Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

Posted on February 14, 2011. Filed under: Books | Tags: , , , , , , , |

I’m a little behind the curve on reading this book but if you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it! This was such a thought-provoking and insightful book. Colleagues of mine had recommended this book to me a year or so ago and I put off reading it, what a mistake! The final push to read this book came after I saw Malcolm Gladwell deliver a keynote speech at a conference I attended. It was a medical conference and Gladwell has very limited medical knowledge but he didn’t try to shape his speech to match the conference exactly and that was what made his speech so perfect. He chose to discuss leadership, leadership strategies, failures and development. The way he spoke and delivered the speech was unbelievably gripping, I truly was at the edge of my seat and was completely engrossed in his speech. Once I left that ballroom I knew it was time to pick up one of his books, Blink happened to be the one available at my library, and so my journey into the subconscious with tour guide Malcolm Gladwell began…

Blink focuses on the decisions made in the blink of an eye that many of us don’t even realize occur. It touches on a few different aspects of our subconscious reactions and thoughts. Gladwell eases us into the book by recounting the story of the J.Paul Getty Museum’s acquisition of a priceless statue. The museum was eager to acquire such a rare statue but in their decision to purchase this piece they overlooked important initial reacts that critics, scholars and art historians had about the statue. This was Gladwell’s first proof that not dismissing unexplained feelings is a good thing. The gut reactions are reactions we have for a reason, there is an emotional and psychological reason behind these feelings and they shouldn’t be dismissed.

Gladwell takes us through card games and our bodies reactions, sports misconceptions, miraculous predictions, famous police investigations and the cliff notes version to couples counseling. The chapter about the couples was one of the most intriguing to me. Gladwell explains that with a fairly high success rate certain people can predict whether couples will remained married or are likely headed for divorce based on small body language clues presented during short, everyday conversations recorded between the couple. The body language clues barely last a second and are so subtle that Gladwell doesn’t even pick up on them at first. Trained professionals see these clues and can confidently predict where this couple is headed. Most of the couples did not even realize that they were giving off these clues, especially since the topics they discussed during their short, filmed conversations were about their pets, family, and other innocuous topics. The facts of how these trained professionals identify these clues are presented to you in a manner that makes you want to study yourself in the mirror and your partner, or family at your next opportunity. In no way is Gladwell suggesting that you will be able to have equal success, quite the opposite, Gladwell is certain that without extensive training our brains won’t even pick up on giving us these cues or on noticing them when others exhibit them.

Blink if filled with facts, figures and lively examples to keep you involved in each chapter. Historical examples give you pause and a moment to reflect and the entire book truly makes you think about all of the snap judgements that we discount on a daily basis. After I finished this I felt that his lesson was truly delivered to me, and did not fall on deaf ears. I want to pay more attention to my initial reactions and instincts but he also preaches throughout the book that this is something that yes common people can learn but it is harder than it seems. It is not going to be an overnight change and while there are steps to learn how to trust, feel and recognize these subconscious behaviors and reactions they all happen rapidly and can be easy to dismiss.

Part of the art of Gladwell’s storytelling is that he weaves lessons and stories throughout the book, making each chapter you read important and reinforced. There are some chapters that you read at the edge of your seat because you are just waiting for him to tell you the critical ah-ha moment in the story, but he has a plan and doesn’t want to spoil the ending too soon. He keeps our appetites ready for more stories and more examples.

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2 Responses to “Blink by Malcolm Gladwell”

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This is a fantastic review of a wonderful book, that I also enjoyed reading and received a lot from.

Thanks for the visit!

I had started reading it, and then I quit and it’s sitting on my shelf (thanks for giving me motivation to start it again!). These decision-making-type books make you think about why you’ve made the decisions you have, and why others do the same, from football plays to relationship moves. Check out “How we Decide” by Jonah Lehrer. I think you’d like it, too.


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