"Consequential Strangers," by journalist Melinda Blau and by psychologist Karen L. Fingerman, PhD, gives us a new term for a phenomenon most of us already know well, I think: the people on the edges of our daily lives, in our outer circles: the Soup Nazi, the shoemaker, the baker, the barista. The book argues that these people are more important to us than many of us, have, perhaps, realized: that intimates - family members - aren't enough to get us through the day. That people on the edges of our lives give us new ideas, new blood: that they impact our success, happiness, and health.
I'm prepared to believe it, but then, I've always thought so; it seems like common sense to me. However, the authors buttress this argument with a great many studies, and Blau has done more than two hundred interviews in furtherance of the idea. The book's accessible, easy to read, but rather repetitive. Blau has written more than 80 magazine pieces and a dozen other books, including the best-selling Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect, and Communicate with Your Baby series. Fingerman, who coined the term "consequential strangers", is the Berner Hanley Professor and Director of Adult Family Research at Purdue University. She's an internationally known scholar who has authored more than 60 articles and chapters.
Funny, years ago I had lunch once with a woman in classes I was taking. I have always believed in telling "consequential strangers" honestly what was on my mind, on the theory it would come back to me, and, as the woman, a black, high achiever, was complaining about her inability to marry, I told her about an article that I'd just read, that said any woman who really wanted to marry could: that she probably already knew the guy; she just hadn't thought of him in that way. Much later, we lunched again, and the woman, having forgotten our previous lunch and conversation, mentioned to me that she'd just married happily, to a guy she'd been friendly with for years. So I gave her a good idea, didn't I?