The Importance Of 'Consequential Strangers' You get your coffee from your regular barista. You give a small nod to the guy you see every day at the gym. You don't know these people, but they're vital to your social landscape. Author Melinda Blau talks with Neal Conan about her book Consequential Strangers.
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The Importance Of 'Consequential Strangers'

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The Importance Of 'Consequential Strangers'

The Importance Of 'Consequential Strangers'

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This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

Beyond the handful of intimate friends and family, each of us has a much broader range of people in our lives: co-workers, our hairdresser and the barista we talk to every day, people we might chat with on a Web site. And everybody can remember a significant conversation with a cab driver or a passenger on the bus.

Purdue University professor Karen Fingerman came up with a phrase to describe these people who aren't friends exactly, but who punctuate our lives: consequential strangers. She and journalist Melinda Blau wrote a book about this elusive group. We don't know their birthdays and yet they help connect us to the world. Today, consequential strangers. Later in the hour, the punch heard 'round college football. Did the punishment fit the crime?

But first, tell us about the consequential strangers in your life and the role they play for you. Our phone number is 800-989-8255. Email us: You can also join the conversation on our Web site, that's at, click on TALK OF THE NATION.

And Melinda Blau joins us from the studios of the Radio Foundation in New York City with Karen Fingerman. She's the author of "Consequential Strangers: The Power of People Who Don't Seem to Matter...But Really Do," and it's nice to have you with us today.

Ms. MELINDA BLAU (Author, "Consequential Strangers: The Power of People Who Don't Seem to Matter...But Really Do"): Thanks very much, Neal.

CONAN: And you explain in the book that you two in fact were consequential strangers before you collaborated together?

Ms. BLAU: That's right. And that's very often the case. We were in different fields. Our interests converged at one point, and we started speaking with each other and emailing each other. And at one point, she sent me a paper, and in the title were the words consequential strangers. And the title just leapt off the page, in my opinion, because it really resonated in my own life.

As a journalist, I have lot of people that I talk to and that I stay in to - in contact with - as I'm sure you do, too.

CONAN: Yeah, we call them sources.

Ms. BLAU: Sources, exactly. But, you know - and a synonym is acquaintances or, you know, casual relationships. And in my own life, I had moved up to Northampton, Massachusetts, from Manhattan in the early '90s. And it was the first time I realized how important these people were because gone from my life was the butcher who gave my kids bologna when I'd walk into the store, the people that I'd have a 10-minute conversation with on the street, but of course would not invite up for the weekend after I'd moved. And I suddenly really felt that I didn't belong in this new place because all of my anchoring relationships were gone. So when I saw Karen's term, I immediately knew what she meant by it.

CONAN: There's another term you use in the book that I also found really descriptive and - that these are the supporting players in the biopics of our own lives.

Ms. BLAU: That's exactly right. They - some of them make cameos, some of them have these supporting roles and they're more important than others. I mean, it represents a very large swath of people in your life because if you think of all of the relationships on a continuum, going from strangers, complete strangers to soul mates, there's a vast territory just beyond strangers and just short of friends. Even though we use the word friends to describe, you know, my friend from church, my friend from work. But when it really comes down to it, they're not really friends. I mean there's just so many friends, close friends you can have. When somebody says I have 679 friends on Facebook…

CONAN: Facebook, yeah.

Ms. BLAU: …they are talking about consequential strangers.

CONAN: I see. And the other part that I found fascinating about the study -and that is that our friends, for the most part, are people more or less our age, who have similar political leanings, they're people like us as opposed to our consequential strangers, who have a much more diverse - well, they are more diverse to begin with, and they have much wider range of opinions.

Ms. BLAU: Exactly. And they give us a different perspective. They give us new information. Our intimates know what we know. And if you want - one of the earliest studies that relates to this book was a study done by Mark Granovetter, who is a sociologist. And he described a theory of the strength of weak ties. And what he had done was, he wanted to find out how people got their jobs. And this was in the early '70s, when most people thought it was through nepotism. You know, you know somebody and that's how you get a job. Well, every time he interviewed people for this particular study and he'd say, oh so, you got your job through a friend and they kept correcting, no, no, he wasn't really a friend. It was an acquaintance. So, it was an old boss, a colleague in the same industry, the uncle of a best friend - you know, people that weren't really close.

