Using empathy & sympathy

Empathy and sympathy are closely related, but both have different connotations.

Empathy is about feeling what someone else feels, whilst sympathy is about action. When you meet someone with empathy it wouldn’t be difficult to see that they are sympathetic too.

Someone who is sympathetic but not empathetic, will fail to connect emotionally with anyone. Words express thoughts, but it’s acting on those words that show that we care. As the saying goes ‘actions speak louder than words’ and I believe that to be true.

A little bit more about empathy:

  • Empathy helps us connect emotionally with others. Emotionally we will begin to feel less alone, but we must also make the effort to open-up;
  • Empathy helps us heal. When someone shows they care, it gives us the confidence to believe we can care back;
  • Empathy brings families closer together. Empathy allows us to understand first-hand what someone feels, without part guessing and for us then to know if we need to change tack;
  • Empathy brings trust.

Empathy is also the building block to relationships and that’s what relationships need to thrive on. Everyone can sympathise but not everyone can empathise.

25 Jul, 2013

6 thoughts on “Using empathy & sympathy

  1. I can be more empathetic than sympathetic. I relate to people easily and know what they are going through most of the time. I have experienced so much in my life. I think we empathise easier if we have experienced the same as the other person.

    Sympathy I think is something that we just get used to saying, like ‘you have my sympathy,’ but do we really mean what we say? In order to have sympathy we, according to the dictionary, relate and have shared the same experience as the other person.

    I also think empathy is a learned subject. If our parents were empathetic we will learn from them, but we also learn from society. I don’t think there is as much empathy as there used to be. People are out for themselves and subjects like empathy or sympathy are just something we say in passing.

    1. Thanks Lisa. I think you’re right in what you say. We generally ask after people but don’t always hear what they have to say, possibly because we’re dealing with other things and aren’t paying attention, or perhaps we don’t really care to listen!

      We can sympathise better when we relate to what someone is saying of course, but without empathy it’s very difficult to achieve a balance. We have to mean what we say, so that what we do say doesn’t come across as being shallow.

      I agree with what you say in your last paragraph Lisa. Empathy is something we learn from our parents, but can learn it from other family members or even from someone who isn’t family. I learned how to empathise because of my own struggles. It wasn’t something I had as a child.

      I think more should be done in schools and in the work place. What I do know is that unless we learn both of these things in our formative years, it rarely happens in adult, as we tend to form other patterns.

      I agree with what you say about there not being much empathy and/or sympathy around. I would go with that. I wish there were more, particularly with our families.

  2. I have to say I’m not big on either empathy or sympathy if I’m honest.

    At least I now know the difference between the two and that’s a start !

    1. Knowing the difference is a start! Having both of these in our lives would make things easier in terms of support and just having someone there who totally understands what we may have to go through.

      I believe they’re both important in any lasting and loving relationship.

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