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Consequential Strangers: The Power of People Who Don't Seem to Matter. . . But Really Do Hardcover – August 24, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0393067033 ISBN-10: 0393067033 Edition: 1ST

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 298 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1ST edition (August 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393067033
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393067033
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 0.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,732,010 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

While, as the authors state, practically every article and book, every therapist, and every relationship guru in the media focus almost exclusively on 'primary relationships,' there is a dearth of attention paid to individuals' secondary—or tertiary—connections: the butcher, the dry cleaner, the proprietor of the bodega where we shop daily. Transient individuals, friends of friends and their acquaintances play critical roles in our lives, say Baby Whisperer Blau and Purdue professor Fingerman. These people have access to resources intimates might not and can challenge our belief systems. 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. Anecdotes, television, scholarly studies and Blau and Fingerman's own experience—they were consequential strangers who first met via telephone—illustrate the importance of individuals we often take for granted yet who enrich our lives in ways not immediately noticeable but that could prove highly significant. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“The essential guide to navigating our new twenty-first-century social waters.” (Mark Granovetter, professor of sociology, Stanford University)

“Especially cogent today. . . . Illustrate[s] the importance of individuals we often take for granted yet who enrich our lives in ways not immediately noticeable but that could prove highly significant.” (Publishers Weekly) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

More About the Author

Award-winning journalist Melinda Blau has been researching,writing, and speaking about relationships and social trends for more than thirty years. Her latest book, Family Whispering is the fourth book in the popular Baby Whispering series. She answers readers' questions weekly at "Dear Family Whisperer" on Huffington Post.

Melinda began collaborating with the late Tracy Hogg (a.k.a., the "Baby Whisperer") in 2000 and has since given birth to three best-selling books: Secrets of the Baby Whisperer, Secrets of the Baby Whisperer for Toddlers, and The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems. Her new book, Family Whispering, guides BW fans through the next (and even trickier) phase of parenthood: working together as a family. 

In her 2009 book, Consequential Strangers: Turning Everyday Encounters into Life-Changing Moments, a collaboration with psychologist Karen L. Fingerman, Melinda looked at the opposite end of the relationship spectrum: the surprisingly vital connections that extend beyond family and close friends--a subject that took her into the world of business and marketing, the Internet and social media, health and "place making."

Melinda's more than hundred articles on families, marriage, education, health, and sexuality have been featured in highly-regarded print venues such as New York, The New York Times, Utne Reader, and the Psychotherapy Networker. For six years, she also penned "The New Family" column for Child magazine and now writes the weekly "Dear Famiy Whisperer" column for Huffington Post. She also contributes to a number of online magazines, including Psychology Today, Shareable, More, BeliefNet, and RewireMe.

Melinda's other books include: Families Apart (co-parenting after divorce) with its companion reader, Loving and Listening. She also co-wrote with: family therapist Ron Taffel (Parenting by Heart, Nurturing Good Children Now, and The Second Family); civil rights activist Myrlie Evers Williams (Watch Me Fly); researchers Christopher Hayes and Deborah Anderson (Our Turn: How Women Triumph in the Face of Divorce); and life coach and empowerment expert Barbara Biziou (Joy of Ritual and Joy of Family Rituals).

A featured guest expert on Oprah, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, and numerous other national and local TV and radio broadcasts, Melinda's writing also has been honored by a wide variety of organizations, among them, the American Psychological Association, the Children's Rights Council, the Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, the American Association of Applied and Preventive Psychology, the American Legion Auxiliary "Heart of America" competition, and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

Visit Melinda Blau's author page on Facebook: and follow her on Twitter: @melindablau

Find out more about Family Whispering at You can also read Melinda's other blogs at:
and (a site exploring the mother/adult daughter relationship)

Customer Reviews

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The concepts presented also align with the work I do in Restorative Justice.
Consequential Strangers is a great read and will make you more conscientious of how the strangers you meet can and do have an impact on your life.
Jason Simon
I first encountered Blau and Fingerman's book in my research into the social aspects of coffeehouses.
Joseph F. McCarthy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Cathy Goodwin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Consequential Strangers is powerful because it resonates with the way more and more of us are living. For instance, I find myself saying, "Some of my best friends are people I've never met." The old hierarchy of people in our lives - family, close friends, neighbors and so on - seems to have changed. Often the people we spend the most time with, and the people who most influence our lives, are what used to be called casual acquaintances.

This book sheds light on a phenomenon many of us are noticing. People (especially those who are unconnected to family) tend to form social ties based on interest. Years ago, I remember getting together with people I know. We'd first decide to meet; then we would decide what to do. Today more and more people first decide what to do and then look for people who share their interests. The authors describe groups such as the Red Hat Society (I wrote a feature article about them when I lived in New Mexico) and the Meet-Up groups, which are very popular here in Seattle.

The book is extremely thought-provoking and insightful. It is well-written and easy to read. I am recommending this book to many people and consider giving it as a gift. I'd raise three points more as a discussion than a critique.

First, because the book's title is somewhat ambiguous, I wasn't sure what to expect. To be honest, I thought we'd learn about how chance encounters with strangers can change our lives. Part of the book does address the topic, but the book's scope is much broader. That's both a strength and a weakness. The authors haven't clarified who's a stranger. Some examples are based on coworker relationships, which deserve a separate analysis. At other times the "strangers" seem to be pretty good friends.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie De Pue VINE VOICE on August 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"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.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Joseph F. McCarthy on February 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Consequential strangers are the people with whom we enjoy casual relationships in our neighborhoods, workplaces and third places that can be as vital to our health, wealth, wisdom and well-being as our family and closest friends (or what I like to call speed dial friends). According to a new book by Melinda Blau and Karen Fingerman, "Consequential Strangers: The Power of People Who Don't Seem to Matter ... But Really Do", these networks - or social convoys - of acquaintanceships include people who are often able to open us up to more opportunities than we may fully appreciate. Many of these people on the periphery, our weak ties, are ready, willing and able to connect us with information, jobs and other resources we need to realize our full potential.

The extensively researched and highly accessible book starts out by reviewing Mark Granovetter's seminal study on "The Strength of Weak Ties", first published in the 1973 (and revisited in 1983), which demonstrated that people outside our innermost social circles were the most likely to help us find jobs and mobilize our communities. They continue on with research published in 2003 by Keith Hampton and Barry Wellman on the strength of weak ties abetted by technology in connecting and mobilizing physical communities, "Neighboring in Netville: How the Internet Supports Community and Social Capital in a Wired Suburb", as well as research by Robert Wuthnow ("
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