And he found that person after person said the same thing. And of course, lots of research has been done since then, really defining the fact that we get information, we get novelty, we are exposed to new experiences and, as you say, a different perspective through our consequential strangers, not through the people we are closest to.

CONAN: Well, we'd like to get some callers in on this conversation, 800-989-8255. Email us: Who are the consequential strangers in your life? What role do they play in your life? Let's begin with Kelly(ph), Kelly calling us from Marietta in Ohio.

KELLY (Caller): Hi.

CONAN: Go ahead, Kelly.

KELLY: Hi. I am - I kind of have a job in the - kind of the things you're talking about. I'm a body piercer. So, it's a little bit more unusual, but I do, you know, have a lot of repeat customers and a lot of times like, you know, they really do feel very close to me and will tell me things that I think that they're not going to tell family or friends because they don't want to be, maybe judged a little differently. But they feel more free talking to me about this kind of thing, you know, I mean, these are people that are, you know, I'm physically touching. You know, I've got a very close physical relationship with, you know. But, yeah, I think a lot of times they feel more free talking to me about their friend who is having drug addiction problems or if they are -you know, things like that, that they just might not want to talk to their family about.

CONAN: Also about the reasons they're getting their bodies pierced, which they might just say, oh, it seemed like a good idea, Granny. But to you, they might tell you the real reason.

KELLY: They might tell me the real reason. And a lot of times, we don't even talk about that, you know. It really is, especially with repeat customers. They just - they come in. We chat a little bit about our families. You know, I think in a way, they feel closer to me than I do to them. You know, they always remember my name, and they'll see me out in public and want to stop and chitchat. But, yeah, I mean, I think in a way, it's a valuable service to - to provide for people. It's just that little bit of extra input, maybe, that they feel like they can get a different prospective from me.

CONAN: Well, Melinda Blau, somebody like a body piercer is exactly who you're talking about.

Ms. BLAU: Absolutely, absolutely. And, you know, there's been wonderful studies done on hairdressers, for example. And this is a very similar phenomenon, where they go - you go to your hairdresser, you know, the old - what was the ad -only your hairdresser knows for sure…

CONAN: Knows for sure…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BLAU: Because, you know, you're sitting in a chair and you're having - it's true of masseuses and any kind of physical contact - and doctors often. These are the people that we are apt to tell things to because, first of all, we're not worried about it getting back to the people we love. And we know there's no judgment there. I have a story in the book of a wonderful hairdresser from the hairdresser's point of view. And the interesting thing that Kelly said also was the fact that, they mean - she means more to them than they do to her.

You know, basically Joe Blank, who comes at 5 o'clock, is your 5 o'clock on a Monday. But you - so you have all these different people that come to you, and you are the only one that they come to…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BLAU: So - and sometimes that imbalance can be difficult because they may feel closer to you than you do to them.

CONAN: Kelly, thanks very much for the call.

KELLY: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye, bye. Let's go next to, this is Jennifer(ph). Jennifer with us from Woodhaven in Michigan.

JENNIFER (Caller): Hi.

CONAN: Hi, Jennifer.

JENNIFER: Longtime listener, first-time caller.

CONAN: Thank you for that.

JENNIFER: I have just this funny little anecdote. I have been employed -unemployed for quite a long time after getting out of school. And I have been really broke. My fiance and I went to pick up a cheese pizza at Little Caesar and there was this cute little girl. She can't have been out of high school, and she was just happy and smiling and bouncy. And she made my week. That just gave me a wonderful boost that carried right into a surprise interview. And we still go to that Little Caesar's because of her, haven't seen her since, but it's just - the people that just jump out and surprise us make our day, week, month.

CONAN: And in the book, you describe that the overwhelming percentage of these consequential strangers, Melinda Blau, are very positive in our lives.

Ms. BLAU: Absolutely they are because - among other reasons, because you can walk away when it's not. You know, if you're playing golf with somebody, and he turns out to be a blowhard on the golf course, you don't play with him anymore. If you're going into a deli and the manager is obnoxious, you go to another deli. So we can usually walk away.

