Difference Between Empathy and 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.

Empathy vs Sympathy

The main difference between Empathy and Sympathy is that 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 vs Sympathy

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 ToPersonalExperience
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.

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

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.
Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy



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.

Key Differences Between Empathy and Sympathy (PDF Format)

Download the key differences in .PDF format, to read or print them later:

Difference Between 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
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