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The Empathy Effect


The Empathy Effect: Seven Neuroscience-Based Keys for Transforming the Way We Live, Love, Work, and Connect Across Differences 

by Helen Riess, MD, Alan Alda (Foreword) 

Empathy is undergoing an evolution. In a global and interconnected culture, we can no longer afford to identify only with people who seem to be a part of our “tribe.” As Dr. Helen Riess of Harvard Medical School has learned, our capacity for empathy is not just an innate trait—it is also a skill that we can learn and expand. With The Empathy Effect, the leading researcher presents a groundbreaking teaching book to help us learn essential skills for transforming the way we relate to others in any situation.

“Nourishing empathy lets us help not just ourselves,” says Dr. Riess, “but also everyone we interact with, whether for a moment or a lifetime.” Drawing from her empathy training curricula now used internationally in healthcare, business, and education, she takes us step by step through her EMPATHY® program. Here you’ll learn to enhance empathic behavior in yourself and others; recognize and reverse dehumanization and scapegoating tactics; practice empathy at work, home, and in everyday settings; discover ways to build empathy in groups and leadership positions; and much more.

As countries are facing a global pandemic, racial injustice, political unrest and economic challenges, spreading Empathy has become a national and international priority. The Empathy Effect is available in audio format. It has been translated into Korean, Polish and most recently, Italian, and has been licensed in ten countries. Empathetics programs are designed to enhance empathy in organizations.


Available in English, Spanish, Italian, Polish, and Korean

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“Timely, informative, and compassionate, The Empathy Effect explains how empathy helps break down the barriers between ‘us’ and ‘them,’ expanding our boundaries and our caring.”

Foreword Reviews, STARRED review

“Excellent…The Empathy Effect couldn’t have come out at a better time.”

Spirituality & Health

“Everyone who cares about others will benefit from Dr. Helen Riess’s book. An important contribution in these challenging times.”

Paul Ekman, PhD, professor emeritus, University of California Medical School, San Francisco, author of Unmasking the Face and Emotions Revealed

“Empathy has always been a secret strength of the healer’s art. In The Empathy Effect Dr. Helen Riess, a compassionate physician herself, updates this ancient tool, making it a practical and accessible skill for anyone in the healing professions–and everyone else, too.”

Daniel Goleman, New York Times bestselling author of Emotional Intelligence

“This wonderful exploration of a vital topic coming from a world-class scientist reads like a page-turning novel, with heart-touching stories, fascinating research, and tons of practical takeaways. At a time when the fabric of human society seems to be fraying, this book offers hope and help for individuals, couples, families, organizations, and communities to mend it together.”

Rick Hanson, PhD, New York Times bestselling author of Resilient, Buddha’s Brain, and Hardwiring Happiness

“The Empathy Effect offers us a deep dive into one of the most important human capacities—to sense, understand, and care about others.  In a time when compassion is often in short supply, our eloquent guide reveals the science of how empathy and compassion overlap and shows us the key ingredients to cultivating both in our lives.  Built upon years of practical applications and scientific studies, this book is a timely gift for humanity.”

Daniel J. Siegel, MD, New York Times bestselling author of Aware: The Science and Practice of Presence and Mindsight

“In this remarkable book, Dr. Riess dissects empathy with rate insight, offering us all a path to examining our own hearts by listening carefully to those whom we serve.”

Jim O’Connell, MD, president of Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical Schoo

“Through story and science, Dr. Helen Riess describes an understated but pivotal emotion: Empathy. We learn how our glances, posture, and tone of voice can envelope or isolate—can create healthy children, great workplaces, and inspiring political leadership, or promote cyber-bullying, lawsuits, and social disorder. The Empathy Effect is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding relationships, from the personal to the political.”

Barbara Bradley Hagerty, New York Times bestselling author of Life Reimagined: The Science, Art, and Opportunity of Midlife

“A fast and interesting read, full of big aha moments about what actually happens when we experience

Suzie Reider, managing director of advertising sales at Google

“This book had me at hello. As a faculty member and teacher trainer at the Kripalu Center for over 30 years, and an ongoing movement and yoga teacher for the Parkinson’s community and those with special needs, I have learned a thing or ten about empathy. Reading this book is teaching me much more about the topic. The authors carefully analyze and ‘dig deep for empathy,’ while offering readers seven critical components of empathy. As I read these wise, wonderful words, I only wished this book had been written three decades earlier to help me navigate the often-treacherous path of training people to be compassionate and empathetic. I am so grateful The Empathy Effect came to me and hope it will be read around the world.”

Megha Nancy Buttenheim, MA, chief joy officer: Let Your Yoga Dance® LLC and author of Expanding Joy: Let Your Yoga Dance

“Everyone knows that empathy is an enormously powerful asset in the work of healing.  But few knew that it could be developed through systematic training. Now, this book puts the development of the skillful practice of empathy fully in the reach, not just of health care professionals, but, frankly, anyone who wants to be a better listener and carer.” 

Donald M. Berwick, MD, president emeritus and senior fellow, Institute for Healthcare Improvement

“What’s at the intersection of neuroscience research, masterful storytelling, and practical application?  The Empathy Effect. Yes, empathy can be learned, and medical schools are leading the way, thanks to Dr. Reiss.  Business schools should make The Empathy Effect required reading!”

Margaret H. Greenberg, MAPP, PCC, co-author of the bestselling Profit from the Positive: Proven Leadership Strategies to Boost Productivity and Transform Your Business

“Any effective middle school teacher understands that kids learn more if they know you love them. We’re not going to be their best friends, nor should we be, but if kids know we care they can soar. Dr. Riess has done a huge service articulating the science behind what good teachers know.  She supports this science with concrete example and pragmatic advice that will help fundamentally change the trajectory for many children.” –The Rev. Dr. John H. Finley IV, co-founder and head of Epiphany School, Boston

“Dr. Riess operationalizes the word ‘empathy,’ honing it from an often-proclaimed but poorly defined modern cliché to a tool that will help readers connect, grow, and flourish.”

Joseph Lee, MD, ABAM, medical director of Youth Continuum at Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation
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