And we also talk about in the book the fact that there are a few situations where a neighbor, for example, who's very nosy, a co-worker in the same office who shares the cubicle with you, you're trapped with that kind of person, and those consequential relationships - consequential-stranger relationships, can go sour, and it's more difficult to walk away. But by and large, most of them are extremely positive, and Jennifer's experience is very typical. Often, people said to me: That person just makes my day. I don't know why. It's the smile. It's the different perspective. You don't know that much about them, but the little you know is enough.

JENNIFER: And it's great for the business.

CONAN: Yeah, because if she had flipped cigarette ash in your pizza, you would have gone to the Armando's down the street.


Ms. BLAU: Right.

CONAN: All right, Jennifer, thanks very much for the call.

JENNIFER: Yeah, thanks for having me.

CONAN: Bye-bye, and this from Liz(ph) in Charlotte, North Carolina. Thank you for this topic. The best advice I ever received about parenting came from an old man who sat on the park bench next to me and to my infant daughter. When you are a parent, he said, the days go slowly and the years quickly. That bit of guidance informed me on many of those long days with little kids, and it brought perspective as the years rolled quickly by.

Again, a consequential stranger doesn't necessarily mean somebody you see on a regular basis, like a co-worker or the guy you work out with in the gym, but somebody you met just once.

Ms. BLAU: Well, as long as you have some kind of exchange. I mean, Karen and I kind of - not struggled over it, exactly, but we talked a lot about this. If you don't know anything about the person, basically he or she is a stranger. It's when you exchange some kind of conversation, a little bit of biographical information, so that there's some knowledge of each other. And I am doing a consequential-stranger blog, and I talked about when Michael Jackson died, that many of us felt as if we knew him and that he was a consequential stranger. But celebrities are really not. You know, I mean, we know a lot about them, that's for sure, but there's no exchange. It's a one-sided thing.

CONAN: They give very little back for the $12.95 we fork over for their CD.

Ms. BLAU: Exactly. You know, and I don't expect people to start calling, oh, he's a great consequential stranger of mine. I don't think necessarily we need to change our language.

CONAN: I was going to approach Hallmark with a new category of cards.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BLAU: That's right. Maybe they'll do that.

CONAN: We're talking with Melinda Blau about the consequential strangers in our lives and the role they play for us. Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. We're talking today about the consequential strangers in our lives, casual relationships like the regular barista, the guy you see every day at the gym, maybe the owner of the dry cleaners on the corner. You might only know them by their first name, but these people can have a surprising effect on your life. Melinda Blau co-wrote, with Karen Fingerman, "Consequential Strangers: The Power of People Who Don't Seem To Matter But Really Do." You can read an excerpt from the book at our Web site at Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

And we want to hear from you. Tell us about the consequential strangers in your life and the role they play: 800-989-8255. Email is You can also join the conversation on our Web site at Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

And let's go next to Mark(ph), Mark with us from Salt Lake City.

MARK (Caller): Hi there, Neal and Melinda.

Ms. BLAU: Hi.

MARK: Yeah, I'm a professor at a university here in Salt Lake, and they give free bus passes to employees. So 10 years ago, I sold my car, and I'm an active member of the bus community - which is a community, interestingly enough. And so every morning at 8:20, I take the bus into work. And I've met on that bus - I've met an archivist in Salt Lake, a physician from China, who occasionally I sit next to, and she tutors me in Chinese phrases that I never would have had the opportunity of learning.

I've met refugees from Iraq. I've met a former Supreme Court justice from I can't remember what eastern European country. It's an interesting slice of life that I meet, and it's different every day. Well, some difference but actually, there is a community of similar folks, similar faces.

CONAN: There are regulars, and then there are the occasionals.

MARK: Exactly.

CONAN: Is the bus driver the ringleader?

MARK: No, no, actually they - this one probably stays to himself, but the group in the back, I mean, you wave to the familiar ones, and there's a group, you know, in the back that might be college students, and then there's a professional area in the middle, of people that are reading or something, and then there are folks in the front of the bus, and they're the ones who like to talk with the bus driver.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

MARK: So you can kind of pick your spot as to which group in the bus that you want to be part of, but…

CONAN: I'm also a part of a bus community, and we were lucky enough to have a very gregarious and entertaining bus driver but who also knew when to keep quiet when we all fell asleep.

