Jamil Zaki: Building Empathy in these Divisive Times | On Civil Society | Oct 17, 2019


Jamil Zaki: The incentive structures that
we experience online aren’t necessarily empathy positive. We’re reinforced with little dopamine hits
of likes and retweets for doing what? For sending out advertisements about how cool
our life is, or yelling at somebody who’s different from ourselves. Why is that? Well, the incentive structures of the platforms
that give us those incentives are themselves not that great, right? Social media companies don’t exist to make
us more connected or happier. They exist to get us online and keep us online. [music] Nadine Chevolleau: After reading your book,
I was really curious to know how Canadians ranked on the empathy scale because I assume
that there was some kind of research out there to say how countries ranked by empathy. And so, I Googled it. And yes, there was a study. There is a study that exists. I don’t know. I mentioned to you when we first spoke that
Canadians are known for being very kind and nice and polite people. So I really wanted to know, how did we rank? So, I did find a study. And I’ll just start off by saying Americans
ranked number seven in the world for empathy. Anyone wanna guess how Canadians ranked? Somebody said 12, and you’re right. JZ: Wow. NC: [chuckle] 12. Which kind of surprised me. I was thinking maybe one, two, three. [laughter] NC: And so I guess my question for you is,
can you tell us a bit more about that study if you’re familiar with it? And is it wrong? [laughter] JZ: Well, so it didn’t sample all the countries
on Earth, right? NC: That’s right. JZ: I think it’s only 65 of them or so. So there could be lots of other countries
that are just way ahead of the US and Canada that we just don’t know about, based on that
research. That was using a self-report questionnaire. It’s the most famous measure of empathy. And it’s just a series of statements, things
like… And you’d asked how well the statements describe
you from one, not at all, to five, extremely. So we can try it here. You could say, “I often have tender concerned
feelings for people less fortunate than me.” You can think about how well that describes
you, one to five, or “I try to look at everyone’s side of a disagreement before I make a decision.” So that plus 26 other statements like it give
you an empathy score from one to five. JZ: And basically, what these researchers
did was take the average score from different countries and rank them. Now, it’s really interesting and potentially
meaningful. There are issues, right? When you ask someone how empathic they are,
they might just tell you what they think you want to hear or what they want to believe
about themselves. People who are high in narcissism tend to
rate themselves as super empathic, but the people around them might not agree, right? So there are issues with that. JZ: But one interesting thing about that same
questionnaire is that people have been completing it since 1979, hundreds of thousands of people. And in 2011, there was a set of researchers
who tried to look at what those scores look like over time. So we can look at it across space, and that’s
what the study you’re referring to did. Across time, the news is less good. So there’s been a steady decline in empathy
over the decades, such that the average American, at least in 2009, even if they’re scoring
at number seven is less empathic than 75% of Americans just 30 years before. So there’s a steep decline in how much empathy
we at least think we feel. And it’s accelerated in the 21st century. NC: Okay. So possibly not all that accurate. JZ: Yeah. [chuckle] NC: Okay, so you write in the book that most
people understand empathy as, more or less, a feeling like “I feel your pain.” But you go on to explain that it’s actually
more complicated than that. Can you explain what empathy actually is? Because I think there are several words that
we use interchangeably to describe empathy, sympathy, or compassion. So what is empathy? JZ: Thank you so much for asking. That’s something important starting point
for any… I feel like empathy suffers from, I call it
an Inigo Montoya problem, if you’ve ever seen The Princess Bride. NC: Can you explain that? JZ: Yeah. I think it came out to 25 years ago now. But Inigo Montoya says, “You keep on using
that word. I do not think it means what you think it
means.” One thing about studying a topic that’s so
intuitive and buzzy like empathy is that you hear… I’ve heard literally hundreds of definitions
from people who are totally confident that they’re right about what empathy is, and all
disagree with each other. And part of that is because, empathy is more
complicated as you say. It’s an umbrella term that refers to a number
of different ways we respond to each other’s emotions. So I would say, imagine that you’re having
lunch with a friend, and he gets a phone call. And you don’t know who’s on the other side
