Empathy vs Sympathy

Empathy and Sympathy are two similar words that often get confused.  We want empathy but often get sympathy and in turn we give sympathy.  I’m guilty of giving sympathy when empathy is wanted as well.  I’m a task driven person, so I automatically jump to how can I fix their problem. I didn’t realize how much I was doing that and what empathy really meant until seeing a video by Brené Brown .  I attached the video at the end of this blog, you will never view empathy the same after watching it.  Empathy is more intimate than Sympathy it requires vulnerability. According to Brené Brown empathy is feeling from someone else perspective, placing yourself in their shoes, not judging or trying to fix their problem, and not using the word at least.  I remember after my divorce someone saying to me well at least you’ve been married before.  That’s so not empathy,  regardless of me ever being married it ended in divorce.  Who gets married to get divorced? I had suffered a loss and regardless if my marriage was good or bad it was still mine.  My life as I knew it changed, and I was grieving.  I just wanted empathy, someone to understand how I was feeling and just be there for me with no judgement.  Sympathy is just a feeling of sorrow or pity towards someone’s situation. Phrases like, I’m so sorry or I’m sorry to hear that are examples of sympathy. You can be driving down the street, see a bad accident, and say “I’m so sorry I hope they’re okay.” Yes you do feel sorry for them but you have not connected with them.  However getting out of your car to find out that someone just lose their child in that accident, and to share in the feelings with that mother who is weeping while hugging her.  Taking the time to just be there for her, and it may even require further action. Driving her home, calling and checking on her, or making her a meal because you know she’s in no shape to cook.  Well that ‘s empathy!!! Now enjoy the video!

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