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June 7

Sympathy Empathy Compassion-What’s The Difference?



Sympathy Empathy Compassion-What’s The Difference?


In this article, I’m will explain the difference between  sympathy, empathy, and compassion (sympathy empathy compassion). So why is this important? Well, people often confuse the meanings of sympathy, empathy, and compassion. They think they’re trying to help when they offer sympathy, not realizing that sympathy may cause more distress.

Even more, people really don’t understand what empathy is. And they’re really pretty clueless about compassion, even though they might sympathy empathy compassion interchangeably.

So I want to clear up the mystery and show you why you should not use sympathy, how to use empathy correctly, and how to develop compassion. Understanding the differences can help you help others.How To Have A Relationship Without Arguments or Fights-3 Amazing Steps To Take Now

Sympathy Is Pity-Based

Let’s start with sympathy. Sympathy is pity-based. It’s focused on the sympathizer, the person offering the sympathy. You’ll often hear words like “I’m so sorry that your dog got squashed by a car” or “I’m so sorry that this horrible tragedy happened to you.”

When somebody offers sympathy, they’re doing it from their frame of reference, not from the frame of reference of the person who has been distressed. Sympathy does not show understanding.

Sympathy is often self-soothing for the sympathizer and, therefore a selfish act. When confronted with a person in distress. People often feel anxious. They want to soothe their own anxiety. They do that with sympathetic statements that show no understanding whatsoever. That’s why, when people in distress are offered sympathy, they feel patronized or disrespected.

Empathy Is The Ability To Read And Reflect Emotions

Empathy is different. Empathy is a learned ability to read, assimilate, interpret, and reflect back the emotions of another from that person’s frame of reference. Empathy is all about understanding and reflecting back the emotions of the distressed person.

There are two kinds of empathy, cognitive empathy and affective empathy. Cognitive empathy is a process in which you ignore the words of the distressed person. You read their emotions silently to yourself, and then you reflect back the emotions with a simple “you” statement. You would say something like “You are sad. You’re grieving. You feel completely lost and abandoned.”  Interpersonal Communication-5 Powerful Tools To Rocket Your Business Career

After you’ve practiced cognitive empathy for a while, you will begin to develop automatically affective empathy. Affective empathy occurs when you are with a distressed person, and you automatically feel what they’re feeling. You reflect back on what you’re feeling to the distressed person.

Compassion Is Empathy On Steroids

Compassion is empathy plus the impulse to help relieve the distressed person. Think about holding a little baby who just pooped in the diaper. You won’t get mad at the baby. You will say, “Oh, little baby. You just pooped. You’re really a stinky mess. Let me see if I can cling you up and make you feel better.”

That is what compassion feels like. It’s empathy plus the desire to help.

So that is sympathy, empathy, and compassion in a nutshell.

  • Yes, its sympathy when people say “your loved one is in a better place” its empathy when people say “you must be devastated” and its compassion when people say “I’m going to come over and clean your bathrooms while you are grieving” – thoughts?

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    About the Author

    Douglas E. Noll, JD, MA left a successful career as a trial lawyer to become a peacemaker. His calling is to serve humanity, and he executes his calling at many levels. He is an award-winning author, speaker, teacher, and trainer. He is a highly experienced mediator. Doug’s work carries him from international work to helping people resolve deep interpersonal and ideological conflicts.


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