Empathy and sympathy are two important emotions that relate deeply to being able to connect with others. If you aren’t able to empathize or sympathize, you may have a hard time being relatable. This can not only make you appear more calloused, but it may also make others afraid to open up to you, which can ultimately damage both personal and professional relationships. Consider these definitions about sympathy and empathy, and what you can do to improve both:
Empathy is the ability to not only recognize another person’s emotions, but to share those emotions by putting oneself in the other’s shoes. Empathy can pertain to both real and fictional characters. If you empathize, you share the person’s emotions and distress.
Sympathy is different from empathy, although the two are often confused. Sympathy is the ability to feel concern or care for someone who is going through something sad or stressful, even if you cannot relate to the experience, nor share their exact feelings. There is no shared perspective as it pertains to sympathy.
Both sympathy and empathy are important. Empathy creates very deep connections between ourselves and others, and without it, the world would likely be pretty chaotic and uncivilized. When we can feel what someone else is feeling, we often use these own emotions to guide our own behaviors.
Sympathy is also important; to always feel pain because another person is unsustainable – sympathy is sometimes more realistic. Sympathy can help you to know that another person is going through something that you would not want to experience, and lend them more patience and compassion as such.
Ask yourself, where are your levels of sympathy and empathy? Do you express these emotions regularly? How do they affect you?
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