Empathy Definition – The Difference Between Sympathy & Empathy


    Understanding the difference between sympathy and empathy is crucial for people who want to be empathetic.  Remember that these two emotions have many similarities, so there is no clear-cut definition of what empathy is. 

    The most important aspect of empathy is patience. If you ask someone to speak faster, you will only end up disappointing them and preventing them from sharing their true feelings.  People often jump to conclusions when having a long conversation, so it is imperative to practice patience and match your feelings to your fellow person. This article will provide an in-depth look into the value and the concept of empathy and how it differs from other emotional concepts. 

    Empathy Definition

    Source: RSA

    One way to improve our understanding of others is to understand the feelings of those around us. While empathy is an important trait for people of all cultures, it is sometimes hard to develop because we have different perspectives on certain situations. 

    Empathy is a virtue that we should strive to develop as a society. Here’s a basic definition of empathy. It is the ability to imagine and identify with the feelings of others. Empathy comes from the Ancient Greek word ’empathetic,’ which means passion. Our ability to understand others’ feelings is based on mirror neurons.

    The ability to show empathy requires patience. Trying to rush a conversation will likely only cause frustration and avert the person from sharing his or her feelings. It is common for people to jump to conclusions during a conversation, so practicing patience will go a long way. 

    As a general rule, when communicating with others, it is important to match your own feelings to their emotional states. This will increase your ability to understand the emotions of others.

    Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy

    What is the difference between empathy and sympathy? In its simplest form, empathy means choosing to join another person’s joy or sorrow. The only difference between empathy and sympathy is that in the former case, you will be doing something to help. 

    While the latter may include feeling sorry for the person in question, you won’t be able to do anything to change the situation. This is the difference between sympathizing and showing sympathy. Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s emotions, but it is more than that. Sympathy is when you feel moved by another person’s pain, and apathy is when you maintain your distance and remain detached from them. 

    Sympathy, on the other hand, is when you feel deeply about a person and try to help them. While sympathy is a good thing to have, you can do it only when you truly understand their situation. As the two words share the same root, empathy is an emotion that comes from the same source as sympathy, the Greek word pathos. Pathos refers to a feeling and is often used to evoke compassion in literature and art. 

    For example, when you witness someone suffering, empathy may arise naturally. But in the most general sense, sympathy is a feeling of caring for the world. If you have an emotion associated with sadness, empathy will be more likely to make you feel sad for them.

    A Good Example of Empathy

    An example of empathy can be anything that can help someone understand the feelings of another person. It could be something as simple as a bus full of people. Perhaps you saw someone on the bus with crutches and a broken leg. 

    This may trigger your own childhood experience with broken bones, so you offer to give them a seat. Another good example of empathy is when a stranger offers to help a stranger. Empathy leads us to act.

    In order to help kids learn empathy, we can teach them to recognize when someone else doesn’t understand what they’re feeling. Play is a great way to develop empathy in kids. When a child is surrounded by other kids, it helps them understand why the other person isn’t happy. We can all learn to identify when we lack empathy by having a fun activity. For example, when a student is shy and can’t express his feelings, they can use empathy cards.

    Types of Empathy

    Photo by Tim Marshall

    Empathy has different kinds, which are described below. The first one is affective empathy. It involves understanding the feelings and emotions of another person. This type of empathy is the easiest to learn and can lead to an enduring bond. 

    However, there are dangers to this type of empathy, too. The feeling that empathy evokes can be overwhelming, and even small interactions can become stressful.  Interestingly, some people have high levels of either emotion or cognitive empathy. This is because of the complex interplay between the two. 

    For example, people who are highly cognitively inclined have more emotional empathy than others. Therefore, it is essential to learn more about the different types of empathy in order to achieve true understanding.

    Emotional Empathy

    Understanding someone’s perspective is the essence of empathy. This emotional capacity is exhibited through the ability to place yourself inside the experience of another.  We express empathy through seeing and hearing the experiences of other people, thinking and feeling, and judging the valence of complex emotional scenes. 

    In the study, 20 patients with spinal cord injuries were compared to 20 matched healthy subjects. The patients’ scores were assessed with the STAI-Y, Beck Depression Scale, and Toronto Alexithymia Scale. In addition, participants completed a Multifaceted Empathy Test, which assesses emotional and cognitive aspects of empathy.

    While everyone has the capacity for empathy, some people need to nurture it. When employees feel valued and appreciated, they are more productive. The emotional quality of empathy is an important element in any friendship. 

    Moreover, it demonstrates your concern for others and their needs. Empathy is essential in nursing. Nurses spend most of their time with patients, and oftentimes, they are the only source of contact between the patient and the caregiver. Therefore, it is crucial to express concern and empathy for the patients.

    Compassionate Empathy

    Whether we are born with the ability to empathize or not, we may feel a certain amount of compassion. While it is natural to feel compassionate toward others, compassion is a much more complex emotion. 

    This is because it is not limited to feeling and understanding others’ pain; it can also include taking action to help them. Empathy is a positive emotion, and the person who exhibits it is usually well-aware of their own feelings.

    Compassionate empathy involves connecting with the other person’s feelings without attachment, advising, or judging. It creates a safe space for the other person to express their struggles, while also regulating their own emotions.  Compassionate empathy helps the person reconnect with their own heart and logic, increasing insight, meaning, and courage to act. Here’s how to practice compassion:

    Cognitive Empathy

    The Merriam-Webster dictionary provides a broad definition of empathy but does not discuss compassion or remorse. While empathy is an important aspect of human behavior, it is not directly related to intelligence. 

    Empathy embodies many of the same concepts. However, the words empathy and compassion may be confusing to readers, and a more nuanced view might require a different dictionary. 

    One study found that greater cognitive empathy accuracy predicted a decrease in cortical thinning over time in people with schizophrenia. It also found that the right TPJ is involved in a higher-order social cognitive process. A large meta-analysis of this research indicated that the relationship between cognitive empathy for others may be more nuanced than previously thought. Although this research was not conclusive, it did point to an important correlation between the two.

    Different Quotes on Empathy

    There are different types of quotes on empathy, but the common one is the phrase “to see through someone else’s eyes”. The ability to understand and share another’s feelings is one of the basic human traits, and these are very important in our society. 

    In order to develop empathy and understand how to use it effectively, it is crucial to understand others’ feelings and listen to them carefully. The best way to build empathy is to understand your own and others’ feelings and emotions and open up about your own. It is challenging to be empathetic, but the benefits are immense.

    Below are quotes that shows empathy;

    “A friend’s deep sorrow is lightened when shared with another man”. 

    “A broken heart can heal a broken heart when a good man shares it”. 

    Empathy is the ability to perceive another person’s internal frame of reference, emotional components, and meanings. It is a fundamental human quality that can inspire people of any age and from all walks of life. Whether you are a child or an adult, reading these quotes can help you better understand and express your own feelings to others.

    Closing Remark

    Empathy is the ability to feel someone else’s emotions, including the feelings and thoughts of others. It’s a form of respect for others, and it can manifest in different ways.

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