Difference between sympathy & empathy

This article will give you a deeper insight on the difference between sympathy and empathy while sharing some tips on how to be more empathic in your life. Keep on reading if you’re willing to dig deeper.


You may have heard these two words “Sympathy” and “Empathy” many times in your life, but do you truly know their meaning? Words can have a very profound impact, in both the way you relate to people and the way you embody their significance.


This article will give you a more profound insight on the meaning and the difference of these two powerful words, with the hope to inspire you to embrace your empathy for both yours and the collective’s good. Keep on reading if you’re willing to be more empathic in your life!

Sympathy vs empathy

There’s such a thin line between these two words, it’s really easy to get them confused.

Sympathy is more of feeling pity for another whether Empathy is the understanding we can give to another.

Difference between sympathy and empathy


While empathy comes from the heart, most of the time sympathy comes from the ego, having opinions about how the other person might feel and sometimes having judgments on what the other person must do. Empathy, instead, is a safer emotion. Showing empathy gives space to another to take charge of whichever feeling – whether good or bad – sympathy usually rises only in negativity. Through empathy it is possible to feel someone else’s emotions as part of your own, with acceptance, understanding, and love.

Showing sympathy


Showing sympathy is not negative. I’m sure that if you’re being sympathetic towards someone it’s because you care and deep down, you’re trying to make them feel better, by showing that you understand that they’re having a bad time. 


You are probably showing sympathy by:

  • Saying how sorry you are about the situation
  • Expressing it through body language like patting someone on the shoulder or hugging them
  • Checking up on people through phone calls, sending a card etc.
  • Encouraging them to leave the house and do something


Saying how sorry you are about the situation:


Definitely showing your concern is better than nothing, but sometimes, especially in hardships, words can be really meaningless for someone who’s facing a really bad time. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t express how sorry you are, but maybe you should consider going a bit deeper to balance the situation.


Expressing it through body language like hugging someone or patting them on the shoulder:


When words lack, the body speaks. Another way you might be showing sympathy towards another is by hugging them, patting them on the shoulder, or putting your arm around their neck… ways to show you are close to them, but without speaking.


Checking up on people through phone calls, cards etc:


Showing your presence to someone in need doesn’t necessarily have to be physical. Through making a phone call, sending a card or a letter you can show sympathy to another. Whether you don’t have the time to be physically there or you feel emotionally vulnerable, this is a great alternative.


Encouraging them to leave the house and do something:


If what you have is time, you can give some of it to the person in need by encouraging them to leave the house and do something else in order to not be too much in their head, get distracted and spend some carefree time.

Encouraging them to leave the house and do something:


Showing empathy


Showing empathy to a person in need is the best way to make them feel seen and understood. Through being empathic it is possible to truly help each other heal.


Ways of showing empathy are:

  • Being present
  • Open up about a similar experience 
  • Repeat back what they have said 
  • Acknowledge their pain


Being present:


Being present is the best way to show love and support in a moment of need. Whether presence is shown by actually doing something together, or simply sitting in silence… It can be all that the other person needs in order to feel safe, seen and supported.


Open up about a similar experience:


Making someone feel understood is such a deep and meaningful act of service. Through sharing a similar experience, you give space to another to feel acknowledged; from a sense of loneliness to one of safety.


Repeat back what they have said so they can hear themselves:


Repeating what they have said is such a simple act that can feel so precious to the other person, allowing them to feel heard but also to hear themselves. It is a great way to show your presence, while also being a mirror.


Acknowledge their pain:


People in pain just want to be heard. Through acknowledging their pain, you help them feel appreciated and supported. It shows you are trying to understand, and making them feel understood is probably the best gift you could ever give them.

Repeat back what they have said so they can hear themselves


Empathy as a ripple of positive change


Showing more empathy will never go wrong! When you are empathetic towards others, you allow them not to feel alone in their problems and grant access to thoughts and emotions to beautifully flow.


When you are being empathic towards another, you are contributing in bettering the collective’s energies too. It starts from you but it expands to everyone else. If we consciously help each other heal and walk each other home, we can create a ripple of incredibly positive change that will become a domino effect of healing souls who strive to better the community.


Empathy also dissolves shame which is one of the lowest vibrational energies we can feel – you can dig deeper into dealing with shame here.

Empathy as a ripple of positive change


How can I show more empathy?


So here are some tips to be more empathic, which you can try incorporating in your day to day life in order to experience a more empathic life for both you and the ones who surround you.


  • Try not to judge
  • Listen without advice
  • Show emotional support
  • Be a mirror
  •  Actively participate in the conversation 


Try not to judge 


This one is harder than it sounds as judging has become too common nowadays. Opinions and judgments will not help the other person, on the contrary, they might make them feel closed up to sharing with you anything else that might be happening in their life/might be passing through their mind. It’s important to never assume, in order not to shut off a conversation.


Listen without advice


This tip goes hand in hand with the previous one, yet there is a difference. While being judgy or giving unwanted opinions can be negative, advice is usually well accepted. Though, in order to show empathy, it is sometimes truly recommended to listen with full openness, without giving any advice.

Many times someone who is in need to talk only wishes to be listened to. Being able to truly listen in silence, with openness and love is all they might be craving for.


Show emotional support


Support might be the only thing they’re seeking! You can show your emotional support in infinite ways, from listening, to being present, to speaking positive affirmations, to having their back in a moment of need. Being emotionally supportive will help them feel secure, loved and taken care of.


Be a mirror


Everyone experiences hardships in their own personal ways. Being a mirror to their body language, or their communicating process is a great way to show empathy in a moment of need. Maybe reciprocating by sharing a personal fact after a personal fact is being shared, or trying to imitate their body language – for example look away if they’re not staring at you or hug them if they’re feeling more needy.


 Actively participate in the conversation 


Being active in an intense conversation will help you stay more focused in truly understanding what the other person is trying to communicate, while also giving feedback that will make them realise they’re being listened to with full attention and comprehension.

 Actively participate in the conversation


By incorporating these into your daily life, whenever someone is trying to communicate something deep and meaningful to them, you can slowly start embodying empathy that with time, will truly become one with your being. Empathy takes time to embody, but once it is part of you it will be impossible not to embrace it in all aspects of life.

This is the main difference between sympathy vs empathy – sympathy arises only in hardships, while empathy can become a way of living, not only for you but for the community too!


Find empathy through nature


There also are external ways to connect with your empathy, or to become a more empathetic person. Plants can be a magic source to help us connect with togetherness. Participating in a plant medicine retreat can be life changing – once you experience oneness in community and in nature, it is impossible to forget. 


Everyone is going through something


We all go through hardships, why don’t we all help each other a little more? Yes, showing sympathy is definitely a beautiful helping hand, but showing empathy in your everyday’s life can be a ripple of positive change which creates a beneficial shift for your loved ones and for the community.


Why don’t we all just be a little more kind and understanding with each other? Could you imagine the change?


“I believe empathy is the most essential quality of civilization.” – Roger Ebert.


Whether you’re someone who’s looking to be more empathic, you’re craving to find a supporting community of like minded souls, you’re interested in reading more inspiring topics or curious of participating in one of our retreats… we are here for you, like a warm hug in a moment of need.

[To be continued..]

In deepest service and prayer, from the Strength of All I AM,
Trinity de Guzman & Your Highest Truth


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