For more than ten years, there has been an increase in Google searches for circumstances dealing with empathy. The War for Kindness by Jamil Zaki describes empathy and how an individual can increase it. The author opens the article by showing that for most people, empathy is a result of genetic underpinnings. Zaki refers to this revelation as the “Roddenberry hypothesis,” which is a term he borrows from the movie Star Trek (Konrath, 2019). Zaki uses the movie to describe empathy because of its extreme revelation of the concept. Nevertheless, the author does not agree with the concept of empathy. According to Zaki, through practice, most people can increase their level of empathy (Zaki, 2020). Furthermore, he believes that when individuals feel that they can change their levels of empathy, they will spend more time performing empathetic activities (Shin et al., 2020). This is vital in situations where empathy is declining or rising. Thus, according to Zaki, an individual can develop empathy by seeking out new experiences and perspectives, taking opportunities to emotionally connect with other individuals, and acknowledging an individual’s biases.
Information that Adds on the Knowledge gained from The War for Kindness
There are texts that support the perspective of The War for Kindness. Shin et al. (2020) state that individuals can change their level of empathy by seeking new experiences and perspectives. In this case, individuals must try and learn about how other people are feeling. There are several ways in which they can accomplish this. One of these methods includes learning about different situations. These people can volunteer in different organizations such as orphanages to ensure that they experience how certain individuals live. Moreover, in organizational situations involving new employees, a colleague can start a conversation with a new member of the organization. From Zaki’s perspective, it is important to be curious about other people’s life (Zaki, 2020). The importance of this is that it helps an individual learn about others, and in this way, they can change their levels of empathy.
Other texts support Zaki’s perspective by encouraging individuals to connect with others emotionally. Research states that to connect with others in an empathetic manner, there must be a mutual relationship between two people (Shin et al., 2020). In this case, one must conduct other activities besides talking to create a relationship with other people (Sheppard, 2020). Rather than listening to people’s feelings, one should consider this as a chance to learn about these people and develop their levels of empathy. Individuals should take time to listen to their counterparts and understand their situation and refrain from attempting to solve their problem immediately. An individual may not have been in the same situation, but they can imagine how it would feel. Even though it may be difficult talking about negative emotions, listening to others can train an individual to be empathetic. Thus, acknowledging the feelings of other people helps in understanding their problems. A person who acknowledges others in their time of need recognizes the importance of something. People should not dismiss these emotions because they are vital in developing empathy.
The War for Kindness advocates for acknowledging other people’s biases. Sheppard (2020) states that people have innate biases, and these are often based on age, gender, or race. In this context, these biases restrict an individual’s capacity to empathize with other individuals because this interferes with their judgment, and as a result, this influences their actions. Consequently, these biases further affect an individual’s willingness to empathize with people from different backgrounds. When individuals are aware of their biases, there are higher chances that they would become more empathetic towards others. Learning how to acquire empathy is not simple; however, when an individual practices and learns how to acquire knowledge and education, one develops the skills of overcoming biases.
Real-life Applications of The War for Kindness
The information from The War for Kindness is applicable in real life. In my situation, I have had to apply Zaki’s perspective of empathy. I was an intern at a respectable company for close to two years. With time, an employee from the company retired, and as a result, there was a job opening. After a few weeks, the organization employed a new person in the vacant position. Within a few weeks, this seemed to be detached from everyone, and I had challenges when it came to socializing. Most people within the company seemed to judge this employee for being different. At first, I was among the employees who judged her for not being social. However, with time, I decided to start talking to her and realized she was responsive. She decided to talk about her situation, and most of it was related to family troubles. I could not relate at first, but I taught myself to listen and decided to read about her circumstance. I found that researching different conditions could increase a person’s ability to empathize with different cases. The new employee was dealing with issues that were troubling, and, in this case, she could not tell anyone unless she trusted them. I established trust, and with numerous interactions with her, she shared her situation with me because she felt that I was empathetic.
Critique of The War for Kindness
Thus, the data that Zaki provides about empathy was true. In this case, I increased my level of empathy through listening and learning about another person’s situation. Through this, I was able to understand how they felt and what they were experiencing. From the beginning of the text, Zaki describes psychological traits such as empathy and explains whether they can be altered. Through the text, Zaki explains how individuals can increase their level of empathy by using an example from prisoners. He believes that almost everyone can increase their empathy levels. Moreover, he proceeds to provide explanations about the deficits of empathy. He introduces such deficits as homo-negativity and racism. Zaki describes how an individual’s affiliation with a certain group can affect their levels of empathy. An individual’s empathy levels increase when he or she is affiliated with a given group.
In my opinion, being affiliated with particular groups encourages prejudice. However, I liked that the author describes how to develop empathy. Developing empathy is an essential characteristic that would help most people in real life. Thus, I agree that individuals can develop empathy. I believe that empathy is not something people are born with. In my opinion, individuals have to learn how to be empathetic through practice. Practice entails learning, acknowledging biases and experiences. Thus, through the study of empathy, I realized that it is important to take time to study the experiences of others. Through this process, one develops knowledge and insight about how a different individual is feeling. In this case, people can relate efficiently without any misunderstands.
Konrath, S. (2019). Exercising empathy. Science mag.
Sheppard, M. (2020). The war for kindness: Building empathy in a fractured world By Jamil Zaki. New York, NY: Penguin Random House, 2020. US $17.00. ISBN 9780451499257.600-601.
Shin, J., Xu, P., Madotto, A., & Fung, P. (2020). Generating empathetic responses by looking ahead at the user’s sentiment. ICASSP 2020 – 2020 IEEE International Conference on Acoustics, Speech, and Signal Processing (ICASSP).
Zaki, J. (2020). The war for kindness: Building empathy in a fractured world. Broadway Books.