Empathy and sympathy

June 3, 2010

When you tell someone you


You’ve felt their pain

You’ve been there, too,

You’re empathizing.


When you pity someone

Or feel sorry

For them

Or their situation,

You’re sympathizing.


When you try

To step into their shoes

And lend an ear

Or a shoulder,

You’re empathizing.


When you try

To talk the talk

Without having

Walked the walk,

You’re sympathizing.


When you try to


And help the healing process

By channeling your

Own experiences,

You’re empathizing.


When you don’t know

What to say

But say “I’m sorry”

Just because

You’re sympathizing.


In most cases

You are sympathizing

Not empathizing

Because even though

You’ve been through

The same experience

Your reality is different from

Someone else’s.


When you sympathize

It doesn’t make you

A lesser person

Or one who’s arrogant.

It doesn’t mean you’re

Talking from a high horse

Or a privileged platform.


But when you try to


It helps you grow

As a person

And have a shared


It allows you to

Not just say the words

But feel them, too.


Have you often been confused between empathy and sympathy? How do you differentiate between the two?

16081BD1A60533E0F1173D28DE4F0D3F Empathy and sympathy

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13 Responses to Empathy and sympathy

  1. Shachi ThakkarNo Gravatar on June 3, 2010 at 5:00 pm


    What I get confused about is whether the person wants sympathy or empathy. And that person could be me as well. It is very difficult to sense that for me.

    • MansiNo Gravatar on June 6, 2010 at 10:47 pm

      Thanks, Shachi. I think we all seek empathy but we get sympathy in return for the most part, partly because empathizing is so much more difficult and partly because we don’t realize that pity isn’t the best thing to offer someone.

  2. BillNo Gravatar on June 3, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    Very nice I wrote a blog about this quite a while back now. There’s no greater thing then compassion & empathy. Although we can never feel exactly the same way as someone else we can feel their pain & listen to their experience with a loving heart. Too many of us are trite in regards to others feeling & we avoid getting involved because we’re too worried about about feeling deep feelings that we may have buried within us.

    Open you heart, discover love, compassion & empathy.



    • MansiNo Gravatar on June 6, 2010 at 10:45 pm

      Thanks, Bill. Well said.

  3. S.R.AyyangarNo Gravatar on June 4, 2010 at 4:18 am

    Being a volunteer counselor at a helpline, its very important for the person listening to be empathetic rather than sympathetic. You have brought out the difference between the two beautifully.

    • MansiNo Gravatar on June 7, 2010 at 5:44 am

      Thanks, S.R.

  4. Judith van PraagNo Gravatar on June 4, 2010 at 8:03 am

    Sympathy is often expressed with a Hallmark card, empathy by asking if the other wishes to tell/ share what happened.
    Intuitive empaths or highly (often called overly) sensitive people sometimes benefit from sending a card over lending the shoulder to the other. Since their channels are open all the time they have to work hard on not taking on everyone’s pain.

  5. Judith van PraagNo Gravatar on June 6, 2010 at 5:22 am

    Mansi, I realize I responded to your question, but forgot to say: Well put! and I love the image of the hands as well.

    • MansiNo Gravatar on June 6, 2010 at 10:38 pm

      Thanks, Judith, Took me a while to respond…deadlines and then my back brace!

      It’s difficult, I’ve noticed, for people to express empathy and, most times, those who’ve had something unfortunate happen to them aren’t really looking for sympathy; they want someone who can understand, not offer their pity.

  6. meghaNo Gravatar on June 19, 2010 at 3:01 am

    di its very true n the fact of our life
    very tru n understandable thought…

    i jst lovd this poem

    • MansiNo Gravatar on June 20, 2010 at 8:20 am

      Thanks, Megha :-)

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