Empathy is in short supply. Studies show that we are less caring than we were even thirty years ago. Jamil Zaki shares research including experiments from his own lab, showing that empathy is not a fixed trait—something we’re born with or not—but rather a skill that can be strengthened through effort. He also tells the stories of people who embody this new perspective, fighting for kindness in the most difficult of circumstances.
Zaki’s heart-of-the-matter writing style relates complex emotion in clear, direct language. He walks his own fine line, between significant research findings and his personal emotional and empathic responses. His research and his book are worthy.
I had high hopes for Jamil Zaki's The War for Kindness: Building Empathy in a Fractured World. But after reading, I was left ambivalent ... if you want a clarion call to action, this might not be it. If you want a wide-ranging practical guide to making the world better, then you're in luck ... The main problem with the book is its frequent TED-Talk-like tone. It feels too light, too comfortable, to lend the requisite gravity to the legitimate crisis empathy deficits in the world really pose. Its crisp positivity feels as if it's sounding from within a climate-controlled bubble. The considerable range of social research and anecdotes Zaki marshals to demonstrate empathy building is persuasive and encouraging but, again, the book is much more practical than polemical. A mixture of the two could have been helpful ... Jamil Zaki should be commended for compiling such a wide range of research and evidence that show how empathy, like a muscle, can be built or atrophy.
While Zaki’s many examples offer encouragement that change is possible, the book could have further benefited by a more substantive action plan and a resource list ... An earnest and well-researched call to action and an urgent message that will hopefully expand in Zaki’s future work.