliant and interesting people and turn their wisdom into practical advice that you can use to impact your own life and those around you.
[00:00:35] Today, Malcolm Gladwell. What? So excited for this one. Malcolm Gladwell, one of the most popular authors in the world. He has books we've all read like Blink, The Tipping Point, Outliers among others. His newest book is Talking to Strangers. What we should know about the people we don't know. Basically, all the tools we have when we talk to our friends and family betray us when we talk to strangers and this book is a deep dive on that. I've had Malcolm Gladwell on my interview wishlist for probably a decade and change now, so this is a huge thrill for me.
[00:01:09] We believe that the information we gather in face to face human interaction is uniquely valuable somehow, but that's just not the case. For example, you'd never hire a babysitter without meeting them and then we find that the information is not accurate. For example, the CIA had a massive failure evaluating double agents from Cuba and East Germany that were working for, of course the United States, but also secretly working for Cuba and East Germany. We'll explore why this is the case and what happened there and maybe how we can even avoid it in the future. We'll also discuss why television makes us worse at reading other people. It's like social experience, but it's the wrong kind. It's actually worse than none at all. We'll also explore that not only can we not tell if someone is lying, guilty or deceptive, we're almost always wrong when it comes to that. Of course, I couldn't resist asking Malcolm a bunch of questions about his research process organization and how he chooses the things he dives into and writes about. This is a great episode. I've really had a lot of fun doing it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:06] If you are wondering how I manage to book all these amazing guests, well they're usually through my network. And I'm teaching you how to create and build and maintain networks for personal or professional reasons. It's a free course because the more people that know about this type of thing, the better. Six-Minute Networking is the name and it's at jordanharbinger.com/course. No credit card, none of that BS. Just pure freeness. By the way, most of the guests on the show actually subscribed at the course and the newsletter, so come join us and you'll be in great company. Now, here's Malcolm Gladwell.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:40] Six years between books, man, somebody's putting in the work.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:02:43] Does that seem to you like a long time--
Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:45] It does seem like a long time. You and Robert Greene, I think, are the only people that I've looked at recently that has spent that much time between books.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:02:53] Well, remember I do my Revisionist History podcast, which takes up six months of every year. So I'm on halftime for four of those years. That's really why it took as long as it did.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:03] Oh, okay, well I'm not accusing you of being la---
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:03:05] No, no, no, no. I'm, you know, and I'm not being sensitive, but it's worthy of explanation.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:10] Well, it's also probably why the work is good because I think we've all seen what happens when everybody puts out a book every year or every two years. There's overlap in the content one might say or lack of originality.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:03:22] Yeah. I noticed this with fiction writers, there's now an expectation that they come up with a book a year. That's crazy! Who can come up with a good book idea every single year?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:31] I always sort of secretly hypothesize that they have a research team that's coming up with a lot of it, structuring a lot of it, and then maybe the real author goes and then gives it a couple once-overs with an editor and then that's--
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:03:42] Now, you're depressing me.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:43] Well, you never know. You've said that this is your angriest work. Why is that the case?
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:03:48] Well, because I've written books that begin with a sense of wonder or curiosity or aah. Outliers is a book about, I'm in awe of the success of certain people I want to make sense of it. But this one really begins with the Sandra Bland case, which made me angry. Not just me. It made many, many Americans angry and I was even angrier. Maybe even more angry with the way that I thought that that string of high profile cases involving law enforcement and African Americans...I felt like we just kind of pushed them aside and went on with our lives that struck me as being profoundly wrong.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:24] The Sandra Bland case. Do you have a three-sentence kind of overview or 10-sentence overview?
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:04:30] Yeah. So, if Ferguson is the kind of first of this rash of high profile cases, Sandra Bland is in the middle. About a year later, young African-American woman from Chicago, is in Texas, just has a job interview in a rural Texas town and she's pulled over by a white police officer for failure to use a turning signal and they have a conversation that quickly escalates into an altercation, drags her out of the car, she's put in prison and three days later she commits suicide in herself and the whole thing is captured on the officer's dashcam. That allows us to really witness in real time how a conversation between two strangers could go awry. And that's where the book begins. It's like let's figure it out and let's see whether we can prevent this kind of thing from happening again.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:15] That one was tricky for me because I did watch the video...Because you said you've watched it hundreds of times or something like that. Because my first gut reaction was to understand why he was mad. Look at her mouthing off and getting upset, and then I was like, "Well, okay, let me put myself in her shoes. Well, of course, I understand why she's upset and saying that stuff to him. I'd be pissed off too." And then you go, "Oh, well, wait a minute. If they're both right, then what went wrong."
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:05:38] Yeah. And also it's funny how, as it's so often is the case with these kinds of controversies that our expectations about what happened color our interpretation to a large degree. So I remembered the first time I watched that, my sense was she was being a little bit lippy. No, not that I blamed her, but I was like, "You know what? She could have handled that." And then as the more I watched it, the more I thought my initial reaction was wrong. And she's actually...The pivotal moment in the confrontation is when she lights a cigarette and the officer asked you to put out the cigarette and she refuses. She says, "I don't have to put out a cigarette when I'm in my car." She's totally right. But it dawned on me that the reason she's lighting the cigarette is to calm herself down. Because no one smokes anyway...We’ve forgotten why people smoke.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:23] Right, yeah.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:06:23] One of the big reasons they smoke is to calm themselves down.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:26] Sure.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:06:26] So she's trying to deescalate her own feelings and also I think by extension deescalate the situation. And he reads it -- in number 10 of his epic misreadings of the situation -- reads that act as defiance.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:38] I also picked that up initially. I was like, "Oh, look at her. Just throwing that in his face." And then I went, "Well, she's freaking out." But I only noticed that probably after you'd said something about that in the book. It didn't occur to me in the initial run.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:06:52] Yeah. It's a hard one and by the end of the book, my conclusion is the real solution to this problem is not to have police conduct these kinds of stops. The problem begins not with the mistake, I think it's because we have videotape of this encounter, to think the encounter begins when the videotape starts rolling. But in fact it begins when he spots her on the street, and he makes this decision, which is consistent with his training to pull her over because she's discrepant. She's out-of-state plates in a small Texas town, young black woman, Hyundai. I think the Hyundai...I'm a car guy and somehow I become obsessed with the fact she's driving a Hyundai matters. I kinda sorta think it does because it signifies her class. So if she's in an Audi, everything else being equal, her chances of being pulled over are lower. And if she's in an Audi with Texas plates, she's fine. And most of all, if she's white, there's no way he's pulling her over. Is that combination. So he's saying to himself, this is a largely white area of Texas. It's a college town, but she's not a college student from Chicago.
