Empathy is walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. Sympathy is being sorry that their feet hurt.
Empathy and Sympathy are similar in that both are forms of concern for another individual. Yet, their meaning and delivery are very different.
Empathy is an individual’s ability to put themselves in the world of another, whilst sympathising is a form of compassion that creates a divide.
When we are sympathetic, we are basically saying that we are sorry for the individual with whom we are sympathising with. It creates an “I am ok, you are not ok” scenario.
We may offer unsolicited advice from our perspective that leaves the other person feeling belittled, not understood and even appear judgemental.
A show of sympathy can also be used to end an uncomfortable discussion, feeling that it is enough for a small word of condolence or a small touch of the hand, when a person needs someone to show that they understand what they are experiencing.
All in all, by sympathising with another, a negative chain reaction can arise with unintended results.
On the other hand, empathy is a sincere attempt to understand another person’s experiences and feelings, as if they were their own, and convey that understanding in order for the other person to feel understood.
It isn’t about solutions or a few words of comfortable. It is lessening the burden of another person by extending empathy as the vehicle for love, compassion and kindness and understanding to flow.
The benefit of extending empathy to one another? We are able to break down any walls or barriers between us.
(c) Samantha Wilson 2016. All Rights Reserved.