of the line, but you know what they’re saying isn’t good ’cause your friend starts to cry. JZ: So a bunch of things might happen in you. You might feel bad yourself and maybe even
start tearing up. That’s what we would call emotional empathy
or emotion contagion. You know that feeling of catching what someone
else feels. You might also try to figure out what your
friend is feeling and why. And that’s what we would call cognitive empathy. But at least if you’re a good friend, you’d
also want to help your friend feel better. That motivation to help others is what we
call empathic concern or compassion. And so, these pieces together interlock to
create human empathy. NC: Okay. You point out in your book that first century
scientists and philosophers believed that empathy was a fixed trait. So something that you are either born with
or not, and that you didn’t have the ability to change that. You lay out the case that empathy is not a
fixed trait, but rather a scale that we can strengthen much like we can strengthen our
bodies through exercise. Can you speak to that a bit more? Why did we have that belief system for so
long? JZ: People have had fixed belief systems about
ourselves in a number of different ways. We’ve thought that intelligence is fixed. We’ve thought that our character, or our moral
character is fixed. We’ve thought that our emotional abilities
and our personalities are fixed. Part of that is because change is slow, right? I mean, we thought that the earth stood still,
before we knew about tectonic plates. And the person who came up with that theory
was ridiculed because you can’t see the world moving under your feet, and you can’t feel
yourself changing, either. So, it feels as though, “Hey, I’m the same
person I was 10 years ago, and I’ll probably be the same person in 10 years.” JZ: Another reason that I think people have
been so stubborn in their view of human nature as fixed is because it’s advantageous to people
who are in power, right? You can use a fixed view of human nature to
legitimize hierarchies between different groups of people by saying, “Well, those people are
subordinated to us because they are inferior and always will be. It’s a genetic thing.” Right? So when you allow from malleability, you allow
for mobility as well. And some people maybe don’t want that. Phrenology is an example of that. NC: Alright. You write about the influence of our parents,
the influence that they have on our level of empathy at a very young age. You talk about a one-year-old child whose
parents express high levels of empathy show greater concern for strangers as two-year-olds
and a more, and are more able to tune into others emotions as four-year-olds, and so
on. So how does our upbringing or life circumstance
influence our level of empathy? JZ: Yeah, hugely. And this is why I believe it can be viewed
usefully as a skill because there is a genetic component to empathy, but our experiences
matter enormously and especially early in life. So the level of empathy that your parents
express matters. But you might be thinking, “Wait a minute. But your parents also share your genes.” So maybe if your parents are really empathic,
you are too, but that’s just because you’re genetically coded to be more empathic. But it turns out that this is also true of
children in adoptive families. So if you’re adopted into a family where your
adoptive parents are highly empathic, you will develop greater empathy, which suggests
that it’s not merely genetic, but really, about the experience that you have in your
home. NC: Yeah, it’s funny. I remember as a kid watching my mom experience
the news. When she saw something happening, something
negative happening on the news and just her reaction to it. And it really had an impact on me, just seeing
how she expressed concern for whatever it was that was happening. I want to ask you about spirituality and religion. Is there any evidence that suggests that religious
or spiritual people are more empathetic? JZ: Oh, that’s a really good question. And there’s not a lot of data on this. And any spiritual tradition is such a broad
diaspora of people with really different belief systems within it. I think that there’s a lot of work from people
like Azim Shariff, the great psychologist who studies religion, that suggests that religion
is a social contract that allows us to create structures around things like empathy and
mutual aid and care for each other, which would suggest that there should be a connection
between spirituality and empathy. But again, there is not as much research as
there should be. NC: Okay, in chapter three, you tell the story
of a young man from Vancouver. You use stories, Canadian stories, quite a
few times in the book. JZ: I’m a fan of this great nation. NC: Yeah. [chuckle] A young man from Vancouver, Tony,
his name is Tony, a former member of the White Aryan Resistance and his journey out of hatred. You write that hatred buries empathy, but
it does not kill it. Can you talk more about how someone involved
