And when to use one over the other? Have you been using the terms – and the feelings – correctly?
There’s definitely a difference between the two, and I’ll provide examples to call out when to use one over the other. Or even when to use them together, which is often the case, but not always.
I’ll start with some definitions, as I often do.
According to Merriam-Webster, empathy is the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions : the ability to share someone else’s feelings. And sympathy is the feeling that you care about and are sorry about someone else’s trouble, grief, misfortune, etc.
I like how Hugh MacLeod depicted it in a recent Gapingvoid cartoon: “I feel your pain” vs. “I’m sorry you’re in pain.”
Annette Franz Gleneicki