Empathy versus Sympathy

Brain Medial and lateral view of the PFCThe video below demonstrates in a funny way Brené Brown‘s way of explaining the difference between empathy and sympathy.

The definition of empathy is “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another” while the “feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune” is the one for sympathy. 

Did you ever experience that unpleasant feeling when you are telling someone your deepest emotions and their response was sympathetic?

How was it when someone was really just there with you when you expressed what is going on for you? 

May this video contribute to more connections in our times of vulnerabilities!

According to neuroscience empathy is closely related to the mirror system in the brain.

Photo Credit: Empathic accuracy on Wikipedia

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13 thoughts on “Empathy versus Sympathy”

  1. Hi Yorinda,

    I love Brene Brown and this video that you share. Yes, I hate when people respond with the ‘silver lining’ approach. It does nothing to comfort. I don’t think there is much real connection among us these days..

    Like

  2. I’ve heard others try to distinguish between empathy and sympathy, but this one makes the most sense. Kind of like the difference between really helping someone by the words we speak, and “giving pat answers”. Thanks for sharing, Yorinda.

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  3. I’ve heard others try to distinguish between empathy and sympathy, but this one makes the most sense. Kind of like the difference between really helping someone by the words we speak, and “giving pat answers”. Thanks for sharing, Yorinda. It’s especially meaningful at this time in my life.

    Like

  4. I’ve heard others try to distinguish between empathy and sympathy, but this one makes the most sense. Kind of like the difference between really helping someone by the words we speak, and “giving pat answers”. Thanks for sharing, Yorinda… it’s especially meaningful at this time in my life.

    Like

  5. What a terrific video and message Yorinda!

    And the difference between the two is not quite as obvious as might
    first appear.

    But the video did an excellent job of explaining the difference! i won’t say whether I was guilty of thinking my shallow try at empathy was really misplaced sympathy!LOL!

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  6. What an excellent video and message Yorinda!

    And the difference between the two is not quite apparent as it might initially seem!

    And I won’t admit to my whether my shallow attempts at empathy were really nothing more than misplaced sympathy!LOL!

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  7. What an excellent video and message Yorinda!

    And the difference between the two is not quite apparent as it might initially seem!

    looks like I’d better stop trying to pass my watered down version of sympathy off as empathy!LOL!

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  8. What an excellent video and message Yorinda!

    And the difference between the two is not quite apparent as it might initially seem!

    Looks like I’d better learn the difference between my misplaced attempts at sympathy, all the while thinking I was showing empathy!LOl!

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  9. Hi Yorinda,

    What a great video! Empathy is the ability to recognizing another person’s emotion without judgment. Not easy to do unless we are self aware of that ability. To be empathetic I think takes a bit of training and understanding the difference between empathy and sympathy.

    I just love this video especially when sympathy is explained.

    Thanks for the share,

    -Donna

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  10. Yorinda,

    Wonderful post with lots of food for thought.

    I have certainly heard myself saying “At least you…” many times. There is also a difference between empathy and compassion. We can feel compassion for someone else’s pain and struggle without having to go into the rabbit hole with them. We can say “I’m sorry you have to go through this and I can see there is a way out that you may not see right now. I am here if you want to talk more.” The image in the video was not sympathy. Sympathy can be condescending. “Oh I am so sorry you are having this problem (and under our breath we are thinking – “Thank goodness it’s not me” or “This would never happen to me because i am so much smarter….”

    The problem I have is when someone is not taking responsibility, is actually at least partially causing the problem, blaming someone else and then asking others for sympathy and empathy.

    Warmly,
    Dr. Erica

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  11. Yorinda, Knowing the difference between empathy versus sympathy is so important for relating to and helping someone who is having some difficult challenges in their life. Thanks for sharing this fun and informative video to help all of us really understand more about empathy and sympathy!

    Like

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