MARK: Right, exactly, when you want to read.

CONAN: We pretended to read.

Ms. BLAU: I actually have a bus driver in the book because the wonderful thing about the bus that you're describing, Mark, and maybe yours, Neal, as well, but you have people up and down the socioeconomic ladder. And the research is very clear that a varied - what we call in the book a social convoy, and those are the people that you meet as you make your way through life. If you picture yourself in a vehicle, and as you're going through life, there are people close to you, but then there are your consequential strangers. And the more varied your social convoy - it doesn't have to be big, it just should be diverse - the more likely you are to get better information and have all the benefits of consequential strangers, even health benefits.

And the bus driver that I wrote about actually came from very humble beginnings, and she referred to the bus as her window on the world. And very interesting research, sociological research, shows that having a diverse network of people is tantamount to having a good education, and that it allows you to move up the socioeconomic ladder simply because you can mix it up with a lot of different kinds of people, which serves you in good stead when you're in interviews, when you're at a cocktail party - so that you can talk about anything.

MARK: That's great. It's also social capital. I think it's kind of a glue that keeps a community together, in a way.

Ms. BLAU: Absolutely.

CONAN: Mark, thanks very much.

MARK: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. What's - you mentioned the social convoy. What's the difference between that concept of the social convoy, and I guess the older idea of the social circle?

Ms. BLAU: Well, a social circle is a little bit smaller, I think, than the social convoy. I love the image. It was used by a psychologist in the early '80s, and I love the image because it tells us that relationships are fluid, and they change as we change. So it's this image of, you know, driving through life, as I said, and they've found that those who have good social convoys are better equipped to deal with the challenges that come along, you know, in your lifetime. So that if you get sick, if you move, if you change jobs, you have all these resources. And even though someone is no longer front and center in your life, and maybe they drop behind in the rear-view mirror, you still can call upon that person, especially now in the days of social networking. We're still connected with many of our people in the social convoy.

CONAN: Let's talk next with Ruth(ph), Ruth with us from Carpenter in Wyoming. Ruth, are you there?

RUTH (Caller): I am.

CONAN: Go ahead, please.

RUTH: Well, my comment is I work part time as a lifeguard, and I'd like to speak out for lifeguards, that we're pretty unnoticed a lot of the time. We do develop a rapport with many of our clientele, but it seems unusual to us at times that people don't even notice us when we might be the person responsible for saving their life.

CONAN: Do you think that high chair might have something to do with it? You're a little unapproachable.

RUTH: Well, we have - in our facility, we have some low chairs, some high chairs. We have a lot of handicapped individuals we interact with, but I'm not sure that's it. Some people just want to get their exercise and leave. But it's an interesting point that they don't always notice the person that maybe needs to - they need to notice if they may be responsible for saving them.

CONAN: That's true.

Ms. BLAU: Well, they would notice if you stepped in and saved a drowning child, and if that child was related to them, they would definitely notice. And I think you're raising a very important point, Ruth, and that is that most of us - it's not just lifeguards. We don't notice the people, and if anything - I was saying before, I don't expect people to walk around saying that he's a good consequential stranger of mine, but by Karen naming this group of people, I think it gives us a chance to notice and value them. And that's what I'm hoping that the book will do.

CONAN: Ruth, we will pay more attention to lifeguards.

RUTH: Well, thank you for that, and when we do go out to rescue, they do notice us then.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: OK, bye-bye.

RUTH: Thank you.

CONAN: Let's see if we can go next to Garth(ph). Garth is with us from Portland.

GARTH (Caller): Yes, hello.

CONAN: Hi, Garth.

GARTH: Hi. I was a cab driver in San Francisco for about three years, and something really interesting happened once. I picked up a guy late at night. He was drunk, and he confessed to me that he was miserable in his job, and he wanted to join a rock band that had asked him to play with them. And they were going to go on tour. And I said, well, that sounds great. You should do it. Absolutely, take the chance. And then coincidentally, I picked him up about three weeks later, and this time he was sober. And I just knew it was the guy, and I said: Are you the guy that hates his job and wants to be in the rock band? And he said, yeah?

Ms. BLAU: He didn't remember you.

