two brothers one with arm around the other watching a sunset showing sympathy



Many people confuse the emotions of Sympathy vs. Empathy, which we discussed in our Empathy Article. However, we will discuss it a little more here since the two emotions are so closely related.

We will also give some examples of these two emotional states, as well as some tools and tips that can help you become more sympathetic in your own life. As well as additional resources.


Sympathy (from the Greek words syn “together” and pathos “feeling” which means “fellow-feeling”) is the understanding, perception, and reaction to the distress or need of another living thing. 


SYMPATHY VS. EMPATHY infographicSympathy is similar to Empathy along the caring and compassion spectrum. You are lending your ear and heart to another human or animal.

However, there still can be kindhearted belittling of another’s situation, a judgmental behavior, and an emotional distance.

Empathy, On the other hand, is having the same caring and compassion, but actually feeling and/or mirroring the other’s emotional or physical distress.

This is a deeper understanding either from your own experiences and/or a nonjudgmental walk in their shoes. A Vicarious experience.


SYMPATHY – You and your friend our out exploring a mountain side or in a national park and your friend suddenly falls into a deep dark hole and can’t get out. Your standing at the top on sturdy ground and you call out…

  • “Are you okay?”
  • “I will send a rope down”
  • “It’s going to be okay, just relax”

A Sympathetic person is still showing support and compassion, but still at a distance. In most cases without an understanding of what the other is actually going through.

EMPATHY – Same example, but you are more of one with your friend. You can imagine being stuck down there. Scared and nervous, panicking and in need of help.

An empathetic person will jump into the hole so you are not alone just to comfort you. This emotion is on a deeper level of connection and understanding of the distressed.

sympathy saying make someone feel loved today on a wall

This can be a problem for Highly Sensitive People or Empaths. These people who are blessed with a heighten state of intuition and awareness of other’s emotions and can lose themselves because many have not learned how to distant themselves emotionally from others.

These people are emotional sponges that absorb the energy from others, which can burn themselves out, emotionally and mentally.

People who are usually more on the empathy side will choose professions that help and serve others. Examples include:

  • First Responders – Police Officers, Firefighters, Paramedics
  • Healthcare – Nurses, Doctors, Hospice Workers
  • Animal Services – Veterinarians, Sanctuaries, Humane Societies

Unfortunately, these professions are akin to developing a desensitized behavior that can occur over time from the daily experiences of dealing with emotional and physical distress.

Moreover, just to allow them many people to keep functioning at their jobs it is almost a requirement to become numb to it all. For many, it is an ongoing battle that they lose, and this is why the suicide rates and burn out fatigue is a lot higher than the general public.

showing sympathy man holding a homeless cat while a homeless man looks on


  • Verbal – Be Direct with Eye Contact, not just off the cuff superficial sympathy. Most people can pick up on if another person is being genuine or fake. Choose your words wisely. Ask open ended questions so the other wants to open up to you. A few kind questions and words can have a tremendous affect on the sufferer.
  • Acknowledge the Issue – Even if you have empathy for what they are going through, meaning that you might have gone through a similar situation. You were in their shoes at one time. Reiteration of what they are saying, back to them makes them feel like they are being listened to.
  • It’s Not About You! – We always say it, but everything in life isn’t about you, no offense. Stay on topic, and let them be in control of how little or how much they want to disclose. In many cases the sufferer had no control over the event or was mistreated, so let them be in Control.
  • Personal Affection – If your not that close to the person, ask if you could give them a hug or wrap an arm around their shoulder. The benefits of touch are tremendous on people and animals alike.
  • LISTEN – Many people “Hear”, few people “Listen”. Many of us are endowed with the gift of gab, however as far as sympathy is concerned, listen more and talk less.

two people embracing in a kiss on a stand in the middle of the ocean at dusk


To recap, Sympathy is more of a general feeling of care and sorrow for another. Whereas, Empathy is more specific, a deeper connection, and putting yourself in the sufferer’s shoes.

We hoped this helped understand the Emotion of Sympathy, Lord knows we as a species need a lot more of it!

Also, we hope that you learned the main differences between Sympathy vs. Empathy, and some tips to show more sympathy in your life to all living things.

Overall, showing Sympathy to other living things leads to better relationships, better success in careers, and better mental health. 


52 Sympathy Messages

Sympathy vs. Empathy

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