Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy (With Table)

Empathy vs Sympathy

We, humans, are strongly driven by feelings and experiences.

We feel contented and comfortable when surrounded by our friends and family. We love to be loved, and most of our behavior traits and perspective towards life is build because of this environment.

We perceive what we want to but there come many instances in our life when we feel helpless and broken. And in that scenario, two things come into existence in our life “Empathy” and “Sympathy“.

Both of these words are often confused by people as they are related to the human psychology of relation.

In simple words, Empathy is a sense of feeling and Sympathy is a sense of the action of feeling.

When somebody holds the ability to understand the feeling of another and share or sense the same it is called Empathy, whereas Sympathy is a feeling or sense of sorry for someone who is in a bad state.

Empathy makes the person feel alongside and connect with another but Sympathy makes the person feel pity for another as they evaluate what others might be feeling with.


Comparison Table Between Empathy and Sympathy (in Tabular Form)

Parameter of ComparisonEmpathySympathy
DefinitionBeing aware of and understanding the feelings or emotional state of the person is called Empathy. The person who is empathizing either might have gone through the same emotional state or is strongly connected with the person.Sympathy starts with judging where a person understands the feeling of the other person by evaluating their state of mind and condition. In Sympathy, a person feels sorry or pities others.
Starts WithEmpathy starts with a sense of feeling. No evaluation as a person feels connected with another.Sympathy starts with evaluating the condition or situation of another person.
Relate ToPersonal Experience
Action TypeFeelingExpression
Example“I know how difficult it is to lose weight because I have also faced problems when I started.”“Losing weight is just like an uphill battle.”


What is Empathy?

Empathy means being aware of, understanding, being emotionally inclined, and sensitive towards the feelings of another person with a sense of experience.

The objective of Empathy is to personally connect with the person.

Empathy gives the ability to a person to imagine or experience people’s emotions. It is divided into two types i.e. “Affective” and “Cognitive” Empathy. 

Affective empathy means the feelings and sensations that one gets as a response from others as an emotion i.e. a person experiences the same feeling as another person has gone through.

And Cognitive empathy means the ability to understand and identify the emotions of the other where the person has not gone through or experienced the same situation, because of which it is also referred to as perspective-taking.

Empathy holds its roots in our mental state and psychology where we easily get associated with others’ feelings.

For example, if Person A has done some kind of activity and founds Person B doing the same, then he/she can easily comprehend the situation and associate its repercussions.

Empathy doesn’t imply helping someone but it is a compassionate act that shows a person is there for another.

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Empathy puts the person into the same place.

Empathy is a vital sense of humans where their psychology drives them.

It is not restricted to any age as well i.e. a sensitive kid might feel empathy for others. 

Qualities That Define Empathy are:

  1. Feeling or sensing with
  2. Evaluation of the situation doesn’t happen
  3. A person is not judged
  4. The perspective of the person is experienced

Emotions of the other person are felt and experience and then communication starts.


What is Sympathy?

Sympathy can be termed as an act of evaluation and judgment of the others’ state and then express the feeling.

It means feeling sorry for someone else because of their condition or situation or what has happened with them.

Whenever we heard something wrong has happened with the person whom we know, we say “I sympathize you or My sympathy is with you.” Sympathy is also connected with human psychology but it’s an expression on the situation.

Sympathy is the ability to recognize suffering not feeling. Sympathy is always expressed and heartfelt with or without emotions. 

It involves caring but with limitation of emotions.

Sympathy can also be referred to as a feeling of loyalty where a person feels united in the action but does not experience it.

Qualities That Define Sympathy are:

  1. Sensing the condition or action
  2. Evaluation of the situation is the first step
  3. A person is judged basis situation or condition can be heartfelt but not experienced
Sympathy 1

Main Differences Between Empathy and Sympathy

In the time of emotional stress, difficult situations, personal loss, hardships, etc.

We all seek a strong support system around us and we do find people who care for us.

But still, the kind of care that we get has its meaning and representation.

Some empathize whereas some sympathizes, which is difficult to differentiate.

We must know the difference between Empathy and Sympathy not because we want to differentiate the behavior and characteristics of people but to limit ourselves i.e. our behavior and our attitude.

  1. Empathy is a strong feeling of connecting with somebody or with someone who is in pain or trouble, whereas Sympathy is based on conditional attributes of the situation and then the action is being taken or felt sorry for another person.
  2. Empathy creates a feeling of association, whereas Sympathy is an act of understanding.
  3. Evaluation of the situation is not done on Empathy, whereas in Sympathy evaluation is the first step of the conversation.
  4. People are not judged in Empathy, whereas Sympathy judge people.
  5. Empathy might not involve conversation only gestures and expressions can express the feeling of the person, whereas in Sympathy conversation happens.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Empathy and Sympathy

  1. Can you feel empathy without sympathy?

    No, empathy cannot be felt without feeling sympathy.

    Empathy means to feel the problem which the other person is facing by putting yourself in their shoes, which can only be done if you first show sympathy to the other person.

    Thus empathizing is the second step to sympathizing.

  2. Is saying sorry sympathy or empathy?

    Saying sorry to someone can be both sympathy and empathy, depending on the situation. If you are feeling sorry for someone then it is sympathy.

    But, if you feel the pain with which the other person is going through and then feel sorry, then it comes under empathy.

  3. Is pity empathy?

    Pity is a sense of sadness that one can feel when the other person has suffered or is suffering from trauma.

    Feeling pity is different from empathy as in this case, feeling the exact pain of the other person is not at all required and it is not necessary to go through the exact feelings with which the other person is going through.

  4. What do you say to show empathy?

    Empathy can be shown in many ways to the person.

    Some of them are as follows:
    By keeping your voice level low and polite, by making proper eye contact, by having a light smile on your face, by constantly nodding to what the other person is saying, by initiating conversation with them, by understanding their priorities and by helping them in coping up from this situation.

  5. Is empathy a weakness?

    In most of the scenarios, empathy turns out to be a strength. This is because if a person is able to get into the shoes of the person every time, then this will help him to resolve the majority of the matters in his life.

    But at some points, it can turn out to be a weakness as well because if the suffering by the other person is traumatic, then this will have a negative effect on your mind.

  6. Can empathy be taught?

    Initially, it was believed that empathy cannot be taught, people are born with it. But over time, researchers have proved that empathy can be taught to individuals.

    The medical institutes nowadays are teaching the students to be empathetic with the patients in order to understand human behavior in a much better and improved way.

  7. What is a sentence for empathy?

    A sentence that shows empathy is as follows: She’d been incapable of showing empathy or remorse.

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The emotions of people are basic building blocks when they create relationships with others. And Empathy and Sympathy also play a significant role in that relationship building.

Empathy and Sympathy are two mutually exclusive feelings or senses.

One may receive sympathy from many or one can sympathize with many but the person who has gone through or experienced the same condition can only show Empathy.

Both create the ability in humans to understand or comprehend the situation or problem of others but the extent or sense of feeling draws a line of difference between them.


Word Cloud for Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy

The following is a collection of the most used terms in this article on Empathy and Sympathy. This should help in recalling related terms as used in this article at a later stage for you.

Empathy vs Sympathy
Word Cloud for Credit Empathy and Sympathy



  1. https://www.amhcajournal.org/doi/pdf/10.17744/mehc.32.2.228n116thw397504
  2. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2003-02621-019