in such a hateful organization can be rehabilitated? JZ: Yeah, so Tony is a really special person
who had a really troubled childhood and felt very isolated and angry as a kid. And he found community and acceptance among
people who hated folks who were different from them. And I think that’s one thing that he takes
full responsibility for all of his actions. But I think that it’s important to realize
that one of the threads that connects people in all sorts of different hate groups is a
history of neglect and abuse as children. A lot of these people, there’s that old phrase,
“Hurt people hurt people.” JZ: And Tony was certainly a hurt person,
and he encased himself in this hateful persona that allowed him to feel strong and allowed
him to feel like he could survive. And an interesting thing for him is that the
way that he was extracted from that life was that he became friends with somebody who he
didn’t know at the time was Jewish. This guy named Dov Baron. And he was talking with Dov once, and it came
out that Dov was Jewish. And Tony decided to admit to his past anti-Semitic
behavior. And he fully expected Dov to reject him or
condemn him. He felt that that’s what he deserved. I think underlying his hatred was this sense
of self-hatred, really. But Dov instead showed him compassion. He said, “That’s what you did, but it’s not
who you are. You’re better than that. I see you.” NC: Right. JZ: And just that shocking acknowledgement
of his own humanity cracked Tony open and made him realize that he was a worthwhile
person without having to act in this way and set him on a path to reform. NC: Okay. Well, that brings to mind another term that
I was introduced to from reading your book, the idea of contact theory. You reference a psychologist, Gordon Allport’s
book, ‘The Nature of Prejudice.’ And in his book, he reasons that bigotry boils
down to a lack of acquaintance. So, we don’t interact with people who are
like or different than us enough. And that only if we did, that would help heal
some of the issues that we have with a, this disconnect with people. Do you believe that that theory is actually
correct? So is it really that simple, that all we have
to do is connect with other people that are not like us? JZ: It does sound a little bit like a recipe
for a Soufflé that just has one ingredient in it, doesn’t it? It’s like, “Really? A Soufflé with one ingredient?” Yeah, I hear you. I think that there is, though, on the other
hand, a lot of evidence that, as we become more divided and less civil as a society,
we are becoming just extremely incurious about each other. People see others who are different from them
and are really quick to reduce that other individual to one part of their identity,
whether it’s political or racial or ideological or whatever. And there’s a lot of assumptions that we make. So my friend Adam Wades has shown, for instance,
in the US, both Democrats and Republicans are fully confident that they are driven by
love of country, but that the other side is driven by hatred of country, which obviously,
they can’t both be right. But they both believe what they’re saying. JZ: I think there’s a sense… Again, I’ll just speak about the US, where
people just assume the worst about each other. And I do think that those types of stereotypes
just can’t survive person-to-person contact, because no person can be reduced to one part
of their identity. NC: Yeah. And when I read the title of your book, I
immediately thought of Donald Trump, and because he’s somewhat become the poster child for
someone that lacks empathy. But is this giving him too much credit or
blame? And I say that because I think about the US
population, over 300 million people. And a recent poll I saw had his approval rating
at 40%. And that’s not to say that all people that
approve of Donald Trump are racist or bigots or lack empathy, whatever, but that’s a lot
of people. That’s over 100 million people. JZ: Yeah. It’s tough out there, [chuckle] down there. Yeah, so a little bit of behind the scenes
stuff. When I started this book, it wasn’t called
‘The War for Kindness.’ It was just called Choosing Empathy, pretty
like, [15:19] ____, like “Oh, this is a book that maybe would be helpful to people more
as individuals.” I started in 2015, and then was writing it,
and saw the world slowly catching fire, I guess, would be one way of putting it. I realized that, wow, in a context like… I hate the phrase Donald Trump’s America,
but you know in the context of a country whose current president is so inflammatory to our
public rhetoric, empathy is a radical choice. I think that empathy is a choice to push back
against something and to fight against trends that are taking our culture over. NC: Just to change gears a bit. You talk about caring too much in Chapter
5. And you start off Chapter 5 on a very personal
note, when you write about the birth of your daughter and the experience you had at the
hospital with her, you and your wife with her caregivers. You say, “Few are at a greater risk of overdosing
