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What's the Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy?

Can you define the difference between Sympathy and Empathy?

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Many people oftentimes interchange sympathy and empathy. Some may even think that these two words share the same meaning. These words are feelings associated with grief or feeling sorry. These are definitions of emotions that are felt when something terrible happens in the lives of our family, friends, and even strangers. But how different exactly are these two terms?

Sympathy is most commonly felt because it is easier to be sympathetic than empathetic. Sympathy is simply feeling sorry for the person. It is common among condolences. Sympathy is like feeling pity for the person who experience grief and sadness. Oftentimes this is what people feel and mostly it is not therapeutic. A lot of people suffering don’t want to be pitied. It may even feel that their dignity is lowered because a lot are feeling sorry for them. Also, being sympathetic will let people feel that they are alone in experiencing their grief and no one shares the same emotions.

Empathy on the other hand is more of feeling the same emotions one person is experiencing. This is quite difficult since this type of emotion is never easy. It is not easy to experience and feel the same way others are feeling and experiencing simply because we have differences and we don’t actually share the same experience. Empathy is therapeutic because people will not feel that they are being pitied. One example of empathy as a form of therapy is during group therapies where everyone shares their experiences and everyone can feel what others are feeling. Empathy is like “putting on the shoes of others.” It allows people who are experiencing grief know that they are not alone in times of hardships.

Sympathy and empathy may also go together because it is almost impossible to feel fully empathetic for those who experiences grief because it will take time for us to register the emotion. But we can avoid the negativity of sympathy by being careful of what we say. We must avoid saying “I am so sorry for your loss.” or statements similar as these since it may make the person’s grief even worse.

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