Empathy V Sympathy; How do you respond?
Describing subjective emotions and human relationships, connections and interactions can be difficult. As a society it’s important we try to understand other perspectives, views, opinions and support as needed.
Do you know the difference between sympathy and empathy?
Defined; sympathy refers to the ability to take part in someone else’s feelings, mostly by feeling sorrowful about their misfortune. Empathy is a term we use for the ability to understand other people’s feelings as if we were having them ourselves.
To contextualise it further, say you were on a walk and saw someone had fallen into a ditch and couldn’t get out. You can acknowledge from a distance and observe that they are going through a challenging experience and you essentially “feel sorry” for them. This surface-level feeling is still an important, positive trait to have, however it doesn’t lead to any action.
When you express empathy, you walk past that person and can resonate with their experience, you understand and share their feelings and emotions. You see things from their perspective, you possibly had a similar experience which has enhanced your empathetic qualities and you can connect with that individual. You are more likely to stop, jump in and help that person get out.
Practicing empathy is not easy, and like anything else requires awareness and consistency to allow for change and growth.
You have to imagine what the other person is feeling and figuratively step into their shoes. Doing this will help you gain insight into their experience and emotion. Let your curiosity flow and ask questions, have difficult conversations and actively listen.
Doing this can give you a unique perspective that will trigger positive actions, new emotions, different viewpoints and generate more empathetic choices.