on empathy than caring professionals.” So doctors, social workers, therapists, teachers,
and others who work with people in need. Can you tell us more about your experience
being on the receiving end? One of so much empathy, ’cause that’s what
you were talking about, and also, is it possible to care too much? JZ: Yeah, so thanks for asking. This is a super important topic ’cause sometimes
I think people take a book that’s about building empathy and think that the message is the
world would be better if we were all, just like our empathy was turned up to 11, all
the time. But that world would be a disaster. Imagine feeling everybody’s pain and trying
to walk one block in downtown… You’d fall apart, right? And likewise, I don’t want my therapist being
as upset as… I don’t want them saying, “Your life really
is bad.” Oh, no. “You’re supposed to be helping me, right?” JZ: Sometimes feeling other people’s pain
isn’t useful for helping them, and it’s certainly not useful for the person feeling it. So yeah, as you mentioned, I’ll try not to
go too long here. But our first daughter, Alma, she had a traumatic
birth and had a stroke when she was born. And obviously, it was a really difficult time
for my family and I, but one of the things that got us through it was the just immense
care that was provided to us by the physicians and nurses and social workers and staff and
administrators at her NICU. They were like family to us in this really
difficult or the most difficult moment in our life. JZ: And at the time, I was just so consumed
by what we were going through, I was just grateful for them. [chuckle] We were there for weeks, and at
some point, I was like, “Are these people… Are they okay? How are they doing this? This like empathic super… ” I was like, “Do you have families?” And like, “Yeah, we have families.” And how do you do that? At this NICU, they specialize in extremely
premature babies. They lose a baby every week. And how do you go to that job, then come home
and take care of your kids, and then come back and do it again? JZ: So I went back there and shadowed them
for a week. And their answer is, “Not easily.” And a lot of these people were suffering deeply
from burn out, what we call sometimes compassion fatigue. They had PTSD from seeing other people’s struggles. A lot of them struggled with their own mental
health issues, alcoholism, physical health issues. And now, I’m working with them, right? So we’re creating a program to… ‘Cause it turns out that working with empathy,
being an effective empathizer, again, is not about empathizing as much as you can all the
time. It’s about figuring out how much you want
to empathize and how you want to empathize in a given moment. JZ: Earlier, you asked what is empathy? We were talking about the different pieces
of it. There’s a big and important distinction here
between taking on other people’s feelings, feeling as they do, which is emotional empathy,
and then empathic concern, feeling for someone and wanting them to feel better but without
taking on their pain, the first of those not very sustainable in really high impact context. The second one more sustainable. So I’m working now with my friend, Ivakmen,
who’s a Buddhist practitioner, and we’re using contemplative practice because it turns out
there’s all sorts of like many thousands of years old, meditation practices that are oriented
specifically towards helping people tune between emotional empathy and compassion. And so, we’re now working with the NICU to
try to train the staff there, and how to tune themselves towards a slightly more distanced
form of empathy where they can be there for families like us, but not lose themselves
in the process. NC: Yeah, my sister is a nurse, and she’s
been in nursing for over 20 years, and I always used to say her, “I don’t know how you do
this,” ’cause she worked in palliative care for many years. So, just day after day, being around people
that are near the end of their life. So I can understand that it’s just sort of
taking on those emotions, if any nurses out there, I’d hats off to you. JZ: Yes, thank you. NC: I wanted to talk about climate change,
not something you think about when you think about a book on empathy, but I thought it
was interesting. Some of the things that you mentioned. Last month, millions of people worldwide participated
in a Global Strike, calling for climate justice to be an ethical obligation and not just an
environmental issue. In an interview, 16-year-old climate activist,
Greta Thunberg, said that the symbolism of the school strike is, “Since you adults don’t
give a damn about my future, I won’t either.” In your book, you touch on how lack of empathy
has an impact to our action or inaction, on climate change. And you say, we are doing a woefully inadequate
job of protecting our future generations, in part, because it’s so difficult to imagine
them. I thought that that was a really striking