[00:07:59] And he really is like thinking something's going on here. And as I described in the book, all of those inferences are deeply problematic. But that's where it begins. It begins before the tape starts with him, like jumping into a conclusion about someone because they're driving a Hyundai and the skin color is black, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:15] Yeah. People go, well that's racist, but it's also, yes, and there's probably some of that in there. It's hard to credibly argue that there's none of that in there. But then your book says, and that's also not the whole picture because otherwise the uncomfortable idea here as well. So many people are just racist and that makes them do all this bad stuff. But it's really, their training, of course, and the way that we misperceive people's actions. And so I do want to get into those particular details because in a way this book is, it's sort of like Blink but about people, but it's one other side of the same 10-sided die that maybe these social characteristics are. It's not exactly the same thing, but it's how our impressions were right at first. But for reasons we can't explain or how we form impressions that are completely wrong based on the wrong data.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:09:01] Yeah. To preface a lot of this conversation, we did a different kind of audio book with this book and in the audio book, instead of me just reading my book, what I use is I bring in all the tape so it's produced like a podcast. So you will hear the encounter between Sandra Bland and the cop. Sandra Bland did these videos, these YouTube videos, and you'll hear her voice because they're still up on YouTube. And then you'll hear at the end of the book, I have the tape from the cop's deposition in the investigation, you'll hear him justifying what he did. It's a wholly different story when you hear all those voices. And throughout the whole book you will hear like I interviewed one of the CIA guys who did all that, did the enhanced interrogation.
[00:09:40] It's different when you hear his voice. And I think since this is a book about emotional understanding, the audio book is in some ways because it's so much easier to grasp the emotional context. When you hear the police officer's tone of voice, you get it, right? And when you hear her, her voice closely, you get it in a way you don't, I don't know. Anyway, I just say that to throw that out there because it's like, it frames a lot of the kind of nuance that the book is concerned with.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:08] I'm an audio book guy and I consumed that and I liked it. And I think you brought this up in an interview. I can't remember which one because I've listened to 50 Gladwell's interviews in the last week.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:10:17] Oh man, you must be so sick of me.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:18] I'm enjoying this. But once it's over, man, I'm done.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:10:21] You're done with done.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:21] I'm waiting for--
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:10:22] Move on.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:22] Yeah, moving on. But you've mentioned this and it was like there was somebody who had discriminated against African-American people in his apartment buildings for like decades.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:10:32] Donald Sterling.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:33] Yeah.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:10:33] He was the owner of the Clippers. Yeah, is this weird thing. So this is one of the motivating ideas behind the book, which is that there's a brilliant essay written by a historian named Charles Payne, about 10 years ago or so, maybe a little more than that. And he writes about how if you were a Southern segregationist in the '60s, the project, the thing you were trying to do, we used to get raised, discussed entirely on a personal level to make it the whole racial issue about you know, white people and black people being able to get along and be nice to each other. And if you could do that, then you could avoid consideration of the structural ways in which racism is embedded in our society.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:11:12] They wanted to make this about, am I nice to my black neighbor and not about voting rights or gerrymandering or segregation, legal segregation. And the argument of the essay is that that perspective, one, the way we talk about race now in America is that way in personal terms. And the great example of this is the owner of the Clippers, the Los Angeles Clippers, Donald Sterling, who owns the team forever, ever, ever, ever and early on in his tenure as owner, he's a big land owner in LA and there are two separate actions brought against him by the department of justice for systematic discrimination against African Americans. He's driving black people out of his buildings and he's not renting to black. He is nailed, settles with the DOJ, pays a fine. Nothing happens. Then fast forward to 2017 and there's this famous case right where his girlfriend secretly records him making very disparaging comments about black people to her and that's released and there's a huge brouhaha. And he's forced out of the league and he's no longer an owner of the league.
[00:12:16] And this is exactly what they were talking about, the guy in every single way. It is a worse thing to systematically discriminate against black people in renting apartments than it is to make in private a disparaging comment to your girlfriend. We got upset about the latter and we gave him a pass on the former. And in this book, what I'm trying to say is the same thing that happens here is that these instances happen and we say, "Oh, it's a racist cop." And that's what we get riled up about, and then we neglect the fact that...Actually there's a whole system behind that to explain what happened, and that's where we should be spending our attention.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:50] Your mom had an instance of this, I think you talked about this again in another piece. Where was it your neighbor in England or something like that? It said something about South Africa and she went--
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:13:01] Oh, so my mom, who's Jamaican, she married my father who was white in the late '50s in England and they actually had this exact thing. There are numerous instances where someone yelled a racial epithet at her and they were also a famous case where my parents rented an apartment in London and then once the landlord found out my mother was black, they kicked them out. If you ask my mother, you know, which is worse. She was like, "Well, you know, having a baby and being exhausted and moving into an apartment, and then being told to turn around and move out again. That was infinitely worse." But the systematic institutional stuff is the stuff that we ought to be concerned about. She got over somebody calling her the N word, but it took a long time to get over the flagrant injustice of someone taking back a lease, just because of the color of your skin. That's a kind of sub theme of the book. It's like, let's talk about the things that matter here.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:51] You'd mentioned we believe the information we gather face to face and human interaction is uniquely valuable, such as, you'd never hire a babysitter without meeting that babysitter because we think, well, she seems like she's got a good head on our shoulders, but that data, not necessarily that useful for that sort of small smudge. The examples you give one, which was particularly interesting, was the CIA failure of evaluating double agents from Cuba. Can you speak to that a little bit because that was a major national security issue based on these exact same concepts.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:14:22] Yeah. So I tell a bunch of spy stories in the book, mostly because I'm obsessed with spies. Are you obsessed with spies?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:28] I am. Yeah. I--
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:14:29] Are you like me someone who reads every book with the word spy in the title?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:32] Yes. And also a lot of my shows this person was undercover in Pakistan for the CIA, but not really. This person was the trainer for the disguises or what, you know, that's--
