Today’s Book of the Day is The War for Kindness: Building Empathy in a Fractured World by Jamil Zaki, published in 2019 by Robinson.

Jamil Zaki is a professor of psychology at Stanford University, where he leads the Stanford Social Neuroscience Laboratory. He has spent his entire career studying empathy from a scientific point of view. He is a renowned communicator about kindness, generosity, and hope.

The War for Kindness, by Jamil Zaki

I have read this book for the second time a few days ago and I loved it, for the second time.

This is a book about empathy and kindness. Empathy that seems to be every day less common in our world, as if it were just a trend for “those people” who always want to be positive. Yet, we all need empathy.

We live in a society where hating people we do not understand or we feel as different seems to be way easier than trying to be inclusive. Scientific studies tell us that we are less caring and supporting one other than we were thirty years ago.
In 2006, Barack Obama gave a speech to the graduates of Northwestern University and said “There’s a lot of talk in this country about the federal deficit. But I think we should talk more about our empathy deficit – the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes; to see the world through those who are different from us – the child who’s hungry, the laid-off steelworker, the immigrant woman cleaning your dorm room”.

Since then, things have only gotten worse, also because of the highly divisive presidency of Trump.

Yet, we can change this, according to Jamil Zaki, who shares in his book the most recent research, including his own. The result of the research is that empathy is not something we’re born with, but rather an essential social skill that can be learned, developed, and used, once we become aware of it.

The author shows us the stories of people who changed their perspective, passing from egoism and hate to kindness in the most difficult situations we can think of. The readers can learn how convicted people can begin to talk with the judge who sent them to jail, how a former neo-Nazi supports people who are struggling to leave hate associations and groups, but also nurses and police officers who have to learn how to adjust their empathy so that they don’t burn out during their hard jobs.

The War for Kindness is a book written with love, passion, and deep knowledge of the matter. It’s an inspiring call to action for everyone. It’s up to us to commit to improving our empathy if we really want to have a positive impact on our lives, on our families, and on our society.

One key point, for me, is when Zaki calls for a common action to grow empathy in a fractured world, as he calls it. We have to work together to avoid the threats coming from tribalism, cruelty, and isolation, as he points out.

I think that this book is an essential read. One of those books that can drastically change, and for good, our lives. So, if still haven’t read it, I absolutely recommend you do it!

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