When a friend is suffering from some misfortune, loss, or stressful experience, we want to be able to commiserate in a way that is both helpful and supportive. Whether it’s a physical problem, like a health issue, or an emotional problem, like a breakup from a romantic partner, how do we respond in a way that emanates warmth and understanding? Do we offer sympathy or empathy?
What Is Empathy?
Empathy and sympathy are similar, yet they differ in how they can make one who is suffering feel. Empathy is a sense that you can understand and share the feelings of another. This “shared” experience can generate a profound understanding because you attempt to know what it’s like to “walk in their shoes.”