Why is the business world so comfortable with empathy and so uncomfortable with kindness?


Empathy has been a buzzword for decades ever since Daniel Goleman’s 1998 HBR article, “What Makes A Leader” put it on business radar. Publications around the world jumped on the bandwagon to herald it by making statements like  “empathy must be the driving force behind business communication”- a big declaration in a 2013 Forbes article. Once leaders figured out empathy could lead to profitability, it became accepted and we became comfortable with it. Being known as empathetic became a badge of honor, even in the boardroom.

Of course empathy is important BUT the empathy champions have overlooked this one very important detail. It is possible to be empathetic and fail to improve someone’s situation, exploit them or leave them much worse.

Someone can understand how you feel and then use that understanding to manipulate you or the situation. In that case, the “pathetic” part of empathetic is what you’re left with. A force? Yes. A positive force?  Not even a little. The missing piece is kindness- the uncomfortable business word.

Kindness powers empathy because it is the action. Kindness ensures we understand and we act on that understanding to improve someone or something.

Kindness is the action of leaving everyone and everything better. When when we use it as our litmus test for business, it positively changes work because it positively changes us and the way we work together.  Kindness isn’t part of business vocabulary- yet but give it a little time. Once business leaders figure out that kindness and profitability go hand in hand, it will be the talk of the town.

The future of business is kind.