What’s the Difference Between Sympathy and Empathy?

Difference Between Sympathy and Empathy

In this post we will try to figure out the difference between sympathy and empathy. We will also try to find out whether these two words are the same in meaning, or whether they are really different.

As a young boy, I wondered what it felt like to be a girl (or a dog, or a cat.) I wondered what it took for a person to walk in someone else’s shoes. I wondered how hard it must be for them.

In short, I wondered how much they must be suffering. But today, I think I know most of the differences between sympathy and empathy.

Sympathy is what separates us from animals. We can understand the feelings of other human beings.

Empathy is different from sympathy because you might not identify the exact feeling of another person, but you can understand how you would feel given a similar scenario.

Let’s explore these two emotions and know which is best and how to express them.

What is the difference between sympathy and empathy?

Sympathy simply means feeling compassion, sorrow, or pity for the hardship another person is going through. It’s the process of sharing in someone else’s sufferings.

It is a sad emotional feeling you have towards a person or people that lose a huge amount of money or someone close to them. A condolence message or visitation is an example of sympathizing with someone.

While empathy is broader-it is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, understanding, and identifying with their situations. It’s an emotional component of feeling someone else’s pains.

Understanding sympathy

Sympathy is sharing or taking part in someone else’s troubles, sufferings, emotions, most especially sorrowful feelings of someone’s misfortune.

It relates to your personal opinion about things, like having pity or sympathy for someone about something very bad or unfortunate.

Sympathy can also be referred to as a sense of harmony between people of the same taste, opinions, or dispositions.

Consider the following examples of sympathy

  • It was so heartbreaking to hear of your father’s tragic demise. Please take heart
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Said’. “pity may represent little more than the impersonal concern which prompts the of mailing of a check, but true sympathy is the personal concern which demands the giving of one’s soul.”
  • The quality of caring about someone else’s misfortune or the feeling about intellectual or emotional accord with another individual.

Understanding empathy

Difference Between Sympathy and Empathy

Empathy is the process or the ability to picture and understand someone else’s feelings as if we had them ourselves. You can also describe it as putting our feelings into a work of art or another object or something

Consider the following examples of empathy

  • By becoming the wounded person by vicariously experiencing their sufferings, pains, trouble, etc.
  • By understanding and putting yourself in someone else’s sufferings and pains.
  • Empathy focuses on a mutual and shared emotional experience.

How to show more sympathy

Giving an opportunity for the other party to talk about their feelings/emotions

Listen to their emotions. You don’t have to have a solution right there; just a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on will do.

Using body language as a tool to show sympathy

You need to use body language like eye contact or nodding if necessary to show you’re really interested and paying attention. Facing them directly while they talk is another way of making sure they will be open enough to want to talk to you about their situation

Listening before commenting

According to author Micheal Rooni, “listening allows you to provide other people with a safe space to vent and walk through their feelings. Do not make them feel you’re pressuring them to take your advice or making them think you’re taking over their situations.

If you try to comment or advise them even before the person lays a complaint to you, it only makes them feel you’re making the situation about you.

Always initiate the appropriate physical contact

While the person is grieving, always observe the person’s body language. Even if the person is used to hugging, always ask them if a harmless hug will make them feel better, then that should be the right time to do so.

In most situations, initiating taking a walk to relieve the person’s mood or a simple pat on the back will be fine.

How to show more empathy

Try talking to new people

Trying to imagine their pains is not enough; talk to them, be involved with them, and make them comfortable around you.

This might make them open up and reach out to you on pressing issues. Jodi Halpern said”. “for me, the core of empathy is curiosity.”

Startup conversations with strangers, colleagues, and friends at your workplace, church, and even schools. Go beyond petty talks and ask them about how they’re faring in their day-to-day activities.

Try following people up on social media. Chat with them, ask them questions, be free and follow different people with different beliefs, backgrounds, religions, and even people with different political views and opinions.

Try living someone else’s life

Consider attending someone else’s church, mosques, synagogues, or any place of worship. Find out what other people’s daily routines are and try imagining what it’s like for homeless people. How they live, how much sleep they get.

A psychiatrist at Harvard medical school and a chief scientist of empathy said: “it’s just not enough to stand in someone else’s shoes as the saying goes but take time and try walking in them.”

Volunteer, try visiting a new place, neighborhood, even a new city, visit the hospitals, try starting up a conversation with pregnant women, a homeless person, or a carpenter on the streets. It helps in understanding someone else’s sufferings and pains.

Get involved with community projects

A law professor at Rutgers and co-founder of perception institute Rachel Godsil said: “working on a project with other people reinforces everyone’s unique expertise and humanity and minimizes the differences that can divide people.”

  • Work on a school project together. Organize a political campaign.
  • Be involved in church activities or join a church committee.
  • Blend in with people that are grieving and understand them.

Dr.Halpern said: “my magic potion will be for communities to have meaningful, heartfelt projects that speak to their grief and vulnerability.”


Empathy is often misunderstood as something that you do on someone else’s behalf, but in reality, it is about you recognizing your own feelings and putting yourself in your customer’s shoes.

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