Wisdom//

The War for Kindness: Building Empathy in a Fractured World

Jamil Zaki's new book shows us how to "bring light to a world that seemingly has darkened."

Getty Images
Getty Images

At the heart of our species is the need to connect, and the capacity to care for each other.  This is what has allowed humanity to thrive for so long. And yet our ties to each other seem to be weakening.  We are more polarized, isolated, stressed, and lonely than ever before, and our empathy — especially for people who do not look or think like us—is eroding.

In this dazzling, essential book, Jamil Zaki, a professor of psychology at Stanford, helps us understand this crisis and what we can do about it.  Zaki is a world-renowned expert on empathy, whose lab has done pioneering work on not just how caring works, but how people can learn to empathize in broader, healthier ways.  In this book, he gives a tour de force exploration of the latest science behind human connection. He focuses on a powerful, groundbreaking new message: although we often think of empathy as a trait that we either have or don’t have, in fact it’s a skill, which we can grow through practice.  

But The War For Kindness offers much more than education.  Through impassioned arguments and powerful stories, Zaki demonstrates the human costs that arise when empathy falters—think hatred, mental illness, and social collapse—and introduces us to doctors, teachers, parents, and even ex-Neo Nazis who live in empathy’s trenches, and have fought to retain their care and compassion even in extraordinarily difficult circumstances.  

The War for Kindness will leave readers empowered to grow and give them an urgent reason to do so.  If we each focus on building our empathy and compassion, we can improve not only our own lives but the lives of others and by doing so bring light to a world that seemingly has darkened.

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