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:14:42] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm having that stuff too. I tell these two little known spy stories and both of them involve Cuba, because the Cubans, you know, they played the US for a fool for years and years and years. They're both about the fact that the Cubans pulled the wool over the eyes of not kind of over seasoned CIA, sophisticated CIA, counterintelligence people who were heatedly fooled by Cubans on matters. Like one case of a spy was really high up in the American intelligence establishment. And another case was that the spy network that we were running inside Cuba was almost entirely turned. And it's like this kind of fascinating window. And look, if they can't do it, they say, if an agency, it's the most sophisticated intelligence agency in the world full of people who are trained in the arts of detecting deception can be so easily fooled by a tiny little, you know, country with very few resources sitting in the middle of the Caribbean. What hope does the rest of us have?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:43] I wonder if small countries have to do that because they're never going to outgun a major power. So they just go, you know what? All we got is the Ninja stuff.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:15:51] A friend of mine who was a spy obsessed as I am. This has been one of his rants for years, which is that what are the most successful countries of spy in the world over the last hundred years--
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:59] East Germany.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:16:00] Israel.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:00] Israel. Cuba.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:16:02] Cuba. North Korea.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:04] Oh yeah, north Korea.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:16:05] It's all these little--
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:06] Iran, probably.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:16:08] Iran. In fact, this should have been a chapter of my last book, David and Goliath, because this is exactly a disadvantage that turns into an advantage. You can't afford an F-16, but you can afford to sneak up double agent into a yeah. But I’m always wondering, I read this thing, this amazing paper in some journal on espionage, by a former CIA guy who says, if you look at the cold war and you look at the utter futility that the US and the Soviet Union had in detecting spies within their own ranks. So we had two spies, Robert Hanssen and Aldrich Ames, who basically gave away the store. We had spies inside Soviet Union who gave away the store. If you look at the record of this, you realize it's all a wash. We knew everything we wanted to know about them. They knew everything they wanted to know about us. It's almost as if he said, we should have met in 1950 and just said, you know what guys, it's pointless since you can't know if there's a traitor in your midst. Let's just shutdown all of our clandestine services. I mean, it's a whimsical notion, but it would save us a lot of cash.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:11] Sure. Yeah. And then the other side says, sure, you go ahead and do that and we'll follow you.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:17:17] No but suppose you're the CIA and you say, "Okay, I'm not gonna run Humint, so human intelligence, all I'm going to do is the tech stuff. I'm going to tap phones and intercept signals and do all that kind of stuff, but I'm not running anymore agents." So you remove the possibility for your enemies to turn agents and fill you with false information and you also shut down a thing which your enemies can penetrate. So there's no for them to infiltrate. Sure. And there's no agent for them to turn. So you could do it unilaterally. It's not clear to me that you would be--
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:57] The problem is, this is maybe an apocryphal story. There's a general that said, "We have spy satellites that can see a license plate from space. That's fine if you are attacked by a license plate, but it's not good if you want to find a guy living in a cave in Afghanistan that you need a human because they're signals intelligence is maybe they make a cell phone call from the village once every three weeks. Meanwhile, they're just sitting around with goats or whatever.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:18:20] I once heard a guy, a senior military guy talk about the same paradoxes if you have a bomb which can take out a bathroom. It's so accurate, it can take out just the bathroom in like a mansion somewhere in the desert. Then you think that's an advantage, it's actually not because now you need to have intelligence that can locate someone in a place specific as the bathroom. Right?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:42] Right. Yeah.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:18:43] Before, when you wiped out like the entire house, and all you need to know is he was in the house. Now you got to know where he is in the house. Right? That's sort of funny. I wonder if you reconstruct how we found Osama bin Laden for example. It's an awful lot of intercepted signals, right? How much is it? Do we ultimately have a human source?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:03] Yeah.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:19:04] We do.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:05] They did an operation where they were going door to door saying where your kids vaccinated. And that was a huge problem because now when people actually make sure that people are being vaccinated, they're like get out of our neighborhood. They're attacking those people because they think they're all spies, which is you're not supposed to do that kind of thing. You're not supposed to cross intelligence and humanitarian operations for that reason.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:19:23] Yeah. Okay, so it was a mix. Yeah. I'm being whimsical, but I do think in general the absolute futility of human beings' efforts too successfully read deception in others suggests to us that some things we do ought to be changed.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:19:43] You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest, Malcolm Gladwell. We'll be right back.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:48] This episode is sponsored in part by Cloud Control cat litter by Arm & Hammer. So, of course, I love my cat Momo. He's the one in all the photos that you guys have seen on the New York Times or on the website and the blog. He just steals the show every time. And the other day actually my mother-in-law said something like, "Oh, we have to give him a bath." And she just said it on the couch. She didn't look at him. She didn't start walking towards him, nothing. He was eating, froze, and then ran and hid. So he actually understands the word bath or something.
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Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:24] Oh my god, I couldn't believe it. He freaked out. He froze and ran. I'm like, nobody even looked at him. Nothing. He just sensed us like talking about him or looking at him. Maybe somebody looked at him sideways, but he was eating. He couldn't even see us. I don't understand. It was amazing. I've never seen anything like this and like he must understand so much more than we think. But what I don't love is cleaning up the litter box and that's why Arm & Hammer created new Cloud Control litter. There's no cloud of nasties, which by the way, you're not supposed to inhale the dust from cat litter. It has tons of bacteria in it. It has tons of stuff in it. And if you're pregnant, you're not even supposed to get near it. So this stuff, this Cloud Control cat litter, it's a hundred percent dust free. There's no heavy perfumes, so it doesn't make your house smell like a freaking airport bathroom. No airborne gobbledygook in there. And so what happens in the litter box stays in the litter box. Cloud Control cat litter by Arm & Hammer. It's as exciting as I get about cat litter.
