Sympathy vs Empathy
A friend of mine shared this video uploaded by RSA on the difference between sympathy and empathy. This video is one of the best explanations of empathy I’ve seen and it is short as well.
During difficult times, a friend might come to you and share their thoughts so that they can feel better. However, we often tend to sympathize (not empathize) with them and make them feel worse by doing do one of the following -
Offer Advice - There are a couple of reasons why I think this won’t work - they’re not in the frame of mind to listen to you right now and also they don’t believe you completely understand their situation (reminds me of this post by Rohan).
Silverline their situation - While we tend to use this to cheer them up so that they can feel better but this seldom works - again you’re not dealing with their situation.
Instead of sympathizing, we could take their perspective, recognize it as the truth and stay out of judgement (sounds simple, isn’t it?). Rarely can a response make the other person feel better but what can actually make them feel better is the connection, the friendship and communicating that you’re there with them during this difficult time.
This just made me realize how many times I’ve sympathized with a friend and wondered why they didn’t feel better or why they felt I didn’t understand their situation!
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