Empathy vs. Sympathy: What is the difference?

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Difference between Empathy and Sympathy

Empathy and sympathy sound the same and in some ways are almost like the same thing. They have some same characteristics and also some different ones. If you have lost a loved one, they are both ways to describe the act of reaching out to you with understanding and of being there for you. However, one may be able to actually put himself in your shoes and feel your pain, while the other just offers their condolences and is there if you need someone to lean on. That is one difference between the two terms. Now, which one is which?


Empathy is being able to understand someone and what they’re going through with an unspoken and mutual mind and heart. The person doesn't need to even express to you how they’re feeling, they can feel it and feel the pain and hurt. It’s as if you’re “living in their shoes.” Sympathy on the other hand is basically recognizing what someone is suffering with and feeling bad while empathy is truly sharing it. When you tell someone you've been deeply hurt, a sympathetic person will say their sorry and they listen to your problems. An empathetic person can cry with you because they can put themselves in the situation.


So if these two have big differences, is there anything that they do share in common? Well what they share in common is a bond of emotions and intellect. Both are acts of feelings with emotions, both with a sense of understanding. These two things can help make someone feel a little better when they are going through some turmoil in their life or even simply having a terrible day or experiencing a bad situation. It allows one to feel as if they’re not alone and that someone does truly care.


If your friend gets into a car accident and loses a limb then you are generally sympathetic to that person. Unless you've really lost a limb, it could be hard to be empathetic. By being sympathetic you are feeling bad for them, lending support to them, and trying to care of them the best you can in their time of need. If your friend gets punched in the face by a brother and receives a broken nose, you may be sympathetic or empathetic. If it’s ever happened to you or you are very close to that person, you can truly feel their pain and understand what they’re going through. This is being empathetic to the person. You truly understand how much it hurts and feel the same pain, frustration, confusion, humiliation, etc.


  • Being sympathetic is sometimes construed as feeling guilty for a person or feeling sorry for them.
  • Being empathetic is always construed as being able to understand what one’s going through as well as their feelings and emotions in the particular situation.
  • They both deal with acts of emotions and feelings of another person or situation.
  • It’s very hard to be empathetic unless you've been in the person’s shoes or are very close to them to where you can feel their pain and understand their pain.


comments 1 Comments

  • Renee . 3+ yrs. ago

1.Empathy means that you feel the same pain as the person that lost some one they loved. Empathy and sympathy are different because empathy means that you personally know how the other person feels when they lost a love one. Sympathy means you feel bad for someone because they lost a love one but you personally don’t know how they feel.

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