Amy Emmert conducted an interview for Strategy+Business with Stanford University psychology professor Jamil Zaki about his book The War for Kindness

« he realized that two seemingly oppositional realities could be true. »

« Empathy creates links between camps, giving us collective power to accomplish more together than we ever could apart. These aren’t just feel-good ideas. Several academic studies show that empathic individuals excel professionally and experience greater subjective well-being. »

« ZAKI: Empathy is, as psychologists understand it, an umbrella term that captures at least three ways that we connect with one another’s emotions. One is emotional empathy, which is vicariously catching somebody else’s feelings…. Cognitive empathy is your attempt to understand what someone else is feeling and why. And then empathic concern or compassion is your motivation to improve others’ well-being. »

« ZAKI: But there are also these broken but sticky theories that leadership requires a hard-nosed, unemotional approach. This thinking is almost entirely backward. Empathic leadership and transformative leadership are enormous keys to organizational success. »

« ZAKI: It’s also the case that when employees perceive their organization or their boss as empathic, they are more creative, more productive, have greater morale and loyalty »

« ZAKI: There’s also a lot of evidence that when feedback, even difficult feedback, is delivered empathically, the people who receive it are better able to use it to develop and grow, because they don’t feel attacked. And there are connections between measures of organizational empathy and bottom-line success, including profits that a company draws. »

« Is there a connection, then, between empathy and innovation? … ZAKI: Absolutely. For instance, in many design firms, the first step employees take when they want to create something new and useful is to put themselves in the body and mind of the end-user. Through that simulation, they’re better able to innovate. This is called empathic design »

« ZAKI: When people feel that their leaders and managers are empathic, they spend more of their time taking risks. They feel safer trying out new ideas   »

« ZAKI: One example that I read about was at Johns Hopkins, where the hospital’s management asked employees, “Who among your colleagues do you find really supportive?” They found these “glue people” in the organization, gave them some training, and then — this is crucial — dedicated paid time for them to offer support to their colleagues. »

« ZAKI: There’s evidence from political science and the practice of “deep canvassing” that storytelling is a powerful way to bridge differences. »

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