What is the difference between EMPATHY and SYMPATHY?

Philippines
November 13, 2010 4:55pm CST
Sympathy and empathy are separate terms with some very important distinctions. Sympathy and empathy are both acts of feeling, but with sympathy you feel for the person; you’re sorry for them or pity them, but you don’t specifically understand what they’re feeling. Sometimes we’re left with little choice but to feel sympathetic because we really can’t understand the plight or predicament of someone else. It takes imagination, work, or possibly a similar experience to get to empathy. Empathy can best be described as feeling with the person. Notice the distinction between for and with. To an extent you are placing yourself in that person’s place, have a good sense of what they feel, and understand their feelings to a degree. It may be impossible to be fully empathetic because each individual's reactions, thoughts and feelings to tragedy are going to be unique. Yet the idea of empathy implies a much more active process. Instead of feeling sorry for, you’re sorry with and have clothed yourself in the mantle of someone else’s emotional reactions. If people will come for you and tell you some bad things that happened to them then we should always try to hear them out first and respond appropriately to it and put ourselves in their shoes just like we experienced what they are or were having. We should always offer advices that will make them benefit to it and not to have personal gain over it or ruin the other with your help. In your point of view, what is the difference of these two feelings?
1 person likes this
4 responses
@formidexo (1350)
• Canada
14 Nov 10
I think you have defined both words extremely well and I feel as you do. Since each one of us feels things differently it is not always easy to show empathy (though we want to try) and so we show sympathy. When we talk with someone who has lost a loved one we express sympathy and not empathy as it is extremely hard to know the depth of their pain.
1 person likes this
@rmnrmn (583)
• India
14 Nov 10
Exactly, I agree with you formidexo!
• Philippines
14 Nov 10
Yes I really agree. But as a human being, we try to be as sorry as we can be if we feel the loss and sometimes it will also make us feel what they really feel at some point. Thank you guys for the response and comments. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.
@formidexo (1350)
• Canada
17 Nov 10
Some people don't give a care, others feel and others feel deeply. You sound like someone with deep feelings for the suffering of others.
• Philippines
14 Nov 10
hello aaronfyzeon! you have more or less, completely covered the difference between the two and i strongly agree with you. If i may add however, empathy is a much more intense feeling than sympathy in the sense that when you empathize, you place yourself in the place, in the situation that the person is in. You will try to feel the situation as if you were the one affected. While sympathy does not really need you to understand the situation, but you just have to pity or feel sorry for the person's feelings, not necessarily understanding why and how.
• Philippines
14 Nov 10
Thank you for strongly agreeing with me. Aside from that, sympathy is the initial response that we show if we encounter situations like these from another person. Empathy will just be realized if the person is really close to us and we already experienced the same thing just like them. Thank you so much for this great response. Have a great week ahead of you.
@lingli_78 (12852)
• Australia
14 Nov 10
i think you had defined both terms excellently and i can't explain it even better than you... one thing i can say though... i find offering sympathy to a person in need is easier than being empathy to that person... being empathy is hard because we have to be able to put ourselves in other people's shoes and understand how the person feel... take care and have a nice day...
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• Philippines
14 Nov 10
Thank you for the nice response and I really appreciate what you have posted. You are absolutely correct with what you have added. It will be easier for us to sympathize to the other person rather than be empathic to them because we really do not know how they feel if we ourselves has not yet experienced what they are having right now. Even if we do then we will not be able to absorb everything so quickly therefore at a first encounter, sympathy is the initial response that we show. Have a great week ahead of you.
• Malaysia
14 Nov 10
Empathy is like if you posts a discussion and the person answers not to your liking than your empathy feeling sets in like you understand how/why he answers such way and to Symphathy is if the persons lost something dearly.
• Philippines
14 Nov 10
Thank you for the response. have a great week ahead.