It is quite natural to get confused with similar words, especially when both are associated with similar context. One such tricky pair is empathy & sympathy. Read on to understand empathy vs sympathy.
Empathy Vs Sympathy
If you can differentiate the emotional intensity associated with the following expressions - "I can only imagine how hard this is for you" and "I completely understand what you're going through", then you may not find it hard to distinguish between sympathy and empathy. Sympathy is just a sorry feeling for a fellow human being or a group of people whereas empathy is a deeper concept; it makes you feel the emotions of the other person and suffers equal pain. You sympathize with a people who are not that closely attached to you whereas, you empathize with your dear one's pain and agony. A higher degree of empathy, like any other emotions, is dangerous. When you empathize with any person to a very high extent than considered healthy, you may develop hallucinations and end up with other psychological problems. This risk is less associated with sympathy, as it never makes a person feel other's mental or physical pain; it is a state of only feeling sorry about people around. Read on and understand more about these concepts.
Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy
As sympathy is a much simpler concept, it is better to start with sympathy and move on to empathy.
Sympathy is associated to emotions like care, protection etc. and it is a product of charity and social consciousness, which define your thoughts for poor and unfortunate people that may include members of your society or your friends. Sympathy is the ability of a human being to understand the deep emotional situation or experience, felt by another member, with compassion and sensitivity. Here, you feel sorry for people who are going through some painful situations but you don't imagine yourself in their place or you don't internalize the problems and feel their pain within you. You may feel sympathy towards a person or a group. Sympathy is often related to a mishap or a bad situation. You don't sympathize with a happy and content person.
Examples For Sympathy
- I can only sympathize with those writers who just goof up the facts and write without having proper knowledge on what they write.
- I extend my heartfelt sympathy to the family circle.
- I feel sorry for your loss.
- I convey my condolence at the loss of your loved one.
- My hearty condolences. I will be praying for you and your family.
- Poor Girl, she has faces the worst situations of life in this small age.
- It is a heavy loss to you. You will be in my thoughts and prayers.
- My deepest sympathies are with you and your family at this time of grieving.
- Please accept my deepest condolences. I am praying for strength and comfort for you at this time.
- It's difficult to lose someone close to us. If there is any way I can make things easier for you please let me know.
- I am praying for you to get through this time with peace that comes from the knowledge that God loves you and will take care of you.
- I am sending you this card to let you know that I am thinking of you. Sorry for your loss.
- I was saddened to hear of your loss, and I realize many people have lost a blessing from God.
- I am at a loss of words and don't know what to say to you to help you feel better. Please accept my condolences anyway. I'll be praying for you.
- I hope that you know you can call me anytime about anything. Let me know what I can do to help.
- I am praying for you to have peace and strength at this time. You have my deepest sympathies.
Once you are clear about the concept of 'sympathy', it would be easier to differentiate it from empathy. Empathy is something more intense than sympathy. This emotion is often associated with close relationships and is a type of sympathy, but of a higher degree and dimension. It can be defined as an ability to relate or even co-experience the feelings and agony of another person. This means that if you empathize with a person, you may feel the illness, afflictions or emotions experience by the other person. Empathy is not often related to a mishap, you may empathize with a well off person as well. For instance, if you are a hard core fan of a movie star and follow him obsessively, then you may gradually adopt his mannerisms without being aware of it. This is also empathy.
Examples For Empathy
- I understand the writer's empathetic study of the subject.
- I understand so much how you feel right now; you are so frustrated and angry. I would be too if I were in your situation.
- I'm so sorry for that inconvenience. Let me see what I can do for you today.
- I'm so sorry that this happened and I will do my best to fix this situation.
- I'm sorry to hear that. I'll definitely be able to help you with that today.
- I'm so sorry that happened to you. I can understand your pain.
- I'm sorry to hear that. I can imagine that must be frustrating.
- I can understand that must make you feel upset and we will work toward fixing this situation for you.
- I definitely know that could be frustrating. I can understand how you feel.
- That's Terrible, It should not have happened!
- I can understand the times are very difficult, let's see what we can do for you today.
- You must be feeling pretty frustrated, I can understand that.
- I can empathize with how aggrieved you must be at the loss of your beloved.
From the examples given above, you may now be able to make out the difference between sympathy and empathy. It is important to be clear of these concepts because, they are associated with different emotional and mental dimensions that you encounter in your social life.