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[00:22:30] Thanks for listening and supporting the show and to learn more and get links to all the great discounts you just heard from our amazing sponsors. Visit jordanharbinger.com/deals. Don't forget we have a worksheet for today's episode so you can make sure you solidify your understanding of the key takeaways from Malcolm Gladwell. That link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. If you'd like some tips on how to subscribe to the show, just go to jordanharbinger.com/subscribe. Subscribing to the show is absolutely free. It just means that you get all of the latest episodes downloaded automatically to your podcast player so you don't miss a single thing. And now back to our show with Malcolm Gladwell.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:13] You give another example in the book of judges being just horrible at deciding who's going to be a flight risk for bail versus a computer. There are a couple of other examples in the book as well. One experiment, which is really fascinating. I'd love for you to speak to this. This experiment where people are asked to complete words, and the words would be like, D-A, blank, blank. And I'd go dark. And then it'd be like T-O-U, blank, blank. Oh, tough. And then you say, well, these words, what do you think they say about you? And I say, uh, nothing. I say dark, tough, malicious. I don't know. They don't say anything about me. But then of course we have other people do it and you ask me, what are these words say about other people? I just think I know them better than they know themselves.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:23:52] Yeah. So this is called the asymmetric reality of something, something inside. It goes to this heart of...We have enormous confidence in our ability to draw meaningful conclusions about people based on very superficial evidence. So yeah, you see, how's people complete a list of words. And you look at that list and you say, "Oh man, you did dark. You completed D-A as dark and T-O blank, blank, blank as tough." And you say, "Oh man, you must be--
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:21] This brooding psychopath.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:24:22] Yeah, exactly. But in fact, that's nonsense. You can't draw meaningful conclusions about somebody from the way they complete words in a psychological questionnaire. But this is this weird thing about human beings and strangers, which is like we are super, super crazily confident. So another example would be the Boston marathon bomber . Tsarnaev was on trial--
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:46] Tsarnaev or something like that.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:24:46] Yeah, I'm angling his name. One of the reasons he gets a death sentence. The jury is convinced that he has shown no remorse and this was a big argument of the prosecution, that he was a guy and they had video from him in prison and during the trial itself, everyone was looking at him and say, the guy clearly is not remorseful at all based on his facial expressions. I mean it's a really brilliant riff by a psychologist named Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:12] Oh, she's been on the show. Yeah. She's great.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:25:14] Yeah, she's totally brilliant. So she was just stripping her book when she was like, "Wait a minute. First of all, what does remorse look like? I don't know what it looks like." Why are we so sure we know what it looks like? Why are we so sure that everyone demonstrates remorse in the same way? And thirdly, he's not American, he's Chechen. So what do we know about Chechen society and what we do know about Chechen society is that if they did manifest remorse on their faces in a certain way, it wouldn't be the same way we do. Right? They have very different cultural codes about how men are supposed to behave and manage their emotions in stressful situations. So like you can''t know maybe he didn't feel remorse or maybe he did. You cannot sit there and accurately determine whether he did or didn't based on your perception of the expressions on his face. And that is fundamental area that we keep making over and over and over and over again. Right?
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:26:03] I am sitting here, I've met you for the first time half an hour ago. Some part of my brain is trying to figure out what you're thinking.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:09] Sure.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:26:09] With what you're saying. What evidence am I using? The expressions on your face.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:14] Which are masked terror. If there goes wrong.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:26:18] No, but if you were my brother, I would know what they mean. If I'd grown up with you.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:22] Sure.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:26:22] I have no clue what your expression means, and I can't turn off the part of my brain that wants to say, "Oh, he looks a little bored."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:30] Oh is he enjoying this conversation?
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:26:31] Is he enjoying this conversation.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:31] I hope Malcolm likes me after this. Yeah. I mean I'm trying to quiet that part of the brain and get into the academic part. It actually is funny, as a host, I had to manage my emotions all the time because I do think about, "Oh, I should look really interested," but I also want to make sure I'm listening and I also want to make sure I connect. What's going to happen next without thinking about my next question and becoming non--
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:26:51] Are you actively and consciously managing your demeanor?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:54] Yeah, sometimes not all the time because that's a waste of cognitive resources. Most people don't really care what I look like, but I can't just sit there and go and stare upwards because I'm thinking about what you're saying. Because a lot of times when I have a conversation, I'll look in a different direction because I'm listening. That doesn't work very well on camera or when I'm talking with you like this because you might go, "What's going on? Everything, okay?" So yeah, I have to be more like I'm paying attention like doing the Friends thing. I'm being present right now. Whereas I'm not necessarily always going to look matched and we can get into what matching, is in a second. But yeah I do manage it to a degree. There's like an element of high school drama acting involved in doing a show like this.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:27:35] Yeah. Yeah. When I interview people, the thing that's on my mind is almost more than the quality of the questions I'm asking. I am very consciously trying to communicate engagement. So I want them to feel like I am listening to them very diligently and I care about what they say. Because I feel like only under those circumstances will people open up.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:56] Of course, yeah.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:27:57] But I'm aware like it took me a long time to figure out that you can't just feel that you have to manifest it in a way that people can pick up on. It doesn't help matters if I look checked out, even though I may not be at all. We are professionals who are talking about the way we conduct our business. Most encounters between strangers are not in that kind of verified context.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:17] Correct. Yeah.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:28:17] You're out in the wild. You can't manage your emotional expressions in a way that maximizes their chances of being read appropriately. Like in the Sandra Bland case, she's legit upset. She's been pulled over for no reason. She's had bad encounters with cops in the past. She's not sitting there thinking, "Oh my god is the way I'm feeling in my heart being perfectly represented on my face." No, she's just trying to manage the fact that she is overcome with emotion and really distressed.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:42] That's true. I think if I try to manage my communication in the same way we're doing now where there's a specific context that happens when these lights and cameras turn on where everyone goes, "Oh, okay, maybe I'll be slight 10 percent different than I am in real life." I also do things where instead of going mm-mm, mm-mm like I would in normal conversation. I do things with my hands so that they don't have to edit it out or it doesn't go over your audio. I mean, there's all kinds of little things. But we see people like that in the wild where we go, this person, I don't know what was that? They're strange. They're likable but there's something off, and the reason is because they're acting a little bit too matched. They're a little bit too dramatic and it seems strange. It seems fake.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:29:19] I wonder, you know, going back to this thing about part of the book where I talk about how judges are so bad at making bail decisions and how an AI system is better. Why that's interesting is that the judge on paper knows more than the AI. The algorithm makes his decision based simply on the criminal record of defended suspect and the judge has a criminal record plus the evidence of his eyes. He sees the defendant in front of him and yet that fact that he can see the defendant, the additional information does not seem to make them a better decision maker. It makes the judge a worse decision maker. So it's not just that the evidence that he's picking up in the encounter is a wash or irrelevant. It's actually making the judge worse. That's weird.
