Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy


Main Difference

Empathy and Sympathy are the two psychological terms which are often confused and mixed up together due to their almost similar origin, simultaneous use and depiction of similar matter. Empathy and Sympathy both terms are originated from the Greek term páthos which refer to the feelings, emotions, travail, suffering, etc. Both these words commonly depict the feelings and emotions of a person for the other person. The basic difference between Empathy and Sympathy is that sympathy refers towards the caring and feeling for the sufferings and pains of a person. Sympathy is feelings of care and sorrow for the person that is suffering from any pain or uneven situations. On the other hand, Empathy refers to the feelings of understanding the emotion and suffering of another person due to similar suffering personally. We can say that empathy is the feel of understanding what a person is going through in a particular condition as we have experienced the same.

Comparison Chart

Empathy is the term refers to the feelings of understanding the emotions and feelings of others by similar personal experience.Sympathy is the term refer towards understanding the pains, sorrow, and feelings of others and having a feeling of compassion for them.
Understanding or feeling other’s situation due to personal experience.Understanding and feeling emotions of others by their experience.
A person feels the feeling or another person i.e. “I know how it feels losing parents as I faced such situation myself a few years back.”Feeling for the others by their experience i.e. “I am very sorry that you lost your parents, may their soul rest in peace.”
Empathy can be regarding good and bad feelings. It covers both happiness and sadness.Sympathy refers mainly towards the negative, sorrow, suffering, travail etc.
Empathy is usually the personal feeling and can be one too many.Sympathy can be from one to another person or one to the whole community. It can be from the group for a single person vice versa.

What is Empathy?

Empathy is the psychological term that is used to define the feelings and to understand the emotions of other people by own personal experience. In psychology, there is various similar sort of terms that depicts different sort of feelings and people are often confused between them. Apathy, pity, empathy, sympathy and compassion are some of those famous psychological terms that are widely used to refer different kinds of feeling and emotions regarding each other. Apathy refers to cold feeling towards someone’s emotions and not giving any attention to it. Pity is the psychological term that indicates only awareness and acknowledgment of other’s feelings. Then there is sympathy which refers towards the caring of feelings of others. Empathy is the term which depicts that person feel and understand feelings of others by similar personal experience. Compassion is the term which maximizes the feelings, one wanting to heal the wounds of others. The term empathy and sympathy both are originated from the Greek word pathos, which means feelings and emotions. Empathy only differs with sympathy by personal experience. A person can better feel the pain and understand the situation when he or she themselves have been through the same experience.


What is Sympathy?

Sympathy is the psychological term which refers towards the feeling of care and supports a person possess while noticing others in problem or suffering. Sympathy is the term always used for demonstrating the feelings of care, love, and support for the people facing hard times, who are in pain or suffering from uneven situations. Unlike empathy, the person who possesses the sympathy feelings of support and care is only aware of the condition of the person and does not have any personal suffering background regarding it. Sympathy unlike to empathy is always directed towards the painful feelings and bad conditions. A person possesses feelings of sympathy for others when he or she look them suffering from pain or heat break. One the other hand empathy can refer towards the both positive feeling and well as negative based upon the personal experience of an individual.

Empathy vs. Sympathy

  • Empathy is the term that depicts the understanding of feelings of others by similar sort of personal experience.
  • Sympathy is the term which refers towards possessing feelings of care and support whenever others are in pain or suffering.
  • Empathy can be for good and bad both experiences.
  • Sympathy only is for suffering and uneven situations.
Aimie Carlson

Aimie Carlson is an English language enthusiast who loves writing and has a master degree in English literature. Follow her on Twitter at @AimieCarlson