statement. And so, the question is, How do we widen our
circle of caring for people that we can’t even imagine as you say. JZ: Yeah, that’s the question, right. That’s the question that people in my field
are most interested in now and it’s an urgent one. I mean… There’s something that’s problematic about
empathy. It’s this really powerful engine for kindness,
cooperation, and for helping others but it’s naturally, tends to be a little bit narrow. There’s something that we call the identifiable
victim effect, where it’s easier, I guess… That’s quote that’s sometimes attributed to
Stalin, “That one death is a tragedy, but one million deaths is a statistic.” Right? I mean… JZ: There’s lots of evidence that people actually
find it easier to empathize with one person, whose picture they can see, whose voice they
can hear, and they find it more difficult to empathize with lots of people at a time,
even though lots of people, by definition, need our help more than any one of them. So, that can make our caring backwards. And, as you say, that’s exacerbated when we
try to think about the future, and people who don’t even exist yet. JZ: The good news, I think, is that people
are the most imaginative species on the planet, and empathy is in a way the combination of
our emotional instincts with our capacity to imagine others. So, one example of this is fiction, which
drives a massive amount of empathy even towards real people who are different from ourselves,
but I think that there are ways that we can use that same imaginative power to think about
the future. So there are now some non-profits that are
using these exercises where people write about what will a day be like for your great great
grandchild, or I think, to your point, Thunberg herself. And the whole climate, sort of this climate
movement is being led by who? By children. NC: By children, yeah. JZ: Representatives of future generations,
and these are people who we can see in who we care enormously about who are telling us,
“The world that you’re leaving behind for us is not a healthy one.” NC: Yeah. Let’s talk about social media. What impact, negative or positive has technology,
specifically, social media, had on empathy? [chuckle] JZ: It’s complicated. I mean, social media could be our specie’s
greatest empathic opportunity of all time. It should be this… I mean, if you read Wired from 2010, man. I mean, people were really ecstatic about
this global community we were all supposed to build together, and it hasn’t really shaken
out that way, has it? I mean, it doesn’t feel that way. NC: No. It doesn’t feel that way, no. JZ: I think part of it is because the incentive
structures that we experience online aren’t necessarily empathy positive. We’re reinforced with little dopamine hits
of likes and retweets, for doing what? For sending out advertisements about how cool
our life is or yelling at somebody who’s different from ourselves. Why is that? Well, the incentive structures of the platforms
that give us those incentives are themselves, not that great. Right? Social media companies don’t exist to make
us more connected or happier. They exist to get us online and keep us online,
so that they can give dividends to their shareholders. And that’s bad. That’s created this toxic environment. But it’s not to say… People always ask me, if we just got rid of
our phones, would we be more empathic? And I’d say there is evidence that if you
take people’s phones away for a week, they get better at understanding other people’s
emotions, but I don’t think it has to be that way. JZ: Our phones could have a lot of empathy
inside them. There’s other… It feels like, kids these days, they look
at their phone all the time. On the other end of that phone are other people
who they can communicate with. The question is, what type of communication
are we generating online? What type of structures are we creating that
allow people to connect? And right now, the answer is, we’re not building
very good structures though we could. NC: Right. Well, you talk about a community called the
Coco-community and how that helped you. JZ: Yeah. Yeah. NC: And also, I think we need to recognize
that we have a lot of power to curate our experience online. That’s one of the things that I personally
have really been focused on, and making sure that what I’m looking at and what is in my
feeds, I have control over that. I think of a friend that when she posts something
that is, or she’s looking for people’s feedback, she actually puts a disclaimer in her Facebook
post, just to say, “Let’s all be respectful of each other’s differences of opinion.” So I think it’s just really learning that
we have the power to curate that content and what we experience online is really important
too. JZ: And I love that idea. Yeah. I think that the information that we consume
is like the food that we eat. It affects our health for better and for worse. And I feel like a lot of the information… I’ll just speak for myself. Man, you spend an hour on Twitter and you