[00:30:03] It gets me wondering about things like job interviews. Are you sure if you're an employer that the evidence you gather from the face-to-face encounter with the prospective employee is adding or detracting from your ability to make a good decision about they're fit for the job you're hiring them for? It's really unclear. Like I am more and more convinced that what the job interview is. It's like people are applying the lessons from dating. Like in dating, you want to meet the person face to face because you want to know whether you're attracted to them. So there's no question that's a good idea. We all hire people that we want to sleep with. That's not the way--
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:40] Generally not a good idea.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:30:41] No. We hire people because of their abilities and their abilities are not manifest in their physical presence. Like I was talking about this with my dentist who does a lot of pro bono work because he's obsessed with this idea that one of the ways in which we subtly discriminate against people is by looking at their teeth--
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:59] Totally.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:31:00] --and people who are poor and can't afford good dentistry and have bad teeth. It is a huge roadblock and I was thinking about this. If I'm looking for an audio company and what if I'm looking to hire somebody and they have bad teeth, if I didn't meet them and just considered their objective qualifications for the job, if I just emailed with them and talked to them on the phone, the teeth wouldn't be an issue. But if I met them, what if on some unconscious level I was repulsed and that is horrifying thought that I would judge somebody on the basis of the fact that their parents could not afford advanced dentistry--
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:33] Probably they got hit baseball last week playing with their kid and couldn't afford to get their teeth fixed, so they don't have a job yet.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:31:37] Yeah, I mean that's really where I'm going with the story of Sandra Bland is. We have to take these misperceptions we have on strangers. Seriously, you really have to think about how do we restructure the world so that we can account for these kinds of errors.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:51] I want to talk about Friends. This is a particularly cool pop cultural reference that you came up with for the book. This show has strong emotions that are displayed on the face, perfectly matched as you called it. So when Ross is perplexed or Monica is angry, it's really clear they go over like the textbook, facial muscle movements, FACS, F-A-C-S. What is that again?
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:32:13] Facial Action Coding System.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:17] Yes, Ekman, I think, came up with this.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:32:18] Paul Ekman, yes . Just as there is musical notation that allows you to describe in writing what music sounds like. There's a thing called FACS, which is face notation. It allows me to describe in writing what's going on in your face right now. So what's called action unit one is when the inner part of your eyebrows go up and then action unit six is like something else. Every expression your face can make has been coded. So there are people out there who are experts in FACS. So I found a FACS expert, a woman named Jennifer Fugate and I gave her two minutes of a Friends episode chosen at random. It's when where Ross discovers his sister making out with Monica--
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:58] Monica and Chandler.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:33:00] Chandler making out. And Ross is upset because he doesn't want his sister to going out with his best friend. So I give this to Jennifer Fugate. And I said give me a FACS reading of all of their facial expressions. And she does that. By the way, so genius. And then I sit down with Jennifer, I said, "Okay, we're going to go through this two-minute section and do the facial expressions of the actors match the emotions that they're supposed to feel in that." So she said, "Okay. In this instance, Ross' face shows anger as it is classically expressed, you know, action unit 6, 12, 15 and whatever." Is he supposed to feel angry in that moment? The answer is yes and all done list. When Joey looks dumb, does his face match the expression of it? Yes. When Monica is surprised. Do her eyes go wide and her jaw dropping, her eyebrows go up.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:46] Yes. Cartoon level congruity.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:33:48] Cartoon level congruity between what's on your face and what's in your heart. They do that because they're trained actors. And that's why even though the plots of Friends are absurdly complex. No one in history has ever watched an episode of friends and said they lost me.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:34:03] What is going on in show?
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:34:06] Never happened. Why? Because they catalog everything is perfectly catalog doing that. If you watch a lot of TV, you can come to the false impression that that's the way things work in real life. That that's what's going on in your face. But the truth, does not true at all. And a significant number of people are what are called mismatched, and that is that their facial expressions under certain circumstances do not match the way they feel on the inside. And those people give us bits.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:34:33] Tsarnaev, so no remorse, well, we don't know because he was mismatched.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:34:37] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:34:37] In the book you give the example of Bernie Madoff where he looked very calm and collected and nice and oh well that's mismatched because he's obviously a complete psycho who has no concern for anybody but himself. So we think this is what an emotion is supposed to look like, but it's not. But we've trained ourselves to think that the way someone looks and acts is the way that they feel, but that's just not true.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:34:58] Not true at all. In that chapter, I talk about the Amanda Knox case, famous case where an American teenager who goes for a year abroad in Italy and gets falsely accused of murdering her roommate. And that case is all about the fact that Amanda Knox is mismatched. There's never any evidence linking her to the crime. They have another guy who clearly did it and they dragged her in. Why? Because she doesn't behave the way the Italian police and the British tabloid press think someone whose roommate has been murdered ought to behave. And so if you don't think this kind of misapprehension has consequences, just look at the real world record. We are sending people jail for years and years and years for crimes they had nothing to do with.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:38] Kids. I mean she was like a college student, right?
