Why Empathy Is More Supportive Than Sympathy

When we think about supporting others, it’s easy to default to feeling sympathy for them. After all, when we see someone going through a tough time, our first instinct is often to feel bad for them. However, while sympathy is certainly a step in the right direction, empathy is actually a more supportive response. Here’s why.

1. Empathy allows us to truly understand what others are going through.

When we feel sympathy for someone, it’s often because they’ve shared a specific problem or struggle with us. We may listen sympathetically and attempt to provide support at the moment, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we can truly comprehend what the other person is experiencing.

On the other hand, when we feel empathy for someone, it means that we put ourselves in their shoes and try to understand their situation from a more personal point of view. We ask questions, we listen actively, and we try to imagine what they’re going through in order to better support them.

2. Empathy allows us to connect with others in a more meaningful way.

When we feel sympathy for someone, it’s often because they’re going through something that we can’t fully understand or relate to on a personal level. We may be able to offer some words of support, but ultimately there’s a sense that the other person is facing their struggle without us.

With empathy, on the other hand, we feel connected to others because we share a common experience. We can relate to them in a way that allows us to fully support and connect with them as they navigate their challenges.

3. Empathy helps us to build stronger relationships with others.

When we support someone based on sympathy alone, it can often feel like we’re doing them a favour. We may feel good about ourselves for being supportive, but the relationship itself is often one-sided.

On the other hand, when we offer empathy-based support, we’re building a stronger foundation for a mutually beneficial relationship. We’re investing in the other person and showing them that we care about their experience. This type of support creates a deeper level of trust and connection between us and the other person.

In conclusion, empathy is a more supportive response than sympathy because it allows us to truly understand what others are going through, connect with them in a more meaningful way, and build stronger relationships with them. When we offer empathy-based support, we’re helping others to feel seen, heard, and understood––and in the end, that’s what real support is all about.

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