just feel like the world is on fire and everyone’s terrible, and it just makes you feel hopeless. And I think sometimes 10% of people on Twitter
produce 80% of tweets, and those people are more politically extreme than the majority. But it’s easy to confuse them for the majority
and feel like, “Wow, people are just really extreme.” We might be getting a warped… Not just a pessimistic sense of human nature
from our time online, we might be getting an inaccurate one. And that’s another problem. NC: Yeah, I know. That’s an interesting stat, 10%. 27:27 JZ: Yeah. NC: Yeah. What about virtual reality? You write about how virtual reality is being
used to help people care more. Can you tell us more about this? JZ: Yeah, so people have thought about virtual
reality as a kind of empathy machine because you can basically step into the body of somebody
who’s different from you. And my friend and colleague Jeremy Bailenson
has done a lot of this work where he actually has people physically embody somebody who’s
a different gender or race than themselves, or age. Or he can even create virtual reality experiences
where, for instance, you experience what it’s like to be color blind. And he shows that in all those cases, that
first-person perspective of what it’s like to be someone else, someone who’s different
from you, builds sort of, or reduces stereotypes about that group of people. NC: I wanted to talk about, actually, the
end of the book. I mentioned to you when we spoke on the phone
that, at the back of the book, there is a listing of claims like a rating of the things
that were discussed in the book. And can you describe… Describe that… JZ: Sure. Yeah. So, science is a living thing. I think we tend to think of it as just a set
of facts that someone has hammered into a stone tablet somewhere. But it changes. We used to think the earth was flat. Then, we thought it was spherical, but then
the Sun went around it. Then, we thought it was spherical and going
around the sun, but it didn’t move at all. Then now we know about… Our knowledge evolves, and our understanding
of everything does too. In psychology, there’s been a lot of… That’s my home field. JZ: There’s been a lot of studies that people
thought were real, but then other psychologists tried to… I don’t know if anyone’s heard of this, but
other psychologists then try to rerun those studies, and they don’t find the thing that
the original researchers found. It’s called the replication crisis, or whatever
you want to call it. And for some people, it has caused them to
lose faith in research as a whole, or science as a whole, which is really useful for some
people who don’t want us to listen to any science, right? JZ: My thing is that science is moving and
should move, but I want readers of my book, at least I hope other people do this too,
to be able to go deeper. Some of the things that I write about are
based on decades of evidence and some are based on stuff that had come out one week
before I wrote about it. And I don’t know for sure. Well, when other people try and do that work,
will they find the exact same thing? I don’t know. I don’t want that to stop me from writing
about it ’cause it’s really exciting and brand new. But one should be able to understand when
what their reading is brand new and still needs to be vetted further versus when scientists
as super confident about it. NC: Yeah, and I thought it was really helpful. When I first started reading the book, I looked
at the back and I thought “Okay, I’ll just skip these pages.” [laughter] NC: But then by the time I finished reading
it, I wanted to know more. So I did actually go through and read all
of those claims and how you ranked them. JZ: Oh wow, even my mom didn’t read that section. That’s amazing. NC: You teach a course on kindness. Can you tell us about that course? What does the curriculum look like? JZ: It’s so fun. It’s called Becoming Kinder. It’s a tiny class for freshmen, so it’s 16
brand new adults who just got to college. And we talk about the science of empathy and
kindness. We talk about why it’s hard to empathize,
and we share stories about why it’s hard for us sometimes. And then each weekend, I give them an assignment
to try to expand themselves in some way, right? So we have an assignment called Disagreeing
Better, where you find somebody who you disagree with often, though not always politically,
and try to interview them. Instead of just taking shots at their opinion,
try to ask where their opinion came from. So we had a lot of people in the class found
their uncles who are Facebook happy uncles and talked with them. There was a lot of… JZ: They were scared. They were scared to do these assignments. In other assignments, you take a time that
you’re stressed out and you don’t feel like you have energy for anyone else and help someone
anyways. And the students were often nervous about
