After a meeting at work today and watching a clip on Empathy, I was left thinking about which matters the most. The clip highlighted that to be able to empathise, one needs to be able to place themselves into a similar position emotionally to the person in question. They need to have the ability to feel the same way. They may not totally understand your problem but will be able to tell you that confidently and offer reassurance and support to you without the need to give you any answers.
Sympathy on the other hand, was described as being condescending and rather judgemental. That is not something I totally agree with. There are times when sympathy is needed. One is not always able to step into someone else’s shoes or completely comprehend their suffering. I know I would have preferred either sympathy or empathy when enduring my father’s abuse. Anything that showed some form of care and concern. Sympathy does not have to be judgemental. Yes, there are elements of pity linked with sympathy and that can be absolutely patronizing and degrading and in those cases, people ought to keep their mouths firmly closed. However, there are times when we do not know what to say. There are times that shock us so badly, that we cannot believe another human being can treat someone in such a horrific way that we are dumbfounded with horror. We cannot find any words to help but we can offer sympathy at most.
Some of us can offer empathy and relate on a different level.
The clip we watched did not show sympathy in a very complimentary way. Occasionally, I wish people wouldn’t feel they had to say something and leave things very awkward. Sympathy can leave you having to justify your pain. That, I can relate to.