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What You Need to Know about Empathy Vs Sympathy

January 25, 2014
Empathy is an important element in the development of our emotional intelligence make-up. Being able to show empathy and empathize with others is a pre-requisite asset for a healthy and well balanced social life. However, several people still confuse empathy with sympathy and for others there are no dividing lines between the two concepts.

Image credit: http://micheleborba.com/blog/stretching-student-empathy/


Today I want to share with you some of the insights I leanred about these two concepts hoping that yu would share them with your students as well. Empathy is completely different from sympathy.  In this beautifully animated RSAvideo, Dr BrenĂ© Brown sheds some lights on the differences between these two concepts.

Empathy feels connection, sympathy drives disconnection
Empathy has different  characteristics:

  1. Perspective taking: the ability to take the perspective of another person or recognize them and their truth
  2. Staying out of judgments about other people
  3. Recognizing emotion in other people and communicating that

Empath is feeling with people:
Empathy is a choice and it's a vulnerable choice because in order to connect with you, I have to connect with something in myself that knows that feeling. Rarely if ever an empathic response began with at least.
Empathy is about connection . The truth is rarely can a response make something better, what makes something better is connection.

In her popular book "” Change Your Words, Change Your World“, Andrea Gardner also touched cursorily on the difference between sympathy and empathy and here is what she said about them:
Another apparent contradiction is empathy versus sympathy. If we identify or sympathize with another person’s predicament we suffer alongside them, which limits the amount of help we can give. Empathy allows us to understand another’s feelings without taking them into ourselves, leaving us free to offer stability and positive encouragement for the other person.

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