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Empathy versus Sympathy

Updated: Jul 1, 2019

The real agent of change is sitting with someone in their grief, instead of feeling sorry for them.

People often confuse empathy and sympathy. There are important differences.


Not exactly the same


"Empathy doesn't require that we have the exact same experiences as the person sharing their story with us...Empathy is connecting with the emotion that someone is experiencing, not the event or the circumstance."

- Brené Brown


The following cartoon short from University of Houston researcher and author Brené Brown's RSA talk explains the difference:




Validation versus Dismissal


"Empathy fuels connection; sympathy drives disconnection.

If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can't survive."

- Brené Brown

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© 2019 by Audra Potz, LMFT.

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