GARTH: I said, did you do it? And he said no, and he was so freaked out. I really felt kind of bad about telling - you know, about having paid attention.

CONAN: Well, about caring, I guess, and remembering.

GARTH: Right.

CONAN: It's such an interesting story. You write in the book, Melinda Blau, so many times, a conversation with a stranger like a cab driver, like Garth, of somebody saying yeah, nursing, you should really do it, you know, and people do.

Ms. BLAU: Absolutely, you know, and it's funny because I have a very dear friend who's a diabetic. And I tried to convince her to try the pump, and her partner did and her sister, everybody who was close to her did. She wouldn't listen to anybody - I don't want anything hanging off me; I'm not interested. She spent an afternoon at the pool with somebody, and this person had a spouse who was a diabetic and said changed his life. She suddenly wanted to try the pump. We're apt to listen to a consequential stranger more than our intimates, especially with something that's as personal as our health.

CONAN: Garth, thanks very much for that story.

GARTH: You're welcome, and thank you. Have a good day.

CONAN: You, too. Here's an email from Dave(ph) in San Francisco. This topic resonates with me. I recently moved to San Francisco from the Southeast, where I'd lived most of my life. People back home ask me if I've developed a large circle of friends here. I am usually at a loss when I get asked this, as it dawns on me that I don't have a lot of friends here. But my days are so full of contact with neighbors, folks in sports and social clubs I belong to, businesses I frequent, etc., I seldom notice. These kinds of contacts are frequently dismissed, but they go a long way toward having a fulfilling life.

Ms. BLAU: Absolutely. I think he's got the point of the book.

CONAN: One of the pieces of research that you raise in the book is that study that, just a couple of years ago, showed that most people only have two or three intimates that they tell their most important secrets to. And in fact, it's something you challenge.

Ms. BLAU: Well, we challenge it because first of all, you know, you can't have, as I said before, many, many close friends because it's a lot of work. It requires maintenance. These are our wash-and-wear relationships. And we may confide one thing to one person, another thing to another person, where we think we'll be heard the best, where the best information is. So the study also really was very - they asked questions about what do you think is important. And some people thought the war in Iran was important, and other people thought their sex life was important. So…

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Ms. BLAU: So, the question was a little bit vague. But really, most of the more recent studies that have been done show that people have significant people in their life, at least 10 - some as many as 20 or 30 - not very, very close, but they're significant. They're people that make you feel grounded and anchored in the world.

And then we have all these other people on the periphery, and it's - as John Cacioppo, who wrote the book on loneliness, literally said, it's impossible to feel socially isolated after reading this book because you start to realize, no, you're not isolated.

CONAN: Hmm. Let's go with Bree, Bree with us from Hudson in Ohio.

BREE (Caller): Hi. I met a friend - well, I guess if I call her a friend, it doesn't fit the definition. But we met on Facebook, and we share the exact same first and last name. And she contacted me, and we both have daughters, and we share a lot of tips on parenting. And even though she lives in Alabama and she's African-American, and I'm white from Ohio, we find things to talk about.

CONAN: And this is part of what you describe as the culture of continuous connection.

Ms. BLAU: Exactly. Exactly. And it's also part of really, one of the great advantages of consequential strangers, is that you can collaborate and relate across boundaries. And it's very important. I mean, we live in a very diverse, you know, global world. And it's important to realize that under the skin - and I don't mean to sound like a Pollyanna - but people are basically the same. Unless you get to know someone who's different, however, you never really know that. All you see are the surface characteristics.

CONAN: How did you find the person on Facebook with the same name?

BREE: When you go on Facebook, you can search for people's names. And she must have searched for her first and last name, and I popped up.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: So, in other words, you got a friend request from your, Bree, yourself in essence, from Bree Smith, or whatever your last name is?

BREE: Yeah. Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: That must have been a little strange.

BREE: It was kind of exciting, you know? Because our - you know, Bree's actually my nickname. And so, our first name, Abria(ph), is very rare.

CONAN: That's unusual, yeah.

BREE: And, you know, we shared a little bit about, you know, the origin of how she got her name and how she pronounces her name - she pronounces it Abria -and a little bit about that. And it just kind of went on from there.

