Insights – This Book Will Make You Kinder – An Empathy Handbook – Notes From The Book.

17th August 2023

Posted in: Insights

After my last read, I identified that Empathy was a leadership skill for myself that still needs some improvement.

I came across this book and thought I would give it a go.

Henry James Garrett gives his view on why people are kind and how to become a more empathetic person.

While it is not based on scientific reasearch, there are some interesting thoughts on why we are not more empathetic and how to become a better listener – and cute illustrations to keep us entertained along the way.


Morality- the disagreement lies in what we feel we owe each other and everyone has a different idea.


There are various reasons we are kind to others:

  • Altruism
  • Rules
  • God
  • Rationality
  • There’s no such thing as kindness- we all act from self interest.
  • Empathy

People tend not to want to admit they have fallen short and so use their current level as a benchmark.


You are kind because of empathy.

Empathy is our ability to experience those feelings we witness in others.

You are not kinder because empathy is limited by mistakes that we all make.


Sharing in each other’s pain, sorrow and joy will always be enough to make each other a little bit kind to one another, as humans you care about experiences that are not your own.



Evolution and theory of survival of the fittest contradicts altruism, however it appears that we will make self sacrifice for kin or recipricators.


Empathy is limited to those we are familiar with- Eg experiments with black and white rats show they will help those the same as them or those they are familiar with.

We are less likely to be empathetic to those we know little about, we don’t recognise as sharing with them in our emotional world,

Why aren’t we kinder?

  • Ignorance is an off switch
  • We fail to recognise an individual who feels the same way we do
  • We have an inaccurate picture of how the are feeling or could feel based on our actions
  • Hide the connection between our actions and the feelings of others

Moral facts are those about which your empathy would motivate you if you were making no mistakes.

There are two types of ignorance:

  • Inculpable ignorance – something you did but didn’t know you were causing pain and when you did realise you changed your actions
  • Culpable ignorance – when you should have known better

There is unequal distribution on of empathy limiting mistakes

  • those with more privilege- need more empathy as the world has not forced them to learn of oppression of others
  • Power to v power over


Mistakes that turn empathy off:

  • False beliefs – dehumanising and othering – help you deny, reframe and justify suffering
  • Not knowing enough- Context also important
  • Failure of imagination – we cant consider what others are experiencing
  • Limiting conception of morality- if you limit your morality to rules only you will be limited. Let’s you off the hook for not acting.


Exercising empathy

  • Listening is the antidote
  • Listening is the conscious effort to learn about and internalise someone else’s experience.

How to be a better listener

  • Listen widely and directly – treat people as experts
  • Listen to those who are multiply oppressed
  • Hear what is being said, not what you want to hear
  • Avoid being defensive
  • Take your time and be present
  • Get comfortable being wrong
  • Get to know your privilege
  • Create and hold space for people to be heard
  • Interpret charitably
  • Concern yourself with content, not tone
  • Don’t interrogate or demand

Kindness can cost a lot – and we should still do it.


Author: Donna Bruce