Sidewalk Talk

Joe Koehane on the power—and magic—of strangers

July 13, 2021

Joe Keohane has been meeting strangers for decades. As an accomplished journalist and editor, Joe has made a career out of listening to people he doesn’t know and engaging with their stories. But as the world reemerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, loneliness is on the rise, and strangers feel more strange than maybe ever before. Is there still something to be gained from expanding our social circles and interacting with strangers after 18 months of isolation? Joe sure thinks so. 


On this episode of The Sidewalk Talk podcast, Traci sits down with Joe to talk about his brand new book, The Power of Strangers. Together the two talk about the impact listening to strangers has on us, the magic of meeting someone new, and how to cultivate a healthy curiosity towards others in an effort to combat loneliness. There may never be a more perfect time for this conversation as we relearn how to connect with those around us. 


Episode Timeline

[00:07] Intro 

[02:43] Meet Joe 

[07:39] Why Joe wrote The Power of Strangers  

[16:40] The impact listening to strangers has on us 

[21:55] The magic of meeting strangers 

[27:20] What surprised Joe in his research 

[36:18] Loneliness after the pandemic 

[42:49] Traci and Joe’s hospitality stories  

[47:03] Joe’s word for you 

[49:45] Outro 

Resources Mentioned

The Power of Strangers: The benefits of connecting in a suspicious world 

Standout Quotes: 

 “It really doesn’t take that much for people to feel comfortable with you. It’s not that hard for a total stranger to be like, ‘oh yeah, we can get along!’ just because of this piece of fabric on my head.”
—Joe Keohane 


“In a way, every time you speak to a stranger, if you learn to do it well, you get a little glimpse of what the life of another person is like, and that’s huge.”
—Joe Keohane 


“It becomes very difficult to dismiss a group of people when you’ve had good engagements with members of that group.”
—Joe Keohane 


“There’s a lot in a person, and when you talk to them you get to travel to that little universe, you get to interact with it.”
—Joe Keohane 


“One of the more curious things about humans is that we are neophobic and neophiliac at the same time—we’re afraid of new things, but we love new things.”
—Joe Keohane 


“It’s in our benefit to grow our social networks, to have friends.”
—Joe Keohane 


“The opportunity that COVID presents us with is it took us very quickly to the conclusion that we were slowly moving towards anyways, which was 300 million individuals alone in rooms looking at screens.”
—Joe Keohane 


“Almost every crisis we’re facing right now is a crisis of belonging.”
—Joe Keohane 



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On Twitter: @JoeKeohane

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