Sympathy vs. Empathy

Good Intentions

We have all heard these words, and they are often used interchangeably, but mistakenly so. There is a lot of confusion about the distinction between the two, and their distinction is critical. Diving into what they really mean helps foster emotional awareness and can allow you to better support someone who is going through a difficult time.

“Empathy drives connection, and sympathy drives disconnection.”

social psychologist and bestselling author Brené Brown

Defining the Difference

Sympathy is understanding what someone is going through, whereas empathy is feeling what someone is going through. To understand what someone is going through comes from a cognitive standpoint, and is accompanied by a sort of emotional distancing. On the other hand, to feel what someone is going through has you experiencing their feelings. To put it simply, empathy is a “put yourself in their shoes” kind of thing.

Still not sure of the difference? Check out this animated video below, narrated using a clip from Brené Brown’s TED talk on empathy and being vulnerable. Watch her full TED talk here.

Sympathy Falls Short

Sympathy comes from a good place, but empathy allows you to connect and support someone in a significantly deeper way. While it is generally nice to have someone sympathize with you and understand why you are battling with what you are, sympathy often falls short. The emotional aspect is lacking. Additionally, sympathy can sometimes come with unwanted advice, or perhaps even with some judgment or shame.

Empathy Creates Growth

Empathy drives authentic connection because it involves the other person really taking a situation and making it their own. Doing this shifts things into perspective and helps them better understand how they would want to be helped if they had the same concerns. Empathy can help shine light on the root cause of feelings that someone is experiencing, because when practicing empathy, you are stepping into their situation as if it were your own.

Not only does empathy foster deeper emotional connection and understanding amongst people, it also promotes growth personally. Taking the time to consciously practice empathy helps foster emotional awareness at a heightened level.

Empathy at LifeTutors

When dealing with someone who is in recovery or who has mental health concerns, utilizing empathy is essential. At LifeTutors, our LifeCoaches approach LifeClients’ situations consciously and with empathy to ensure that they are connecting with their client on a deep level. Utilizing empathy instead of sympathy gives them insight into their client’s emotions and feelings, which sheds light on their challenges, their goals, and more.

Does your young adult need a helping hand gaining independence and creating a fulfilling life of their own?

Call us today to see if LifeTutors would be the right fit for your young adult and family!


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