Sympathy Vs Empathy Vs Compassion

Sympathy vs empathy vs compassion govern our interactions with the wide range and complexity of human emotions and relationships. The notions above are often used interchangeably, yet they have distinct characteristics that set them apart. Understanding these principles will lead to more significant interpersonal interactions and understanding.


Sympathy is noticing another person’s challenges, grief, anxieties, or sorrows and offering a kind word, consolation, gesture, or other kind of support from a distance. Sympathy develops a bond between two individuals through passive expressions that sometimes appear distant. It’s like extending an umbrella on a rainy day without feeling the droplets.

For example, suppose a coworker lost a loved one as a friend; in such a situation, you are more likely to send them a note of sympathy stating, “I’m sorry about your loss.” However, it may not result in a more excellent knowledge of their feelings. Your words may be reassuring, but you have not truly connected with your friend’s emotions.


Empathy, on the other hand, fosters greater understanding and human connection by allowing you to put yourself in another person’s shoes. Empathy extends beyond sympathy, which is limited to using words to show worry. It establishes a relationship without speaking a word. It’s like having a psychic or heart-to-heart chat without saying anything. It strengthens interpersonal relationships but may also be taxing and emotionally demanding because you are cushioning someone else’s grief, sadness, and other issues. You are continuously bearing someone else’s weight.

Types of Empathy

  • Emotional empathy

This is the ability to experience the feelings of others as if they were your own. This is why you will cry while viewing sad sequences in a movie.

  • Cognitive empathy

This refers to the rational examination of a situation. When putting yourself in another person’s shoes to comprehend their predicament, it is about how you feel emotionally and your intellectual knowledge and viewpoint.

For example, if a friend has lost a loved one, it is natural for you to visit their apartment and offer them food while keeping them company. You can stand by their side and hug them without saying anything. Your presence alone means a lot to them.

Conversely, you may want to be by their side all the time, cooking for or accompanying them, because you do not want the sadness to affect them. However, you may miss work or avoid dealing with your feelings for their sake, which may be emotionally and psychologically draining.


This is a warmth that can soften even the coldest souls. Compassion is a blend of sympathy and empathy. It is about recognizing and appreciating others’ grief and taking the daring step of lessening their agony, lightening their load, and putting a smile on a sad face even when it is uncomfortable. Compassion is more than just feeling other people’s feelings; it is about positively changing their lives.

Consider the life of Mother Teresa, the emblem of mercy. She had so much love for others that she founded charity houses for orphans and individuals who have HIV/AIDS, leprosy, and TB. She felt empathetic to them; she placed herself in their position and eventually took action. Her passion for improving the lives of the poor, sick, and despairing compelled her to devote her entire life to this cause.

Finally, pity is caring from a distance, but empathy is responding to other people’s troubles and emotionally supporting them. Compassion, on the other hand, relates to acknowledging the hardships of others, being there for them, and going above and beyond to make their life simpler and happier.

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