CONAN: When the first "Conan the Barbarian" movie came out, I did a story for NPR about the other people in the Manhattan phone book named Conan. And the best story was - a lot of them are from Brittany in France. But the best story was a guy named Abe Conan, who had been a, I think, an accountant, I think, in the Bronx. And he says: Well, my name was actually Cohen. Do you know how many accountants there are named Abe Cohen in the Bronx? And he changed his name. Anyway, Bree, thanks very much for the phone call.

BREE: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye.

We're talking about consequential strangers today. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And here's an email, and this from Rhia(ph) in Taos, New Mexico. I work out of town a lot, and I would like to say that the hosts of programs like TALK OF THE NATION, ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, MORNING EDITION are consequential strangers in my life. When I tune in, I feel like I'm hearing from friends. I even talk back sometimes. Thanks for making my life away from home better. And again, that may be people you feel you know something about, but…

Ms. BLAU: Right.

CONAN: …we're more in the Michael Jackson category, though not as well paid.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BLAU: Well, you know, it's interesting because the last caller said something about - well, I guess I'm using the wrong definition, because I call her a friend. It's very important to note that some consequential strangers, you can marry them. I mean, they become soul mates. Relationships can go one way or the other. Sometimes, someone who is a close friend, either because you move, because you have a falling out, or for any number of reasons, may become more like a consequential stranger. And likewise, a consequential stranger can become a close friend, ultimately.

CONAN: Here's an email, this from Leslie in Muncie, Indiana. Getting to know the people who serve me is indeed, integral to feeling part of the community. My 2-year-old son and I had numerous conversations with the oldy(ph) lady during his life before finally finding out her name. She's watched me go through my pregnancy, and my shy son is more comfortable with her than with his own grandparents, whom he does not see so often.

Relationships like this blur the lines of the titles we ascribe to them. And that's, I guess, the meaning of that phrase, consequential strangers. If you can define it, suddenly it takes on new resonance.

Ms. BLAU: Exactly.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get Marianne on the line, Marianne with us from Nehalem, is that right, in Oregon?

MARIANNE (Caller): Yes, that's correct.

CONAN: Go ahead, please.

MARIANNE: OK. I wanted to just comment on the fact that I had a written note from somebody that changed my life in a very positive way. And I know that that's probably not exactly what you meant. But I just want to use an example of how a written note can change somebody's life. I was working for the Alaska court system in Anchorage, and it was the Third Judicial District, and there were lots of judges, district and superior. And I was a legal technician, almost like a civil procedure specialist, worked up all the files and all the motions and drafted some orders. And I'd send them up to the judges, to these judges who I really did not know and didn't have any direct contact with.

It was kind of like sending them into a black hole. I tried to do my very best, but there wasn't any feedback. And then one day, I opened a file, and it was by a new judge. His name was Rene Gonzales(ph). He was a superior court judge then. And he had written a note that said: Marianne, has anybody told you lately how wonderful you are? Because I had done such a good job on this order. And at that time…

Ms. BLAU: I think that's very much on point.

MARIANNE: …I did not have a bachelor's degree, didn't have a master's degree, certainly, and never imagined I'd have a doctorate degree. And I'm finishing my dissertation now.


Ms. BLAU: That's terrific. I think that's very much on point because you had an exchange with this person. He knew who you were, and he reached out. And I think it's very important for all of us to remember that we are other people's consequential strangers as well.


Ms. BLAU: And so, it's a good thing to reach out, to give that little extra compliment, to even just a nicety to - and it changes another person's day.



CONAN: So, Marianne, when you run the world, remember the little people.


(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Thanks very much for the phone call.

MARIANNE: Mm-hmm. Bye.

CONAN: Bye-bye.

And we'd like to thank you, Melinda Blau.

Ms. BLAU: Thank you.

CONAN: Melinda Blau and Karen L. Fingerman, Ph.D., are the authors of "Consequential Strangers: The Power of People Who Don't Seem to Matter but Really Do." And she joined us today from the studios of the Radio Foundation in New York City.

Coming up: the game-ending punch in last week's Boise State-Oregon game. LaGarrette Blount is suspended for the rest of his final season in college. Does the punishment fit the crime? 800-989-8255. Email us: Dave Zirin will join us. Stay with us.

I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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