Sunday, April 17, 2011

Consequential Strangers, by Melinda Blau and Karen Fingerman

This book is off-topic, but it's so interesting that I thought I'd share it.

There's an old saying, "I shall only pass this way but once, so any little good I can do, let me do it now, for I shall only pass this way but once."

We pass strangers every day - each one of them has their own problems and preoccupations. A smile from you might change their life - so might a frown or a casual insult (such as sneering at their weight, or something of that nature.)

It costs nothing to give someone a friendly smile, and you never know what it might accomplish as the stranger at whom you smile goes on to struggle through his or her day.

Consequential Strangers: The Power of People who Don't Seem to Matter, but Really Do, by Melinda Blau and Karen Fingerman
W W Norton and Co, 2009
219 pages, plus Appendices, notes and index. No photos
Library: 155.927 BLA

They punctuate our days, but we take them for granted: our barista, our car mechanic, a coworker, a fellow dog lover. Yet these are the consequential strangers who bring novelty and information into our lives, allow us to exercise different parts of ourselves, and open us up to new opportunities. They keep us healthy and are invaluable when we're sick. They fuel innovation and social movements. And they are vital in times of uncertainty.

In their unprecedented examination of "people who don't seem to matter," psychologist Karen L. Fingerman, who coined the term "consequential strangers" collaborates with journalist Melinda Blau to develop an idea sparked by Fingerman's groundbreaking research. Drawing as well from Blau's more than two hundred interviews with specialists in psychology, sociology, marketing, and communication, this book presents compelling stories of individuals and institiutions, 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.

Table of Contents
Introduction - The Birth of a Notion
1. The Ascendance of Consequential Strangers
2. The View From Above
3. Beyond the Confines of the Familiar
4. Good for What Ails Us
5. Being Spaces
6. The Downside
7. The Future of Consequential Strangers
Epilogue: The Postscript is Personal
Appendix I: 20 Questions
Appendix II: The Occupation Test

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