Empathy and Sympathy: What’s the difference?
What is the difference between Empathy and Sympathy?
Empathy is feeling with or alongside someone, while sympathy is feeling sorry for. Brene Brown, research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, explores this in the video below:
Empathy allows people to build social connections with others. By understanding what people are thinking and feeling, people can respond appropriately in social situations.
When you can’t understand what the other person is going through, and you would like to empathise with them, the response would be to ask how they feel, so that you can feel with them instead of feeling sorry for them or dismissing them.
Four Qualities of Empathy
- Staying out of judgment
- Recognising emotion in other people, and then communicating that
- Feeling with (or alongside someone)
- Empathising with others helps you learn to regulate your own emotions. Emotional regulation is important because it allows you to manage what you are feeling, even in times of great stress, without becoming overwhelmed.
- When we come across negative emotions in others, and we want to empathise with that person, compassion is a good antidote. It allows us to connect to others’ suffering, without being too distressed.
- Research suggests you can cultivate a compassionate mindset through encouraging co-operation, practicing mindfulness, refraining from placing blame on others, looking to connect on where we are similar rather than different, and being receptive to other’s emotions without adopting those feelings as your own.
- According to Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), mindfulness is “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally.”
- By engaging in skills such as focused breathing and gratitude, mindfulness enables us to put some space between ourselves and our reactions, leading to better focus and feelings of calmness and relaxation.
In a 2019 review of 27 research studies, mindfulness was shown to improve attention, which in turn helped to regulate negative emotions and executive functioning (higher-order thinking).
The benefits of Self-regulation
In general, people who are able to regulate their emotions tend to possess the following abilities:
- Acting in accordance with their values
- Calming themselves when upset
- Cheering themselves when feeling down
- Maintaining open communication
- Persisting through difficult times
- Putting forth their best effort
- Remaining flexible and adapting to situations
- Seeing the good in others
- Staying clear about their intentions
- Taking control of situations when necessary
- Viewing challenges as opportunities
For more information, please reach out to our inhouse Mindset Coach, Trainer and Mentor, Cindy Steer.