Empathy vs. Sympathy

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The term “empathy” is used to describe a wide range of experiences. Emotion researchers generally define empathy as the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling.

Being empathetic allows one to be in the moment to share with another's distress and this is the greatest help one can give.

Sympathy is a feeling of care and concern for someone, often someone close, accompanied by a wish to see him better off or happier. Compared to pity, sympathy implies a greater sense of shared similarities together with a more profound personal engagement.

Being sympathetic with people makes them upset if whatever they're going through hasn't happened to you, yet you dare to tell them you understand.

The feeling of sympathy emerges from the recognition that another person is suffering, in contrast to empathy, where the other person's pain or suffering is felt. A person expresses sympathy, but shares empathy. The empathic feeling may be brief, and the person feeling it is said to "put themselves in the other person's place."

Of the two, empathy is a deeper feeling, but sympathy can be just as honest and heartfelt. However, empathy can forge a deeper and more meaningful connection, thus serving as a bridge for greater communication between individuals or between a leader and his or her followers.


However, sympathy, unlike empathy, does not involve a shared perspective or shared emotions, and while the facial expressions of sympathy do convey caring and concern, they do not convey shared distress.

Empathy and sympathy are not just two different approaches to confronting the emotional challenges of others; they are diametrically opposite responses in many important ways. Sympathy places another's problems at a distance from us, places us in a position of superiority, and "drives separation", says the film's narrator, Dr. Brené Brown. Empathy, on the other hand, requires that one internalize the feelings of another. That shared experience drives interpersonal connection, she says. "What makes things better is connection."

Empathy is not about be polite nor lovely, it is about listen carefully to understand others feelings and perspective. One can disagree with the other person and still be empathetic. Empathy is about understanding how others are feeling because you have been in the same situation and experienced it yourself or you can put yourself in the other persons shoes, so to speak. Sympathy is showing you care about someone and the situation he/she is going through. Empathy is about 'understanding' which may be a better way than to say 'internalize the feeling of another.'

The capacity to sympathize and empathize are considered vital for a sense of humanity — i.e., the ability to understand one's fellow humans and their problems. People who lack this capacity are often classified as narcissisticsociopathic, or in extreme cases,psychopathic. However, these terms are only applicable if a person consistently lacks the capacity to sympathize or empathize with others.

In general, there are many cases where people may not feel sympathetic or empathetic due to lack of knowledge or because their experiences are different; this does not imply abnormal behavior. On the other hand, some people are overly empathetic and can eventually be overwhelmed by the negative feelings they take on from their relationships and encounters with other people.




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