Sympathy means the feeling of sorrow or commiseration for the hardships, problems and pain caused to another person. It is often misconstrued with empathy which refers to an individual’s ability to understand what another person is going through, by perceiving himself in the same situation. Now let’s understand them clearly with the help of an example:
- Hazel had much sympathy for the train accident victims. But she cannot empathize with them.
In the above example, the word sympathy is used to mean the compassion Hazel has for the victims, but as she has not suffered such an accident she cannot empathize, i.e. she cannot understand how it feels.
So, the basic difference between sympathy and empathy is that while sympathy is all about feeling sorry for someone’s misfortune, whereas empathy implies acknowledging what another person is feeling.
Content: Sympathy Vs Empathy
|Basis for Comparison||Sympathy||Empathy|
|Meaning||Sympathy is all about feeling pity for someone else's misfortune.||Empathy refers to the ability to understand the sufferings of another person.|
|Involves||Caring about another person's well being.||Caring and personally understanding the struggles that another person undergoes.|
|Concerned with||Pity for negative experience.||Both positive and negative experience.|
|Emergence||Acknowledging that another person is undergoing difficulty.||Feeling the pain and hardship which another person is undergoing.|
|Example||Our Principal have much sympathy for the animals.||Harry empathize with poor, as he was one during his young age.|
Definition of Sympathy
The word ‘sympathy’ is created out of two Greek terms ‘sun’ and ‘pathos’, which means ‘with’ and ‘feeling’ respectively. Hence, it refers to feeling with someone, i.e. commiseration.
It is a feeling of pity for the suffering of another individual that leads to his sadness. So, while feeling sympathy for another person, we actually have compassion and wish to help the other person. It can be used in the following ways:
- To show a feeling of understanding and care for another person’s hardships and distress:
- His best friend showed much sympathy on the death of his mother.
- The neighbours expressed sympathy on the demolishment of Mr Sharma’s house.
- To express support:
- The MLA is having the sympathy of his entire constituency.
- Mutual understanding or affinity between persons:
- The husband and wife shared special sympathy.
Definition of Empathy
The word ’empathy’ has been recently added to the English vocabulary. It is a combination of two Greek words ’em’ and ‘pathos’ which means ‘in’ and ‘feeling’ respectively. It refers to feeling oneself in someone else’s situation, i.e. what another person feels in a particular situation.
So, in the case of empathy, we have that ability to imagine ourselves in the same situation, i.e. in their place and experience their sufferings, as if they are ours. In other words, it is a person’s capability to suppose himself in another person’s condition or position.
- She has a lot of empathy for the jobless youth, as she is also struggling for a job.
- After Aamir lost his favourite bike to thieves, he felt empathy for his sister who lost her phone last month.
Key Differences Between Sympathy and Empathy
The points given below are important so far as the difference between sympathy and empathy is concerned:
- Sympathy is like having concern and pity for another person’s problems and misfortunes. On the other hand, empathy means actually feeling that pain, which another person has undergone.
- Sympathy includes caring about another person’s well being and willing to help him. Conversely, empathy not only includes caring about the other person but also personally understanding the struggles and problems of the other person by imagining himself in that situation.
- Sympathy for a person arises as a result of pity for negative experiences. As against, empathy for a person can be for both positive and negative experience.
- Sympathy takes place when you come to know that another person is going through some problem or hardship. On the contrary, empathy occurs when you start feeling the pain and hardship which another person is experiencing.
- Don’t you have any sympathy with the cancer survivors?
- Even after studying hard in the board exams, Kunal is not able to pass. So, I have great sympathy for him.
- As she has lost her father due to cancer, she has great empathy with the cancer patient’s children.
- I have empathy for the sales personnel’s struggles and hardships, as I have begun my career with the same field.
How to remember the difference
The words sympathy and empathy differ a lot in their meaning, as in while Sympathy is Expressed for the other person, Empathy is Shared with the other person. So, empathy is a much deeper feeling than sympathy, in which you try to connect with the other person.