Most of the people who populate our lives are “consequential strangers,” a term coined by psychologist Karen L. Fingerman, who vetted this book for scientific accuracy. Our coffee person and car mechanic, our coworkers and fellow volunteers, a golf buddy, a teacher, and, probably, most of our Facebook “friends” are neither family nor close friends, but they are as important as our intimates.
Writing this book changed me. I began to understand why, when I moved from New York City to Northampton, Massachusetts, I thought about the green grocer who knew I loved Concord grapes; and why I then had to launch an “acquaintanceship campaign” to replace her and other casual connections I’d left behind. Consequential strangers bring novelty, diversity, and information into our lives, allow us to trot out different aspects of our identity, and open us to new opportunities. They keep us healthy and are invaluable when we’re sick. They fuel innovation and propel social movements, and hasten the flow of new ideas. They are vital in times of uncertainty.
Reading this book just might change the way you walk in the world. You might start calling waitresses by name or spend an extra few minutes schmoozing with a doorman. My hope is that you will begin to see all your relationships in a new light and make the most of casual connections you might otherwise overlook.
- “On our list of The 15 Best Shareable Books of 2009… This is a “big idea” book about a beautiful and simple notion: that we should look beyond our “primary relationships” (friends, family) to casual acquaintances in order to gauge the quality and meaning of our lives.”
- “The authors make a compelling case that our social constellations are larger and sexier than we realize. Your neighbors will cease to be blurry faces and become nearby stars worth cultivating.”
- “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.”
– Publishers Weekly
- “[An} enlightening work. It helps us see how our life is a cavalcade of relationships that are constantly changing and expanding according to our experience and needs.”
– Spirituality and Practice