Empathy vs. Sympathy

A lot of people get confused between the definitions of empathy and sympathy. While both words deal with a relationship an individual has with the feelings of another individual, they have different meanings. They can’t be used interchangeably for the most part. If you too often get baffled between these two words or think they’re synonyms, read this post until the end to know the difference between empathy vs sympathy.

Difference Between Empathy & Sympathy

Both words are used as nouns in a sentence and express feelings. Still, they have different meanings. Sympathy is when someone expresses or shares the sentiments of another while empathy is used when someone understands the feelings of another but doesn’t necessarily share them

Let’s look at an example. When someone loses a loved one or suffers from a chronic illness, we feel sympathy. We share the feeling of sadness with that person, but we might not empathize with their situation as if we don’t experience the problems they’re going through. On the contrary, empathy is a strong feeling. You can put yourself in the place of the person going through painful times. With empathy, you feel things more deeply. 

In short, if you have empathy for someone, you can understand what another person is feeling and how much they are upset over a specific situation.

Definition of Sympathy

The word sympathy is derived from the Greek words meaning “with feeling.” We can use this word to feel sorry about someone’s misfortunes or sorrows. The term can also be used to express the sense of harmony between people with the same opinions.

Examples of the Word Sympathy

  • We have sent letters of sympathy to the families of the victims.
  • Roman had sympathy for Joseph, who lost his house in a fire. 
  • I expressed sympathy for bomb victims.
  • You can’t expect sympathy votes nowadays.
  • I was not looking for sympathy from anyone. 
  • He needs my sympathy right now.
  • She lost our sympathy after the truth came out.

Definition of Empathy

Empathy is also a Greek word which means “passion from emotion.” The word is used when we experience someone’s emotions as if they were our own. You have empathy for someone if you can understand how they might be feeling in a particular situation.

So we can say sympathy is all about feeling sorry for someone’s sorrow, while empathy is understanding the feeling or pain of another person. 

Let’s use both words in different sentences to get more clarity on their uses.

Examples of the Word Empathy

  • We all should become a good listener and show empathy with the individual’s situation. 
  • John has empathy for cancer survivors; his own son died from the same. 
  • She has empathy for her husband, but it seems fruitless.
  • Animated videos can help parents build a sense of empathy in their kids. 
  • The policeman showed empathy to others.
  • Our CEO did not empathize with us when we failed to meet our project deadline.

So these are a few differences between the words empathy and sympathy. Hopefully, they will help you when you are trying to determine which one to use.


empathy vs sympathy

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