Episode 35
Building Empathy in a Fractured World
Jamil Zaki
With Jamil Zaki, Renowned Stanford Professor and Empathy Researcher

Jamil Zaki is a professor of psychology at Stanford University, director of the Stanford Social Neuroscience Lab and teaches the popular course, Becoming Kinder, designed to address the empathy crisis and “fight back against the increasing trend of polarization and disconnection.” For the last 15 years, Jamil has probed how empathy works, how it helps people and situations that make empathy harder, demonstrating that empathy is a skill, like all other leadership skills, that can be worked on and improved through practice.

  • [Hitendra] is outstanding. He is genuine, very interactive and compassionate in his approach. As an audience member, you feel validated in your thinking and inclined to stretch yourself, not only cognitively but emotionally, through the learning process. I appreciate the safe environment that he has created to take risks and his modeling vulnerability by so openly and candidly sharing his experiences throughout the sessions. Participant from the Holdsworth Center
  • [Hitendra] is outstanding. He is genuine, very interactive and compassionate in his approach. As an audience member, you feel validated in your thinking and inclined to stretch yourself, not only cognitively but emotionally, through the learning process. I appreciate the safe environment that he has created to take risks and his modeling vulnerability by so openly and candidly sharing his experiences throughout the sessions. Participant from the Holdsworth Center
  • [Hitendra] is outstanding. He is genuine, very interactive and compassionate in his approach. As an audience member, you feel validated in your thinking and inclined to stretch yourself, not only cognitively but emotionally, through the learning process. I appreciate the safe environment that he has created to take risks and his modeling vulnerability by so openly and candidly sharing his experiences throughout the sessions. Participant from the Holdsworth Center


Through his research, Jamil Zaki and his colleagues have developed techniques and interventions to improve empathy at schools, hospitals, workplaces, and beyond. His recent book, The War for Kindness: Building Empathy in a Fractured World, explores why it feels harder than ever to connect with each other, how we can overcome modern barriers to empathy, and why we should and must try. His writings on the role of empathy in all forays of life have appeared in leading publications including The Scientific American, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, and Harvard Business Review.


Jamil Zaki joins us on this episode of Intersections to discuss how it is more urgent than ever to come together as a race and uplift each other, empathy has become a radical act. Our struggles as a society touched new peaks in the past year, from the pandemic, racial injustice, economic collapse, ideological differences, and more, leading to heightened feelings of anger, intolerance, fear and stress. At work, we feel more disconnected than ever with our colleagues and find it hard to express our concerns or grow stronger relationships.

“Happiness isn’t found in some finite checklist of goals that we can diligently complete and then coast. It’s how we live our lives in the process.”
ARTHUR BROOKS

The episode “Building Empathy in a Fractured World” offers key insights on:

  • How to grow empathy, kindness and compassion for personal and collective success
  • Finding common ground with people when norms, experiences and ideals clash
  • Making empathy and altruism central to organizational cultures
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