Sympathy and empathy are two words that are closely related, but they have different meanings. Sympathy is a feeling of compassion for another person’s misfortune or suffering, while empathy is the ability to share that person’s feelings.
Having been through a similar experience yourself helps create sympathy, but empathy is based on an imaginary connection that can occur even without direct commonality.
What is Empathy?
Empathy is an emotion that involves feeling what another person is feeling. It is often triggered by a situation or event that you experience personally, but you don’t have to have gone through exactly the same thing. It can also be triggered by the observation of someone else experiencing something.
For example, if you watch your friend get reprimanded at work and feel sad, nervous, and disappointed for them, you might have empathy for them. Similarly, you could feel empathy for a fictional character or even a sentient being who is suffering from a tragedy.
When you empathize with a person, it means that you understand their feelings on a deeper level and share those feelings with them. It is a stronger emotional reaction than sympathy, which involves compassion and sorrow for the other person’s misfortunes. Empathy comes from the German word Einfuhlung, meaning “feeling into.”
What is Sympathy?
Sympathy, compassion, and pity are emotions related to the suffering of others. They all share the same root word, pathos, but they differ in how they are experienced. Sympathy, for example, involves feeling a general kinship with another person’s feelings and sorrows.
It is common to feel sympathy for someone who has suffered a loss or tragedy. Sympathy can also lead to action, such as offering condolences or providing support.
Moods, previous experiences, social connections, novelty, and salience all influence how we experience sympathy. People tend to feel more sympathetic towards people in their immediate social circle, such as neighbors or coworkers. They may also feel more sympathy for members of their racial group than strangers or out-group members. However, the underlying motivation for sympathy is often a desire to help those in need. This is thought to stem from paternalistic and maternal instincts to protect and care for those in need.
What is the Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy?
Sympathy and empathy both come from the Greek word pathos, which means “feeling or experiencing.” However, sympathy first entered the English language in the 1600s while empathy didn’t make its way to the English language until the 1800s.
Empathy is more than feeling pity for someone else’s misfortune. It involves a deeper understanding of the other person’s experience. It requires the ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and feel their emotions. It also includes the desire to alleviate their suffering.
For example, if a friend confides in you that they are struggling to keep up with their work load, a sympathetic response would be to say something like “I’m sorry to hear that.” This can be helpful, but it doesn’t address the root cause of their problems or give them advice on how to cope. This is because sympathy moves quickly from “feeling with” to “feeling for.” Practicing empathy is more effective because it fosters deeper connections.
What is the Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy in Writing?
Writing in an empathetic tone helps readers connect with your message. It’s important to understand the difference between empathy and sympathy so you can choose which to use. There are some situations where a sympathetic response is appropriate, but it’s best to write empathetically whenever possible.
Sympathy is a word that refers to feelings of compassion, sorrow, or pity for someone who is suffering. It is sometimes confused with empathy because it has the same suffix -pathy, but it means a different thing. Sympathy is an older word that was in the English language before empathy first appeared in the English language in the nineteenth century.
Sympathy is a cognitive approach that allows you to understand how someone else is feeling, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you share those feelings with them. It’s a very common way to express condolence in the face of loss, and it is often used when people try to make someone feel better by telling them that they can relate to their emotions.