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:35:40] College student. yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:40] It's horrible. So we judge people's honesty based on their demeanor, but that's inaccurate. So if they're nervous, we think, oh they're lying, they're nervous. Well, are they or are they just surrounded by police officers that are yelling at them and telling them they're going to go to jail for 10 years for shoplifting even though they didn't shoplift? I mean that's enough to make you act nervous if you're a 12-year-old African-American kid who got picked up for something they didn't do or any kid frankly, for something they didn't do. So the mismatch seems like dishonesty and this Truth-Default Theory, which you bring up in the book as well. Plus the mismatch means we can get deceived really easily, even if we're a seasoned FBI.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:36:15] You cannot have any illusions about our ability to detect lies ust by few. Just look at them. Madoff fools, everybody for 20 years, all these spies, tons and tons and tons of spies go undetected for years and years. I mean I could just go on like Larry Nassar case at Michigan state, a pedophile is operating in plain sight for two decades and nobody, he kind of fools everybody. I mean is that kind of, it's pretty sobering to look at those examples.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:43] How do you decide what to explore and what to study? I'm wondering actually how often you start a topic, do this deep dive and then go, nah, change your mind and abandon it and go into something else.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:36:52] Well, a fair amount. I mean there's a certain amount of trial and error in all of these things. My question is, is it an interesting story or is it an interesting bit of research? And then if it is, then I hold on to it in the expectation that maybe someday it'll be useful. Like, so there're little bits and pieces in this book that I kind of reported and learned about without realizing or knowing how I would use them. So I'll do, I have this whole huge amount of research I did on the Houston school system, which I was going to put in the book and didn't just sitting there. I'm sure I'll use it one day because it's super interesting. But that happens. Like you just kind of hit me willing, I think to experiment when you're running a book like that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:34] Yeah, they call it kill your darlings in show business. You do this amazing thing and then you go, it just doesn't fit. So you sit on it thinking someday...Because otherwise it kills you to just delete it or throw it.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:37:43] I think it really is true that you put these darlings in a closet and you can use most of them. I mean if it's a good story, it's a good story.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:50] The podcast must help with that. I only have a 25-minute long thing or an hour long thing.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:37:54] No, I think I will do my Houston school system for the podcast maybe next year.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:38:03] You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest, Malcolm Gladwell. Don't blink. We'll be right back after this.
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[00:41:48] Thank you for listening and supporting the show. Your support of our advertisers keeps us on the air. To learn more and get links to all the great discounts you just heard so you can check out those amazing sponsors, visit jordanharbinger.com/deals. And don't forget the worksheet for today's episode. That link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. If you're listening to us in the Overcast player, please click that little star next to the episode. We really appreciate it. And now for the conclusion of our episode with Malcolm Gladwell.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:18] You study people and social phenomenon at a level that few people do. So it seems like more than an interest. I dunno, if it's an obsession or anything, but certainly your research gets to that level of like obsessive completion. I assume you would agree that you have an analytical mind. I wonder if you ever think your life would've been easier if you thought less about things, make a lot of people feel that way.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:42:39] Well.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:39] Like did it get you in trouble when you were younger?
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:42:44] Not really.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:44] Not really?
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:42:44] I mean, I wouldn't call myself hyper analytical. I don't think what I'm doing is being analytical. I think what I'm doing, the particular thing that I do a lot of is simply perspective taking, so I spend a lot of time trying to see something through someone else's eyes, which is not the same as being analytical.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:05] No it's not.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:43:05] It's less impressive. The question I always ask when I hear something is why would that person feel that way? Why did they think about it this way? I don't. Huge amount of my writing is just about that. It's about me inhabiting someone else's mind for a while.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:43:18] Do you ever look at your own work through other people's eyes? Like do you read your reviews and go, ugh.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:43:23] Well, I read my reviews very sparingly because I don't think it's useful. If the review is really glowing, it just swells your head. And if it's really negative, it just is a downer. They do make you aware of your tendencies. I don't always agree with critics who would call those tendencies problematic. I sometimes think that they're not problematic. There's just tendencies, but a good review can be very useful in giving you some self awareness.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:48] Is there any criticism that you hear of your work that you actually agree with? Maybe criticism you hear often where you go, I know they're right, I'm working on this, or I do need to fix that.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:43:58] Well, I mean, I'm an enthusiast, so I love trying on new ideas for size and some people take me to test because they think I'm overly enthusiastic about cool new ideas. They're not wrong at all, but I sort of think I'd rather be on that side of...If you're going to air on one side or the other of enthusiasm too little for new ideas and too much. I'd rather air on the side of too much enthusiasm.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:25] Yeah.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:44:25] And I'm also fine with admitting when I'm wrong. I don't have any problem with that. So as long as you're willing to backtrack when you think your enthusiasm was misplaced. I think it's fine to be overly enthusiastic. I mean I'm just being harsh with myself. I'm just an enthusiast. Someone's got a cool way of looking at something, I'm like, let's explore it. The future of the world is not at stake in a mountain level book.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:48] Yeah. I suppose also it's not necessarily built like this is a scientific textbook...That it's a book to get these ideas.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:44:53] I want my readers, and I think my readers do do this and this is why people have come back to my books again and again and that is that...I think readers really enjoy the process of perspective taking. There's something about that exercise that is enormously appealing and kind of liberating.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:08] Why do you think humans or why any research has shown that humans are evolved to trust implicitly? We didn't talk much about Truth-Default Theory, but there has to be a reason why we by default believe what people tell us or believe the impressions that we get. It has to be good for society at large somehow.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:45:24] It is because no higher order activity can proceed without the presumption of trust. So if I trusted that the address you people gave me was correct, I trusted you would be here, I trusted that you would prepare for this interview. There's a million things. You trusted I would show up and that I would speak in good faith. I mean because each of us made enormous...I've, you know, never met you before and nor have you ever met me, but this works because each of us may make 10 assumptions, positive assumptions about the other party right before we even started. And if we were the kinds of people who thought twice about those presumptions, then this would have never happened. Right?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:06] Yeah.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:46:07] We would spend.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:07] I would be super pissed if he didn't show up. I spent a lot of time frankness, you know.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:46:12] But more than that, like our lawyers will be wrangling over this now. You know, society...And I always give the example of you can't put your child on a school bus in the morning unless you have implicit trust in the system. When I was talking in the book about the Madoff case, trying to account for the fact that very seasoned Wall Street people were fooled by Madoff. Part of the reason is you can't be a financial trader or an investor unless you have a huge amount of trust in the system. I mean for goodness sake, people are wiring millions of dollars, and vanishes into the ether and you trust. It's going where you wanted to go and being invested according to the instructions you gave. So that's the mindset that weirdly we don't think of this...The mindset and proclivity that gets rewarded in a place like Wall Street is the propensity to trust.