The mania around “adding names to your email list” has gotten way out of control.

It’s absurdly bad business thinking. The jerkish teenage amateurism you are dying to plant an uppercut on.

So how did we get here?

And why are marketing gurus teaching you such stupid behavior?  Let’s take it from the top.

The web is a crowded place. There are literally trillions of web pages available for exploration across the interwebs.

You can sum it up by simply noting that every few minutes there are lots and lots (and lots) of new web content being created. New blogs. New articles. New videos. The popularity of key content sites like YouTube and Mashable has soared exponentially, generating literally billions of page-views each month.

With so much content readily available, it is a massive challenge to get noticed.

But being noticed is only the beginning of the relationship with readers. It’s much harder to get readers to return to your site then it is to have them find you via a targeted Google search.

That’s where building an email list comes in.

Experts figured out that if you could deliver your content directly to readers via their email inbox that would increase engagement and help you build a deeper relationship with people who could eventually spend money with you.

By continually sending relevant content, you stay top of mind and are hopefully the choice they remember when they’re looking to buy something that you sell.

Which, frankly, isn’t all together a bad idea. Ideas, engagement, relationship — they are all great ways to build a lasting business.  So building a list of people who can benefit from your encouragement insight is a good idea.

But like a lot of good ideas, the difference in the results that you get has a lot to do with the attitude that you bring to the activity. Which is where the idea of “building a list” most often goes sideways. The list itself doesn’t really matter.

The list is just a row of names and email addresses.

It’s just a piece of paper.

What really matters is that you treat those names like the individuals they are. They’re people. They’re not just lines on a spreadsheet. They’re not just a benchmark for you to pretend like you’re better than someone else. They’re not dollar bills.

They are people. People who live and breathe like you do. People who have dreams and frustration. People who want to be successful but don’t always know how.

And that matters, because you might be able to help them. But not if you just refer to them like a “list”.

Because that’s how a jerk talks.

They don’t care about other people; they just care about themselves.

If that’s you, change. Start caring about people around you. Start investing in empathy.

Look beyond the surface for the pain that is crippling others from being amazing.  It’s not a “list”, it’s a moment for you to market kindness.

That’s pretty amazing. Isn’t it?