The War For Kindness Book Summary - The War For Kindness Book explained in key points
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The War For Kindness summary

Jamil Zaki

Building Empathy in a Fractured World

4.5 (215 ratings)
25 mins

Brief summary

The War for Kindness by Jamil Zaki is a book that explores the complex nature of empathy and compassion, and how they can be cultivated in a world that often seems hostile and divided.

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    The War For Kindness
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    It’s possible to become more empathetic just by believing that you can.

    I feel your pain. For many people, this sentence embodies empathy. But of course, empathy is much more complicated. When we empathize with another person, we might respond to them in a number of different ways. This could mean identifying their feelings, sharing their emotions, or wishing to improve their condition. So are you born empathetic, or is empathy something you can cultivate? 

    The key message here is: It’s possible to become more empathetic just by believing that you can.

    Have you ever heard someone say something like “once a cheater, always a cheater”? Statements like this are indicative of a belief in psychological fixism, the argument that a person’s character is unchanging.

    There’s just one problem with psychological fixism – it’s not backed up by science.

    Despite what the platitudes suggest, the brain is always changing. Learning to play an instrument, for example, causes parts of your brain to grow. Meanwhile, other parts of your brain can shrink as a result of depression or chronic stress.

    So what’s the alternative to fixism? That would be psychological mobilism. This theory acknowledges that genetics do play a role in defining some of our characteristics. However, we don’t just have a set point in traits like intelligence or empathy. Instead, each of us has a range we can achieve within each trait.

    Throughout our lives, we move to the higher or lower end of our empathetic range, starting in childhood. Children of empathetic parents show greater generosity, concern for strangers, and heightened ability to understand other people’s emotions. And sadly, children who experience severe lack of kindness show empathetic deficits similar to those found in psychopaths. 

    Not only does the research support mobilism, but there’s another huge upside. Mobilists are statistically more empathetic than fixists, and simply converting to mobilism can immediately boost your level of empathy.

    In one study, the author and two colleagues presented a group of participants with two magazine articles on empathy. One article was written from a fixist perspective, and the other from a mobilist. No matter which article they read, participants were convinced it was factual. Everyone had successfully been converted to either a “new fixist” or a “new mobilist.”

    What were the consequences when it came to empathy? New fixists didn’t empathize with outsiders – only with people who looked like them. New mobilists, though, empathized with everyone.

    You know what that means? If this blink has turned you into a mobilist, you might already be more empathetic!

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    What is The War For Kindness about?

    It can often seem like tribalism and cruelty have our modern world in a vice-grip. But The War for Kindness (2019) shows us that not all hope is lost: together, we can fight the trend toward isolation and hatred through the incredible power of empathy. 

    The War For Kindness Review

    The War for Kindness (2019) delves into the science behind empathy and offers practical strategies to cultivate kindness in our lives. Here's why this book is a must-read:

    • It provides fascinating insights into the power of empathy, backed by scientific evidence, which helps us understand the importance of kindness in today's world.
    • Jamil Zaki skillfully combines personal stories, real-world examples, and research findings to offer a deep understanding of how empathy can be nurtured and cultivated.
    • By exploring topics such as social media, politics, and human connection, the book keeps readers engaged and stimulates meaningful self-reflection on how we can become kinder individuals.

    Best quote from The War For Kindness

    With the right treatments… we can grow a more muscular kind of empathy, and broaden our kindness along the way.

    —Jamil Zaki
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    Who should read The War For Kindness?

    • Psychology buffs who want to delve deeper into the science of empathy
    • Caregivers dealing with burnout
    • Anyone having trouble empathizing with those who have opposing views

    About the Author

    Jamil Zaki is a professor of psychology and has been the director of the Stanford Social Neuroscience Lab since 2012. His research focuses on empathy and social cognition. The War for Kindness is his first book.

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    The War For Kindness FAQs 

    What is the main message of The War For Kindness?

    The main message of The War For Kindness is the power of empathy and how it can transform our society.

    How long does it take to read The War For Kindness?

    The reading time for The War For Kindness varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The War For Kindness a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The War For Kindness is a thought-provoking read that sheds light on the importance of empathy in today's world.

    Who is the author of The War For Kindness?

    The author of The War For Kindness is Jamil Zaki.

    What to read after The War For Kindness?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The War For Kindness, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Age of Empathy by Frans de Waal
    • Humility Is The New Smart by Edward D. Hess and Katherine Ludwig
    • Hallelujah Anyway by Anne Lamott
    • Mindset by Carol Dweck
    • Million Dollar Habits by Brian Tracy
    • Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff
    • Don't Overthink It by Anne Bogel
    • The Kindness Method by Shahroo Izadi
    • Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
    • The Intelligence Trap by David Robson