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Sympathy Vs Empathy

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Avatar for Amnaaa
Written by   21
1 month ago

SYMPATHY vs EMPATHY: What's the difference?

It is easy to think these two words (Sympathy and Empathy) mean the same. Some dictionaries list them as synonymous. But in truth, they are two different things. Different yet connected by the fact that they have to do with feelings and human emotions exhibited in our relationship with other people.

Walk with me on this one, let's try pushing them apart.

Take a glance at this discussion between two colleagues.

Faith: Sarah, why are you looking down?

Sarah: I failed my exams.

Faith: Why?

Sarah: A week before the exams, my dad died so I couldn't prepare well for it.

Faith: Poor you. I'm so so sorry. (Moves to hug Sarah.) It's going to be okay. Last year too, I lost my grandmother when I wanted to write my first quiz. We travelled to the village to bury her the day before I was to write mathematics. I had to rush down to school the next day to meet up with the quiz. I didn't do well as I'll have done if I prepared for the quiz but I didn't fail it. You just have to sit up and focus. You will pass. Ah! I can remember I cried and cried when they buried her. She was so nice to me. I'm sure you cried too. I know how you feel. Poor you.

Now take a look at this other conversation.

Faith: Sarah, why are you looking down?

Sarah: I failed my exams.

Faith: Why?

Sarah: A week before the exams, my dad died. I couldn't assemble adequately for the exams.

Faith: That must have been hard on you.

Sarah: It was. My dad and I are very close. He has been my support system all through my life. (Sobs)

Faith: (Moves to hug Sarah) Can you tell me what happened to him?

Sarah: It was a car accident. He was travelling back from Kaduna and his car got hit by a drunk trailer driver. I couldn't even recognize him. He was all ashes because the car caught fire.

Faith: (Silent for a while. Sarah kept crying in her arms.) No one should lose a loved one that way. How are you holding up?

Sarah: (Sits up and dries her tears) I'm doing better now. At least I'm not wetting my bed with tears every second (laughs dryly.) But it just sucks that I failed this exam.

Faith: It's understandable. No one would expect you to concentrate in the state you were in. It was even brave of you to attempt writing the exam.

Sarah: (Nodded in agreement) Have you lost anyone close to you before?

Faith: Not really, but I imagine how I'll feel if I do. The picture isn't pretty, so I understand how hard it must be for you.

From these two conversations, let me ask you a question.

Which do you think was more effective in helping Sarah?

The second conversation right?

In the first one, Faith expressed sympathy while in the second, she expressed empathy.

What is the difference?

First, let's define Sympathy and Empathy.

Sympathy is made up of two Greek words 'same which means together and 'pathos' meaning feelings or emotions. So by a merge, sympathy means 'the same feeling'. It is having a shared feeling with another person. That is, feeling sad when the person feels sad or when someone is going through a difficult moment.

It is having a feeling of pity or concern for someone's plight. Empathy on the other hand is putting yourself in someone's shoes and try to understand what and how they feel. Yeah, the two definitions may not exactly show you what is sympathy and what is empathy. So we're going to outline their differences.

Sympathy has to do with your feeling about someone's plight. Empathy is trying to understand someone else. This is done by walking in their shoes so you can see things from their perspectives.

Sympathy comes with advice. (Check the first conversation.) Empathy comes with questions. (Check the second conversation) Sympathy shows compassion with or without understanding. Empathy has to do with understanding and compassion. Sympathy is a shared feeling. Empathy is a shared understanding of how the person feels. Sympathy focuses on yourself-- what you feel. While empathy focuses on the person-- what they feel.

The two virtues are indispensable to our association with others. It is said that "Empathy without sympathy is dangerous and sympathy without empathy is blind."

I'm going to be explaining why in my post.

Hope you're with me?

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Avatar for Amnaaa
Written by   21
1 month ago
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