The Power of Kindness

Dr Brian Goldman | The Power of Kindness

Reviewed by: Val Hammell

Biography Brief:  Toronto’s Dr. Brian Goldman is an emergency room doctor, a leading voice for reform of the healthcare system and the host of the CBC Radio show White Coat, Black Art.  In researching his current book, The Power of Kindness:  Why Empathy is Essential in Everyday Life, he undertook a personal odyssey around the world to meet the most empathetic people alive, learn their secrets and understand more about how kindness is vital to our physical and mental health.

Brian Goldman’s book starts with a question.  Am I a kind soul?  He begins his journey reading about empathy, seeking answers from experts that he hopes can measure his empathy for him, and interviewing people in many unusual places. On the way he learns a lot about himself and empathy’s importance.

Goldman wants to know if he and other people are hard-wired to be empathetic and kind.  He describes his meeting with a brain research scientist, Phillip Jackson, one of Canada’s top researchers in empathy.  In one session an MRI of his brain was taken while looking at people in pain.  Then he is off to see Derek Mitchell, a neuroscientist, where Goldman reacts to an assessment of his personality.

Next Goldman interviews people from all over the world known for their kindness to others.  All his encounters are written with strong detail and insights into the experience each one has to give.  He keeps us interested and wondering how this will add up for him and us.

In the two chapters before his conclusions we learn about programs to teach empathy to children and to experience people working with dementia patients using empathic skills.  Both chapters have many observations and lessons for all of us.  For example, “There is a difference between just listening and being empathic”, says Lorrie Quick.  “You listen to respond to someone.  If your’re being empathic you’re actually paying attention.  You’re invested and focused.  You’re in tune with that person.  You feel what they feel.  That’s the difference.”

Read the book for Goldman’s MRI results and his epiphany that he writes about in the last chapter.  Or better still, come meet him this year in July at the Readers and Writers Festival.  I strongly recommend you to do both.  I enjoyed this powerful and engaging book.  I agree with Goldman that the book is about us and our understanding of why kindness and empathy is essential in today’s world.

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