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The Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy

Empathy and Sympathy

Two words that are often used interchangeably are empathy and sympathy.  Although both have comparable meanings, they are unmistakably dissimilar.   Sympathy is described as a feeling of compassion, sorrow, or pity for the difficulties that another person encounters.  On the other hand, empathy is metaphorically putting oneself in someone else’s shoes.

The Difference

You do not necessarily have to care about someone’s dilemma or plight in order to feel sympathy.  Sympathy is basically feeling sorry for someone else for what they are going through.  Empathy

The Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy, Amy Wine Counseling, Cypress, TX

may assist you in feeling sympathy, but they are mutually exclusive.  Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another human being and often increases pro-social behaviors such as generosity, compassion, honesty, fairness, and responsibility.

Cultivating Empathy

In order to utilize empathy more effectively, start by attempting to observe the situation from the other person’s point of view.  Another way is to validate another person’s perspective, even when it is different from your own.  Next, examine your own attitude toward certain individuals or situations.  Do you have certain biases or views that obstruct your ability to be fair or impartial?  An additional tool that is quite beneficial is the simple ability to listen.  Authentic listening is a superpower that most individuals are not able to completely tap into.  You will be surprised at how much you might learn if you just stop and listen to someone else speak.

Teaching Children Empathy

The best way to cultivate empathy with children is through the way that they are treated by you.  Empathizing with our children takes many forms; including paying attention to their physical and emotional needs, while understanding their unique and individual personalities.  Taking an honest interest in their lives, and guiding them toward events that reflect an appreciation for the kind of people they are, and the experiences that they have.  Children also learn by watching those we notice and appreciate.  Treating others with kindness and respect is a simple way to exemplify empathy.

For more information on sympathy, empathy, or any other topic, Amy Wine Counseling Center is just a phone call away!  Contact us here or call us at 832-421-8714.


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