As I’m meandering my way through my Life Coaching Course, I’m learning a few new things and validating others that I already knew. Not ever being a fan of sympathy, I was happy to learn that empathy trumps it (NOT the Donald) every time.
Do you know the difference? I could write an entire chapter on this but simply put: sympathy is pity; empathy is understanding.
It’s always a better scenario to have someone ‘understand’ your feelings rather than feel sorry for them. Why? Because that’s how we relate to one anther – by putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.
It’s a pretty basic thing…but I will never give a ‘Sympathy’ card out to someone who has lost a loved one, again. I don’t want to pity them, but empathize with what they’re going through. I think we should rename those cards: Empathy cards. Sympathy is the weaker/annoying cousin to empathy – you know…the cousin whom you haven’t seen for a decade that shows up for dinner, one night, expecting you to entertain them. They are just not up to snuff when it comes to hard core feelings such as grief, like empathy is, who will show up only when you need them and want them, but also take you out for a nice meal and throw in a few glasses of wine, to boot.
Empathy listens without judgment. Sympathy interrupts with platitudes and then possibly makes it all about them.
So the next time someone comes to you for a shoulder, listen with empathy. Don’t judge them and let them know they were heard and you’re there for them.