Sympathy vs Empathy: Which one is better?

How do sympathy and empathy differ, and which one helps someone feel truly supported in their time of need?

The thought came into my head this morning as I was contemplating the support I have received, especially in the last year.  The comfort I have received in some instances was just what I needed in my time of need.

The difference between Sympathy and Empathy:

Sympathy vs empathy: what’s the difference?

The term sympathy is largely used to convey commiseration, pity, or feelings of sorrow for someone else who is experiencing misfortune. You feel bad for them … but you don’t know what it is like to be in their shoes.

The term empathy is most often used to refer to the capacity or ability to imagine oneself in the situation of another, experiencing the emotions, ideas, or opinions of that person.

Expressing Sympathy vs Empathy

Some people mean well, but they don’t always give me what I need in that moment.  They are expressing sympathy at my situation usually by giving me advice:  “Why don’t you look for another job?”  They express pity for me: “Oh you poor thing”.

I don’t want to be pitied as I feel sorry for myself enough!  But at the same time I realise my situation is unique and it would be unusual to meet anyone who has gone through what I have. 

I feel like the people who really make the difference don’t try and give me advice.  They listen and then when they do say something,  they are empathising with me.  “It must be so frustrating to go through that.  I would find it hard too”.  

People who empathise can put themselves in your shoes and imagine what it would be like to go through the same situation.   They don’t try to fix things, or offer advice.  They let you vent and really listen.

Thank You to my Blogging Community For the Support

The theme for Denyse Whelan’s Life This Week Linkup is floral.  I want to offer a virtual bouquet of flowers to the blogging community to which I belong.  This is because I am so grateful for the support I have received from you all.  Being stuck at home can be lonely, but through my blog I have met so many lovely people. 

I have used my blog to promote a healthy lifestyle.   But also to share my journey as I recover from complications of surgery.  Whenever I write about my struggles the comments I receive are so lovely, warm and full of empathy that I often cry. I appreciate the words of comfort that feel like they come from a place of genuine caring.

I feel like I am among friends as I can relate to a lot of you as I read your blogs.  It helps being in the same stage of life, or slightly behind.  I look forward to reading your blogs and what you’re up to.  I am inspired as well.  I’m grateful to belong to a community of amazing people. 

Empathy offers genuine support

To conclude, there is nothing wrong with offering a sympathetic ear to someone in their time of need.  Empathy takes it one step further and helps the person feel truly heard and supported. While I appreciate advice, often I just need someone to listen and acknowledge my feelings. Being part of the blogging community allows me to express myself and feel supported by people who genuinely care.

You may also like to read:

Shared on Natalie The Explorer’s Weekend Coffee Share Linkup


17 responses to “Sympathy vs Empathy: Which one is better?”

  1. Hi Christina – what a coincidence! My post scheduled for Monday is about cultivating Empathy and includes the difference between sympathy and empathy and also some of the ways we think we help others but fail dismally. And yes, our blogging community is a joy isn’t it – so much connection and support from all over the world – I just love it and I’m glad you’ve felt the support while you’ve been getting back on top of things.


    • Hi Leanne, great minds think alike! It is a lovely community and I’m so glad I found it early in my blogging journey. It really started with yours and Sue’s Linkup so thank you! It’s one of the main reasons I keep blogging even when life gets really busy. Have a great week, Christina


  2. Christina, The blogging community has been great. I’m glad you share your blog with Weekend Coffee Share and feel the support during your journey. Have a good week ahead!

    P.S. The directional Previous Post and Next Post on your blog seems to do the reverse. You may want to check that.


    • Hi Natalie, yes it is a wonderful community and I definitely feel supported by all the lovely people around the world. I don’t really know how to fix things like that on my website but I’ll have a look into it. Thanks for letting me know. Have a lovely week, Christina


  3. The flowers are beautiful Christina. I like your words on sympathy and empathy and how they related to your situation, you are spot on. You are a supportive member of the blogging community and I for one appreciate you.


    • Hi Debbie, thank you so much, that’s a lovely complement. I definitely appreciate you too. It’s so nice to start my weekend by reading your Shoutout Saturday post! Have a lovely week, Christina


  4. Hi Christina, I am visiting your blog for the first time, from #Weekend Coffee Share. I like your topic, and believe that these are two words often confused. I am of the mind that ‘sympathy’ is always the safe choice when conveying genuine concern. An expression of empathy would be disingenuous and devalue their experience unless you have personally been there. Just my humble opinion. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I look forward to reading more of your blog.


    • Hi Suzanne, yes I see what you mean. I think a lot of people really don’t know how to respond. I’m careful who I share with on a personal level these days. An expression of sympathy at least shows they care. Thank you so much for commenting and I’d love you to read more of my blog! Take care, Christina


  5. I agree with you about our blogging community. They are an amazing bunch who I’ve always found to be empathetic. I’m sure I’ve become more empathetic as I’ve aged. Not really sure if my empathy levels when I was young. Thanks for this thought provoking post


    • Hi Jennifer, I think empathy improves as we get older because we have gone through more challenges so we can relate to other peoples’ problems more. Thanks so much for your feedback, regards Christina


  6. I agree about the blogging community. I must admit I was surprised by the level of support and encouragement I have received from the blogging community over the years. I pictured blogging as just writing. I didn’t anticipate the friendships I would form with people I have never met in real life! I loved reading your words on sympathy and empathy. You nailed the topic!


    • Hi Laurie, yes it’s definitely been an unexpected blessing from blogging. I also think the midlife niche is on the whole a very supportive community. Younger bloggers seem to be interested in earning money from blogging more than the community aspect. Thanks so much for your comment, Christina


  7. Hi Christina, it was a ‘snap this week for you and Leanne as you both wrote about the same topic. That’s great though because it is important to understand the difference. I like to think I’m empathetic to others and try to be there, feeling what they are going through but not necessarily saying words which don’t really help. The blogging community is very supportive and you have built some great connections over the last year. Take care and have a lovely week. #lifethisweek


    • Hi Sue, it was really interesting to read Leanne’s blog on the same subject. She did an awesome job as she always does! Your empathy shines when you are doing your YouTube and podcast interviews. You bring out the best in people. Thanks for your comment, I hope you’re having a lovely week too


  8. You have so nailed it Christina in this post because of your lived experiences. I reckon that having these recent times in your life “from the patient perspective” has given you some pause for thought. My husband, is a wise and gentle soul who has learned much from his lived experience and from Uni training as a counsellor and he helped me understand what empathy was. He is so good at it too.

    I echo your words about blogging and the community. When I shared my cancer news back in May 2017 I had such a “wrap around” of love…it helped me immensely.

    Thanks so much for linking up for Life This Week #231. Glad to have you add your post as part of the community here. Next week. the optional prompt is Good. Hope to see you there. Denyse.


  9. I’ve never thought of empathy in quite these terms. I always thought that in order to be empathetic I truly had to experience what the other experienced. But I love this idea of empathy allowing another the opportunity to vent and be heard. I do not have to offer advice, I simply need to be a listening ear.


    • Hi Molly, yes that’s what I was trying to get across. Just listening can be empathetic because it allows the person to get it off their chest. Thankyou so much for your input, I really appreciate it. Christina


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