Empathy is the ability to re-create another person’s perspective, or trying to get a sense of that person with that problem and with those emotions. While empathy and sympathy are two closely related concepts, I believe that the slight difference between them can be found in the idea of “identification”. For, while sympathy says, “I understand how you feel and show compassion towards you,” empathy goes a step further and says, “I feel what you feel”. A simple way to remember it is that empathy is just a more intense emotion than sympathy.
I like to say that a branch of empathy has to do with making someone else’s problems, your problems. There are 3 different aspects to empathy the first one is perspective taking- an attempt to take on the view point of another person, just try to think of it as if you were the other person. The second is emotional; this helps us get closer to experiencing others’ feelings- or trying to feel the emotions of fear, joy, and sadness of a person. And the third is genuine concern for the welfare of the other person, which means you already have affection for that person.
I started talking to my ex boyfriend of mine, who is now just a friend, and he is going through a really hard time with making friends and I remember not too long ago I was going through the same things as he was and not only did I feel bad but I felt like I needed to help him because he made it seem as if he had absolutely no one to talk to or anyone who had his back. In this situation I tried putting myself in his shoes. I remember the feeling I had when I was in a similar way but he seemed to be doing worse and it was so sad for me to hear him sound so low and it was heartbreaking empathizing with him.
I did it mostly because I did not know how to handle this and I just felt so bad. It made me realize how hard his life must be compared with mine. I have a best friend who I can talk to whenever I wish or need her, and my friend says that he still has not found a friend that he can call his best friend. For once I saw the world through a different person’s point of view instead of thinking of him as the popular kid he always seemed to portray out to others. It makes me realize that even some that seem so together and strong may in-fact be just the opposite.
Empathy has to do with feeling but it is not necessarily that you feel pity for the other person. What it means is that you identify with the other person. For instance, if I see my best friend crying for whatever the reason may be, that may not bring tears to my eyes, yet I am still able to understand the feelings that caused her to be so upset. Rather than getting emotional about the other person’s emotions you project yourself into the other person’s situation.
You can empathize with a rude stranger or a relative that completely gets on your nerves without endorsing their behavior. So it is possible to be able to empathize without agreeing with the person. It is possible to empathize without sympathy but total empathy is impossible because you can not completely put yourself in their shoes because you are not the one going through the situation. It is too difficult of a task to have a complete understanding of another person’s point of view due to different backgrounds and limited communication skills.
Empathy is a good skill to have because it gives you a strong sense of what the world looks like through another person’s eyes. A lack of empathy involves a poor sense of communication that fails to understand the perspective of the audience. An audience may feel a positive or negative sympathy to both the communicator and the message as it is transmitted in communication. Sympathy is defined as the act or capacity of feeling badly for another person who has encountered a bad situation or circumstance.
An example of sympathy would be if someone saw a late night infomercial about starving kids in Africa. The images of malnourished and sick children likely causes most people to instantly feel sympathetic to their plight and feel badly for the children. Sympathy is basically the feeling towards another person of, “I am sorry this happened to you” but again it is still their problem not yours. It is important to realize that sympathy can only be felt for someone you like or feel sorry for.
It is almost impossible to feel sympathetic toward someone you dislike. And you cannot sincerely be sympathetic toward someone whose actions cause harm to someone. Sympathy is feeling of passion for another person’s predicament but it is their problem, not yours. In essence, with sympathy you view the other person’s situation from your point of view. When feeling sorry for someone people share the feelings of the other person, to the extent that a sympathetic person may shed tears for the other person. Sympathy, then, is a compassion for someone.