What is the Difference between Empathy and Sympathy?

What is Empathy? How is it different from Sympathy? What if someone lacks Empathy and Sympathy? What are the Five Ways to Practice Empathy?
what is the difference between empathy and sympathy
Photo by Mental Health America (MHA)

Emotional intelligence decides the quality of your personal and professional life. To maintain social relationships, one must understand others as it promotes emotional connections between individuals and groups. Two major components of emotional intelligence are sympathy and empathy. These two terms are often used interchangeably. Are they different? What’s empathy? Is there any difference between empathy and sympathy? What is Empathy vs. Sympathy, Sympathy vs empathy vs apathy? Is apathy normal behavior? Let’s find it all.

1. What is Empathy? What is Sympathy?

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Empathy refers to experiencing someone else’s feelings by putting yourself into others’ shoes. When you can relate to the other person’s situation. It could be seen in the personal experience of a similar situation.

Whereas sympathy is the feeling of being sorry about someone’s situation but from a distance. Your mental state isn’t affected by the grief of others. It is basically an acceptance that someone is facing hard situations. It doesn’t require sharing the emotions of others. Thus, it becomes important to understand the difference between empathy and sympathy. (See What is Ideal Self and Real Self?)

2. What is Difference between Empathy and Sympathy?

Empathy is a close association feeling where your mental state is affected by others’ problems. You try to see the perspective of others and console them. But sympathy is a surface-level feeling. Here you feel sorry for someone’s situation, but from a distance without involving yourselves. (See What do You Want in Your Life?)

3. What are the Examples of Empathy vs. Sympathy?

The examples where you can understand the difference between empathy and sympathy are:

  • If a woman is in labor pain, males around her can only sympathize with her pain. They may feel sorry for her. But a woman who has suffered the same situation can understand her grief. She can relate to her pain as she herself has experienced the same. This feeling of experiencing someone else’s feelings is empathy.
  • A person who lost his job can relate with others in the same situation deeply and can empathize with you. They can have a proper exchange of ideas, thoughts, and solutions. Which isn’t possible with others who haven’t experienced anything as such. (See Anxious Attachment in Adults)

4. What is Compassion?

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Compassion is an expression of caring and warmth. Both sympathy and empathy produce compassion. Compassion by empathy comes from shared experience whereas compassion from sympathy can just be useful. It comes from understanding the problems of others. Compassion motivates you to relieve the pain and miseries of others in whatever way possible. (See Why Do I Hate My Self?)

5. Empathetic vs. Sympathetic vs. Empathic

The following table will tell you the difference:

EMPATHETIC SYMPATHETIC EMPATHIC
An ordinary person has empathy for others. A person has general human behavior in order to console others. It is used to describe an empath (a person with the paranormal ability to read someone’s emotions and mental state).

6. Is Sympathy better than Empathy? Which one is better?

As you already read the difference between empathy and sympathy, you must understand which one is better. Well, sympathy is a common feeling, where we can feel sorry for others’ conditions. Whether we feel sympathy or empathy for someone depends on our experiences, personalities, and background. Empathy is more intense and deeper. It is a genuine attempt into trying to understand others. Sympathy doesn’t help us in building deep connections. Feeling compassion out of the shared experience is empathy. Being deep and natural, empathy is better than sympathy. Also, check out do you have the Rescuer Syndrome?

7. What if someone lacks Empathy and Sympathy?

empathy and sympathy
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Emotional intelligence is very important for your personal and professional life. A person lacking both empathy and sympathy finds it difficult to maintain relationships. Such people can’t have healthy social behavior. There could be multiple reasons for a person to lack empathy and sympathy. It would be repressed traumas or psychopathic tendencies. People lacking empathy and sympathy have a higher chance of committing crimes. But these can be developed if tried. Also, check out how to deal with Emotionally Manipulative Parents?

8. Difference between Empathy, Sympathy and Apathy?

The following table will show you the points related to sympathy vs empathy vs apathy. Must read how do I learn to Love myself?

EMPATHY SYMPATHY APATHY
It is the feeling of experiencing someone else’s problem. It is feeling pity for someone’s situation. It is a complete lack of feeling.
Deep in magnitude. Surface level. Neutral.
It comes out of shared experiences in past. It comes out generally as a sense of pity. A person may be apathetic because of any repressed trauma.

9. What are the Five Ways to Practice Empathy?

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Photo by Mental Health America (MHA)

There are several ways to practice empathy few of those are:

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