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:58] That's true. Yeah.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:47:00] In numerous situations. What is the effective leader in an organization? The kind of person who is willing to believe in their employees, to help them, mentor them, nurture them, courage them. All of those things are based on a fundamental trust at the employee will respond accordingly that the employee is as dedicated and motivated about the work as the manager wants them to be. I mean I could go on, you can't do anything. Evolution of course favors people who have this predisposition because they are the people who succeed in the world.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:31] That's a good point. I mean we literally get a stack of cash or something valuable and we go, well, I can't keep this in my own house where I know I could keep it safe. I have to drop it off with a stranger at Chase Manhattan bank and have them lock it in one of those boxes that I'm not allowed to even look at and make sure it's still there and we just operate this way. The whole economy, the whole society operates this way and when somebody doesn't do that, we go, oh, they're kind of weird, they keep their money in their house, something's wrong with her. This is so deeply ingrained in the human sciences.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:47:59] The argument of Tim Levine who is a communications researcher at University of Alabama whose work I rely on very heavily in this book. I think he's absolutely brilliant and I'm really want more of the world to kind of appreciate his insights, but this is his big argument that it is hugely adaptive to be a trustor, but if you are someone who trusts, you also have to accept the fact that this leaves you vulnerable to deception and there's no way around that. You have to accept that trade off that 95 percent of the time I am better off because I trust implicitly, but 5 percent of the time that means I'm going to get scammed. No way around it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:35] Yeah, you're right. For all you know, nobody listens to this podcast. This is the first episode and then you have to go home and fire someone right for approving it. That look was he serious right now? Can't really tell from the look on his face.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:48:48] I know you're for real.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:50] Good. Writing is 20 percent I think typing, you said an 80 percent organization. How do you organize your work? Clearly you use tons of sources from people to documents to videotape.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:49:01] I'm very iterative, so I'll read something, write a bit, and then think about it, and then read more and gather more information. I was still adding to this manuscript of talking to strangers really, really late in the...compared to my first draft with my fifth draft. Huge differences. I really like listening to what others think about stuff that I've written. I think I take that kind of feedback very seriously. People who are responding in good faith and the first time you write something, even though you wrote it, it's not what you think.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:32] What do you mean?
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:49:33] It takes a long time to figure out how to express what you think and it takes a long time to figure out what you think. So the first time when you do a first draft, you're not doing either of those things. You're still early in the process of identifying what you really believe, and you're early in the process of being able to express it. So in his book, there's a lot of chapters, like the chapter on the Stanford rape case, where I'm making a very subtle nuanced point. I desperately don't want to be misunderstood and I want to make sure that I communicate. I want to walk that line very carefully. It's hard to do and the first draft, it's never going to represent your feelings accurately. I must've done 10 drafts of that chapter. So that's what I mean that when I say organization. What I include in that is 80 percent organization and reflection. You really need to think about and sit with what you've written to make sure it communicates what you believe.
[00:50:28] An incredible number of cases, we hold people accountable for things that they have written without asking questions, but wait a minute. Is the way they wrote it...Does the way they wrote it legitimately represent what they, I believe because there is a gap.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:44] I would imagine you would be kind of nervous at all, clenched up at all handling this one in because there's a lot of sensitive stuff in here. When I read this, I went ooh, Q people getting mad and deliberately or otherwise misinterpreting what he meant about this one and then Q, the regressive ultra one side or the other taking this and running with it. And I'm like waiting for the TMZ piece to come out about how you're suddenly like this closet, I don't know, whatever--
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:51:12] No, I mean I think if you read the book carefully, you'll know this book does not have moral objectionable moments to the opposite. I think a lot of what I'm doing is in a very well-intentioned way trying to resolve difficult problems. But does that mean there aren't people who will deliberately or otherwise miss? Yeah, but there always--
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:30] You can't really avoid that. You can't do good work if you're worried about that.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:51:32] And you can't let that stop you. I mean the answer is just don't read Twitter.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:35] Yeah, you don't have Twitter, do you?
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:51:38] Oh I have Twitter. I like tweet out cat photos. I'm a big runner so I'll tweet out like running videos and stuff. I rarely dip my toe in contentious waters on Twitter.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:48] I looked and I only saw what it looked to be fake Malcolm Gladwell. So I didn't--
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:51:51] No. there's a real one. @Gladwell, @Gladwell with checkmark.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:55] That's probably why I was like, "Oh, there's nothing about his new book, work in here." Nobody--
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:51:58] I had a picture of a cat, very, very cute cat sitting next to copy of my book that was my promotional.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:06] Promo, that's your social media team's just sitting there facepalm , right? Like c'mon.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:52:09] Just astonishing how much images you can get on cats on the internet.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:12] I don't disagree. How can your insights be best used to inform interactions with strangers whose role or relationship in our life is especially consequential high levels of trust, strong information in balance like doctors, lawyers, maybe your boss? How would you take what you've written in Talking to Strangers and apply it in those instances?
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:52:32] Well, so I spend the most time on this obviously with law enforcement and I think that what it requires...what we have to understand is that solving this problem of misperception by police officers requires if you go back to really first principles that we have a very different philosophy of policing and very different ways of training police officers. And I detailed both those things in the last part of the book that there are some really interesting new theories about crime and how it's distributed in the population or actually in geographically distributed that can greatly improve that kind of social and moral efficiency of proactive policing.
[00:53:12] There are ways in which we can limit aggressive policing, proactive policing to those very, very, very specific areas where it is necessary. And also we have clear empirical and statistical evidence to suggest that we do not need to aggressively police in the overwhelming number of neighborhoods. Fundamentally, the problem with Sandra Bland is that on that street at that time of day in that community proactive policing of the sort that Brian Encinia was practicing was completely uncalled for. So by the end of the book, I'm trying to say, we got to go right back and understand something fundamental about crime and change law enforcement practice in along those lines.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:54] I think for me that one of the top takeaways was don't believe what you might read in someone's face because I was one of those people who's like, wow, if they don't look X, Y, Z, which is very human, it's just wrong also. You bring us a lot of mysteries. You help decode them all the time. What mystery or phenomenon would you like to see? Solved isn't the right word, but whatever. You know what I mean? Especially in the social sciences in your lifetime.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:54:17] Oh, wow, what a great question. I mean I guess all of the things we are in the middle of this sort of second wave of social science. If the first wave was, what are the general principles that help us explain human behavior. The second wave now is what are the general principles that help us distinguish among human beings. So the first way was how do you and I process information. Second wave is how can we explain the differences in the way you and I process information with much more specific and interesting questions, and that idea that I think this is where the, where we're moving. If you think about something like the CTE problem in professional football. Not everyone who suffers repeated concussions or hits to the head develops this ruinous neurological condition called CTE. Some portions do. So clearly developing this problem is a product both of your experience in the football field plus some underlying susceptibility.