doing these assignments and pretty much always happily surprised with how they turned out. So students feel like, “Gosh, I’m stressed. I’m at Stanford. There’s too many assignments. I’m gonna fail. I’m not as smart as everyone here. I don’t have time to help somebody.” JZ: But what they find is consistent with
lots of researches that when they help other people, they actually are less stressed out
and happier themselves and feel more capable. Likewise, I think, “Oh God. This conversations could be a nightmare, and
I’m gonna be angry and sad.” But they find, “Wow. I might not agree with this person, but I
feel like we have some common understanding. And I have a broader sense of the type of
person I can connect with.” So it was really fun. And I have to say… JZ: Again, another thing that I hear a lot
about… There’s been this decline in empathy over
time. People confuse that with the decline in empathy
over generations. So they think that, Okay, if people are becoming
less empathic, that means that Gen Z is like, all they wanna do is take selfies, or something,
and people tell me that a lot. And I don’t think that that’s necessarily
the case at all. Younger people have had a different experience
growing up. We’ve subjected them to social media in different
ways. Yeah, that might have changed them, but they,
in no way does that mean that their generation is lost or at fault for any differences between
them and us. And these students were absolutely inspirational
and feel like if they at all resemble or represent who’s coming up or if Greta Thunberg… NC: Oh, I was just gonna say, I think about
that example. JZ: Then we actually maybe have a fighting
chance. NC: I wanna ask you about your kindness challenge. I went to your website, and you posted a series
of videos, kindness challenge videos. What was your goal there and how did you come
up with those challenges? JZ: Well, they’re from the class, actually,
right? I went from the book to thinking about… Well, let me try to come up with a practical
way of seeing if can teach this to people. And then from that, the students, they wanted
to be able to share the challenges with their friends and family. So they said… Can you post these? And I did just posted a few of them. Did you try any of them, by chance? NC: One of the ones was talking about being
kinder to yourself, and showing your self Forgiveness’ and empathy, and I thought that
that was a really good first starting point to point out that you have to show yourself,
the same level of empathy that you are showing others and the same kindness that you were
showing others. JZ: I mean, one of the things that stops us
from connecting with other people is when we are to disrupted ourselves. That’s what happened to Tony. He was so lost in himself that he sort of
lost his ability to see other people’s humanity. I have to tell you that challenge was the
hardest, to be kind to yourself was the hardest for my students. They thought, “Hey, you know, it’s clearly
a morally good thing to do for me to try to stretch my kindness for other people, but
being kind to themselves felt self-indulgent or selfish. They felt like, “Well, I’m privileged. I don’t deserve to have kind of… And that’s a stumbling block for a lot of
people, and it’s one for me too. I have to say, it’s the hardest person to
like sometimes is yourself. NC: Is yourself, yeah, it’s true. We have five minutes left before we get to
a Q&A. One last question, “What difference can one
person make and how do you keep from becoming discouraged when it feels like we are taking
a turn for the worst? JZ: So it’s tough. It can be discouraging, God knows I’m super
discouraged like 70% of the time. But since the book came out, I’ve received
so many emails, like hundreds of emails from people who say, I want the type of world that
you write about in the book, but I’m alone. And I wanna say, Well, the… But you should read these other people’s emails
’cause you’re not alone. You’re all writing to me. And I wonder, again, we talk about these extreme
voices on Twitter, for instance, just run our public discourse until we believe that
that’s who everybody is. And we see ourselves as alone and we ask ourselves,
what can one person do in the face of all of this? JZ: But we’re not just one person. Each one of us is one person, but together,
we’re many people and I think that there might be more of us than we realize, and this is
one of the things that I try to tell leaders in the… Of any organization, or family or any space
that, one of the ways to foster empathy and kindness is to make it loud, to make it take
up more room, to make it visible, and to lift it up, because I think that if one person
can do very much. But there are a lot of us, and I’m not sure
how many of us there are, but I hope that we’re the majority and I think that we might
be. NC: I agree with you. I think we are. We just need to start hearing it more, I think. JZ: Yeah. NC: So we’re gonna open up the floor to some
questions.

1 comment

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