Oct 20


Empathy and Sympathy are rhyming words. However one should be aware that the meanings may seem similar but both words are different.

The question was raised by a student while I gave a lecture for the subject Managerial Communications. Empathy is the ability to experience the feelings of another person ie putting yourself in another’s shoes whereas sympathy means acknowledging another person’s hardships and providing comfort.

I was wondering how to bring out the difference in both and I realized a simple example might demonstrate the difference:

Suppose you have received 98% aggregate in your Xth standard examination and have topped the CBSE Board Examination in your State. You would be in the seventh heaven of delight and wanted to share this news with your best friend when you realized that your best friend has failed in his CBSE Xth Examinations. If you are a true friend you would be able to empathize with him and would not be in a mood for celebration when you know and feel depressed since your friend is shattered. The feeling that you share with your best friend in this situation is empathy.

A colleague of your’s who scored first class might sympathize with your best friend and might advise him, ” Don’t worry you still have another chance” without having any feelings for your friend. This is sympathy.

If another colleague ignores your best friend and does not acknowledge or address him then it is apathy.


Empathy is a deeper feeling where one tries to help another or solve the problem faced by the other and sympathy is just an acknowledgement of  the problem or situation faced by the other.

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