[00:55:16] The next stage is for us to identify that susceptibility and say to a group of people, you probably shouldn't play football, right? That's how you resolve that problem in football is by getting more sophisticated about understanding micro differences between individuals. That's a kind of good bottle for where I think social science is headed. And so if I can understand how even making an argument, what's the best way to make an argument, do you change your mind and how does that differ from the best way to change the mind of your mom or your best friend or, so when you work with, that's a really, really crucial sort of next stage of inquiry.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:53] So the next book is arguing with strangers.
Malcolm Gladwell: [00:55:55] Yes, exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:56] Malcolm Gladwell. Thank you very much. Thank you so much.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:02] Great interview with Malcolm Gladwell had a lot of fun doing that. Unfortunately, what we did not have time for was to touch and do ita little bit of a dive on what he calls Truth-Default Theory or what is called Truth-Default Theory. We're much better than chance at gauging if someone is telling the truth, but we're much worse than chance in terms of telling or being able to tell if someone is lying. So what that means is we're pretty good at deciding if someone is telling the truth. But we're pretty bad at knowing if someone is actually lying. And that's because we as socially evolved humans. The default assumption is that people are honest or at least being honest with us in that moment, we start by believing them and only in the face of pretty overwhelming tempting evidence do we change our mind.
[00:56:47] And so that's why, for example, we tend to believe our first impression, even if we've kind of made up that first impression in our own heads, just based on Truth-Default Theory. So we assume that the person is who they say they are and that they're going to do what they say they're gonna do until we have evidence to the contrary. And that works well in society. But some people aren't like those conmen shady people that we date, marry, or happy to grow up with. Likewise, doubts trigger disbelief only when you cannot explain them away. So for example, let's say we meet someone, we come up with a first impression. It's generally positive because Truth-Default Theory thanks for that. And then we start seeing a little bit of evidence to the contrary and we say, "Oh, well I'm starting to see that this person might not be the way they say they are," but we doubt someone and then we're good at rationalizing our reason why we will still believe them.
[00:57:36] So doubts trigger disbelief only when you can't explain them away. So if we find somebody that we think is trustworthy and we find out they're stealing from us, we might say, "Oh well this person probably isn't doing that." That's Truth-Default theory. And then they might say, "Oh, I didn't steal from you. In fact, I think that was missing before." We will start to rationalize that we still believe them, especially if we want to believe them or dating them. We don't think we can replace them in the office, that kind of thing. Doubts only trigger disbelief when we can't explain them away any longer. And I've done this to myself, I've worked with some total scammers in the past and addicts and stuff. And I realize now I had doubts the whole time, but I simply explained them away. So if you're explaining away too much, maybe it's time to trigger disbelief or at least be aware of Truth-Default Theory so that we can start to realize when we ourselves are rationalizing other people's bad behavior.
[00:58:31] It's like when someone's cheating on you and later when they're finally caught red handed, you say to yourself, "How could I have been so stupid? The signs were all there." You're not stupid. It's Truth-Default Theory and the fact that doubts trigger disbelief only when we can no longer explain them away. That's why us humans are so easily duped and those of us that pride ourselves and not being duped very often. Well, typically we might've had a lot of trauma in the past or maybe we're not adapted well socially because as Malcolm explained, society functions better when most of us trust. It's just that sometimes we're going to get conned in the process because people take advantage of that.
[00:59:08] Huge thank you to Malcolm Gladwell. The book title is Talking to Strangers. What we should know about the people we don't know and links to that will be in the show notes. There's a video of this interview on our YouTube channel at jordanharbinger.com/YouTube. There are also worksheets for each episode, so you can review what you've learned from Malcolm Gladwell. That'll be at jordanharbinger.com in the show notes. And we're teaching you how to connect with great people like Malcolm Gladwell and manage relationships with hundreds of people for business and personal reasons, teaching you systems and tiny habits, so it takes just a few minutes per day, six minutes to be exact, and that's at Six-Minute Networking. It's our free course. That's at jordanharbinger.com/course. I am in there answering your questions as well. Don't do it later. Do it now. You got to dig that well before you get thirsty. Once you need relationships, you're too late. Procrastination leads to stagnation when it comes to your personal and business relationships. You know it's right because it rhymes. There's a cognitive bias there. Actually, I think it's called rhyming [indiscernible], but I'm not afraid to take advantage of that.
[01:00:07] Procrastination leads to stagnation when it comes to your personal and business relationships. The drills take a few minutes per day. I wish I knew this stuff 20 years ago. It is crucial. Ignore it at your own peril. You can find it all for free at jordanharbinger.com/course. And most of the guests on the show, they subscribed to the course and the newsletter. So come join us and you'll be in some super smart company. Speaking of building relationships, you can always reach out and or follow me on social. I'm at @jordanharbinger on both Twitter and Instagram.
[01:00:33] The show is created in association with PodcastOne. This episode was produced by Jen Harbinger, JasonDeFillippo, and edited by Jase Sanderson, show notes and worksheets are by Robert Fogarty, music by Evan Viola, and I'm your host Jordan Harbinger. Our advice and opinions and those of our guests are their own. And yes, I am a lawyer, but I am not your lawyer. So do your own research before implementing anything you hear on the show. And remember we rise by lifting others. The fee for the show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting, which should be in every episode. So please share the show with those you love and even those you don't. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
[01:01:16] Thank you again to Arm & Hammer creating new Cloud Control cat litter, and thank you for sponsoring our episode. There's no cloud of nasties when I scoop. It's a hundred percent dust-free, free of heavy perfumes. So what happens in the litter box stays in the litter box, Cloud Control cat litter by Arm & Hammer.
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