We know empathy is important in working with others, whether it’s our customers, our peers, or our people. If we can’t understand what they face in doing their jobs, what they care about, what their hopes, dreams, or fears, doubts might be, we can’t connect with them in meaningful ways.

Too often, however, the concept of empathy is absent in our interactions.

Customers are very abstract—they are leads to be moved through our process, from person to person. We focus on our goals and productivity, we pitch our products/solutions. We don’t understand our customers’ businesses, we don’t understand who they are, what they are trying to achieve, where they struggle.

Our people are not very different–we measure them on their activities, the number of calls, the number of emails, the number of meetings, where they are in quota performance. If they fail to achieve their goals, we “coach” them by telling them to do more. We don’t understand what stands in the way of their achievement.

So empathy is critical to our ability to connect in meaningful ways with others. If we cannot genuinely empathize with our customers, peers, and people., we won’t be able to understand them. We won’t understand how they feel or what is causing those feelings. We won’t be able to show our support or genuine interest in what they are going through, we can offer little encouragement. And those are things that may be most important to the people we are trying to work with.

Empathy gives us the ability to not only be aware of what’s happening with the people we work with, it gives us the capability to understand what these things mean to those people.

But empathy is insufficient. We need more than empathy, we need caring. We need to care enough to help those we are working with move forward, to learn, to grow, to overcome the challenges they face, to help them achieve their goals.

We need to help those we are working with to do something to resolve the issues they face. We need to help them understand and take the actions to move forward. We need to help them to change.

It’s not something we can do for them, it’s a deeply collaborative effort, it’s something we do with those we work with.

Empathy and caring go hand in hand, to create real meaning and value, we have to be both empathetic and caring.