Difference Between Empathy And Sympathy
Understanding The Difference:
• Are you showing "empathy" or "sympathy”? Despite the fact that the two words are frequently misused interchangeably, it is significant because they have different emotional connotations. Empathy goes beyond compassion, which is only a way to express sorrow for another person's suffering. Empathy is the capacity to genuinely experience what another person is experiencing, to "walk a mile in their shoes." Extreme or prolonged sentiments of empathy may be detrimental to one's emotional wellbeing.
• On the other hand, a feeling of sympathy is a statement of care for another person, frequently accompanied by a wish for them to be happier or in a better situation. Oh no, I hope the chemotherapy works. In contrast to pity, which is merely an expression of grief, sympathy generally denotes a deeper, more intimate level of concern.
• However, sympathy does not imply that one's sympathies for another are based on shared emotions or experiences, in contrast to empathy.
• Even while it might appear natural, sympathy is not something that comes naturally. Instead, the following conditions must be met before experiencing sympathy:
o Focus/attention on the target individual or group,
o the conviction that they are in need, and
o understanding of the particulars of their current circumstance
• One must first pay attention to a person or group in order to develop sympathy for them. Distractions from the outside world substantially restrict the ability to elicit powerful affective reactions of sympathy. People are better able to pay attention to and react to a variety of emotional topics and experiences when they are not distracted. In many situations, sympathy cannot be felt unless the subject has your full attention.
• Sympathy is evoked by the perceived degree of need of the person or group. Human responses that range from attention to pity are necessary for diverse states of need, such as perceived vulnerability or pain. A person with cancer, for instance, might elicit sympathy more so than someone who is sick with the cold. A person is more likely to receive assistance if they are thought to "deserve" it.
• It's also thought that sympathy is built on the idea of the strong supporting the weak. For instance, the young and healthy assist the aged and ill. It is believed that maternal and paternal instincts to protect one's family or children might lead to feelings of sympathy to some level. Similar to this, neighbors and nationals of a particular country who reside close by geographically are more inclined to feel pity for one another.
• Social closeness also exhibits this tendency, with members of some groups—such as racial groups—tending to be more understanding of those who belong to the same group.
• The ability to perceive and experience another person's emotions is known as "empathy," which was coined by psychologist Edward Titchener in 1909 as an English translation of the German word Einfühlung, which means "feeling into."
• Understanding another person's suffering from their perspective and being willing to experience their feelings, especially painful misery, are necessary for empathy.
• Since sympathy, pity, and compassion are simply acknowledging another person's suffering, they are frequently confused with empathy. Pity often indicates that the victim of the suffering does not "deserve" what has occurred and is helpless to change it.
• Compared to empathy, sympathy, and compassion, pity demonstrates a lower level of comprehension and engagement with the suffering person's circumstance. A more advanced kind of empathy, compassion expresses a genuine wish to assist the hurting individual.
• In general, people can only feel empathy for other people and not for animals because it requires shared experiences. For instance, while individuals may be able to empathize with a horse, they cannot completely understand it.
• According to psychologists, developing relationships and demonstrating compassion for others require empathy. Empathy promotes sincere helping behaviors that naturally emerge without having to be coerced since it entails experiencing another person's point of view—stepping outside of oneself. People with empathy are better at working in teams, are more likely to form enduring relationships, and are more inclined to intervene when they witness abuse of others.
• According to theory, people start displaying empathy as early as infancy and continue to do so throughout childhood and adolescence. Despite their level of concern for others, most people have a tendency to have greater empathy for those who share their family, community, race, ethnicity, or cultural background than for those who do not.
The Three Empathy Types:
Paul Ekman, Ph.D., a psychologist and pioneer in the study of emotions, has identified three different types of empathy:
often known as "perspective taking," is the capacity to comprehend and foresee the emotions and thoughts of others by putting oneself in their shoes.
A closely connected concept to cognitive empathy, emotional empathy refers to the capacity to truly experience the same emotions as another person, if not exactly the same ones. There is always some degree of shared feelings in emotional empathy. Having emotional empathy may be a characteristic of those with Asperger syndrome.
Motivated by their thorough comprehension of the other person's sentiments based on shared experiences, compassionately empathic individuals actually attempt to assist.
Dr. Ekman cautions that empathy has the potential to go horribly wrong despite the fact that it can enrich our lives.
The perils of empathy:
While empathy can help people in need and give our life meaning, it can also be very harmful. While having an empathic reaction to another person's tragedy or sorrow can be beneficial, if used improperly, it can also make us become what Professor James Dawes has dubbed "emotional parasites."
Empathy Can Result in Unjustified Anger:
• If they incorrectly believe that someone is endangering someone they care about, empathy can make them angry—possibly dangerously so.
• For instance, let's say you see your pre-teen daughter being "stared" at by a large, casually dressed man when you are at a public event. You become enraged as you consider what the man "may" be considering doing to your daughter while he has remained motionless and has not moved from his position.
• Nothing about the man's demeanor or body language should have suggested he was about to hurt your daughter, but your empathic perception of what was likely "going on inside his head" led you to that conclusion.
• Jesper Juul, a family therapist from Denmark, has called hostility and empathy "existential twins."
Empathy might make you lose money:
• Psychologists have long documented instances of overly empathetic patients jeopardizing their own and their families' safety by disbursing their entire life resources to haphazardly destitute people. People who are too empathetic and feel some responsibility for the suffering of others have developed an empathy-based guilt.
• In the more well-known syndrome of "survivor guilt," an empathic person may mistakenly believe that their enjoyment has come at the expense of, or even caused, the suffering of another person.
• According to psychologist Lynn O'Connor, those who frequently engage in "pathological altruism," or acting out of guilt based on empathy, are more likely to experience mild melancholy in their later years.
Relationships can be harmed by empathy:
• Psychologists advise against conflating love and empathy. While empathy cannot improve a tense relationship and may even hasten its termination, love can make any relationship, good or terrible, better. In essence, love can heal, but empathy cannot.
• Consider the following scene from The Simpsons, an animated comedy television series, as an illustration of how even well-intentioned empathy may harm a relationship:
• Bart laments his report card's dismal marks, declaring, "This is the worst semester of my life." Based on his own educational experiences, his father Homer tells his son, "Your worst semester so far," in an effort to console him.
Empathy can lead to Fatigue:
• The phrase "empathy fatigue" was created by trauma and rehabilitation counsellor Mark Stebnicki to describe a state of physical exhaustion brought on by a sustained or repeated personal engagement in another person's chronic illness, disability, trauma, grief, or loss.
• Empathy fatigue can happen to anyone who is extremely empathetic, though it is particularly common in mental health counsellors. Stebnicki claims that "high touch" occupations like teaching, law, and nursing are prone to empathy fatigue.
• Professor of psychology and cognitive science at Yale University, Paul Bloom, Ph.D., even goes so far as to say that, due to the risks involved, people actually need less empathy than they do.