Contact Jamil For Booking

Jamil Zaki

There isn’t one level of empathy. We can grow it through practice—individually and collectively.

Empathy Expert | Author of The War for Kindness | Director of Stanford's Social Neuroscience Lab

Contact Jamil For Booking
Jamil Zaki | Empathy Expert | Author of The War for Kindness | Director of Stanford's Social Neuroscience Lab
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

Despite causing an enormous amount of suffering, the pandemic has also helped us gain clarity and make progress around our values. In the working world, leaders are recognizing empathy as an organizational superpower that prevents burnout, improves collaboration, and strengthens leadership across the board. JAMIL ZAKI, a Stanford psychologist and author of the books The War for Kindness and Leading with Empathy in Turbulent Times, reveals cutting-edge strategies for how to empathize more effectively in the workplace.

“In this masterpiece, Jamil Zaki weaves together the very latest science with stories that will stay in your heart forever.”

— Angela Duckworth, author of Grit

During challenging times, there tend to be more negative emotions going around than positive ones: feelings of stress, anxiety, loss, and instability, for example, skyrocketed during the pandemic. Unfortunately, workplace cultures that aren’t welcoming of all emotions on the human spectrum tend to suffer more during a crisis. “Such cultures lead people to hide their experiences or feign positivity they don’t feel—a phenomenon known as ‘surface acting,’” explains Jamil Zaki, Director of Stanford’s Social Neuroscience Lab and one of the world’s preeminent speakers on empathy. “While working from home in 2020, team members might have been going through family stressors just a few feet away from a video conference, but for the sake of professionalism pretended all was well. This style of surface acting has likely contributed to a shocking 75% rate of reported work burnout during the pandemic.” In his e-book Leading with Empathy in Turbulent Times, Zaki shows us how empathy can be used to motivate teams through times of uncertainty, create a sense of belonging and psychological safety in the workplace, and even help bridge the gap between remote and in-person employees as the world transitions towards a hybrid model.


Zaki’s previous book, The War for Kindness, weaved together the latest science with engaging real-world stories, offering us a revolutionary perspective on empathy and how to develop it as a skill. Adam Grant, bestselling author and professor at Wharton, says, “Jamil Zaki is one of the bright lights in psychology, and in this gripping book, he shows that kindness is not a sign of weakness but a source of strength.” With warmth, wit, and straightforward exercises that can be swiftly implemented, Zaki shows audiences how to change their professional, creative, and personal relationships for the better.


At Stanford, where he is also an assistant professor of psychology, Zaki’s unique work spans several domains, including social influence and prosocial behavior. New research from his lab examines how to encourage empathy for people from distant political and ethnic groups, and also how caregivers and healthcare professionals can balance empathizing with their patients and maintaining their own wellbeing. Zaki received his BA from Boston University, his Ph.D. from Columbia University, and postdoctoral training at Harvard University.


Speech Topics

Corporate Culture
The Cynicism Trap Defeating Our Biggest Obstacle to Trusting Each Other at Work

Cynicism—the belief that people are selfish and conniving—has been rising for decades and is an early frontrunner for mood of the 2020s. But when we don’t trust each other, we risk missing out on the things that matter: our health, relationships, and ability to innovate. Cynical thinking is especially dangerous when it creeps into the workplace; if it catches on, it can snuff out creativity and collaboration. If we want our teams to trust each other and share their most innovative ideas, we need to fight this invisible threat.


Stanford psychology professor Jamil Zaki can help. He’s a world leader in the science of human connection, and he’s tackling cynicism in a new way, as he laid out in a brilliant TED Talk that quickly earned over a million views: cynicism is a “trap” that we fall into. When we think cynically, we are more likely to compete, suspect, and alienate others, bringing out the worst in them and spreading cynicism even further. Jamil shows us how to stop this self-fulfilling prophecy so that we can see the best in each other again.


You’ll learn how to diagnose and stamp out the bugs in our thinking that cause cynical attitudes. You’ll be able to correct the common leadership behaviors that inadvertently spread cynicism across organizations, leading to burnout and turnover. Most of all, you’ll learn about “anti-cynicism,” a term that Jamil has coined for a set of practices that actively combat cynical thinking. Anti-cynical workplaces take intentional steps to promote cooperation and trust, and to create healthier, more successful cultures. When you leave Jamil’s talk, you’ll be ready to build an anti-cynical community of your own.

The War for Kindness Building Empathy in a Fractured World

Empathy is in short supply. We struggle to understand people who aren’t like us, but find it easy to hate them. Studies show that we are less caring than we were even thirty years ago. In 2006, Barack Obama said that the United States was suffering from an “empathy deficit.” Since then, things seem to have only gotten worse.
It doesn’t have to be this way. In his groundbreaking book The War For Kindness, Jamil Zaki shares cutting-edge research, including experiments from his own lab, showing that empathy is not a fixed trait—something we’re born with or not—but rather a skill that can be strengthened through effort. He also tells the stories of people who embody this new perspective, fighting for kindness in the most difficult of circumstances:a former neo-Nazi who is now helping to extract people from hate groups; ex-prisoners discussing novels with the judge who sentenced them; Washington police officers changing their culture to decrease violence among their ranks; and NICU nurses fine-tuning their empathy so that they don’t succumb to burnout.
With clarity and passion, Zaki offers us an inspiring call to action. The future may depend on whether we accept the challenge.
Corporate Culture
Empathy A Key to Thriving Workplaces
Empathy is often stereotyped as a squishy “soft” skilleither irrelevant to, or problematic for, the bottom line.  In fact, the opposite is true: empathy is an organizational superpower that makes collaboration more efficient, employees happier, and leadership more effective.  Empathy tracks bottom line success and people have caught on.  A whopping 85% of CEOs in a recent survey said empathy was important for their bottom line, and over 90% of employees said they’d be more loyal to an empathic company.  In the hunt to recruit and keep top talent, making team members feel seen and heard is a key competitive advantage.  It also helps orgs cultivate more inclusive and open communities.  
So, now that companies are picking up on the value of empathy—what happens next? An increasing number of organizations have started trying to roll out empathy as a corporate value, but the results are often mixed, with many failing in tragic or comic fashions. In the same survey where CEOs sung empathy’s praises, over 90% of their employees said their company wasn’t empathic enough.  In other words, there’s a gap between the values leaders are putting on their walls and the reality their teams are experiencing on the ground.  
In this talk, Stanford’s Jamil Zaki  will share key insights from the science of empathy—showing corporate leaders that 1) empathy is more than one thing, 2) it’s a learnable skill, and 3) it resides not only in people, but in cultures. Whether you’re the head of HR at a global organization, or the founder of a 4-person start-up, Zaki’s talk is required listening for anyone who wants concrete strategies for bringing empathy in the workplace.