Learn with ABA English – “Empathy vs. Sympathy”

Good day to you all!

There is a popular video going around the internet right now on the difference between “empathy” and “sympathy”. We really enjoyed it and would like to share it with you.

First of all, let’s have a quick look at the dictionary definitions of these two words:

Empathy – the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions.

Sympathy – the feeling that you care about and are sorry about someone else’s trouble, grief, misfortune, etc.

Ok, now let’s continue:

1. Read the text
2. Understand the vocabulary
3. Watch the video


So what is empathy and why is it very different than sympathy? Empathy fuels connection, sympathy drives disconnection.

Empathy is very interesting. Teresa Wiseman is a nursing scholar who studied very diverse professions where empathy is relevant and came up with four qualities of empathy: perspective taking, the ability to take the perspective of another person or recognize their perspective as their truth; staying out of judgment, not easy when you enjoy it as much as most of us do; recognizing emotion in other people and then communicating that.

Empathy is feeling with people. And to me I always think of empathy as this sacred space, when someone is in a deep hole and they shout out from the bottom and they say: “I’m stuck, it’s dark, I’m overwhelmed”. And then we say “Hey, I’m down, I know what it’s like down here and you’re not alone”.

Sympathy is “oh, it’s bad, huh? erm, you want a sandwich?”

Empathy is a choice and it’s a vulnerable choice because in order to connect with you, I have to connect with something in myself that knows that feeling.

Rarely, if ever, does an empathic response begin with “at least”. And we do it all the time, because someone just shared something with us that’s incredibly painful and we’re trying to silver line it.

“I had a miscarriage”

“At least you know you can get pregnant”

“I think my marriage is falling apart

“At least you have a marriage”

“John’s getting kicked out of school”

“At least he was an A student”

But one of the things we do sometimes in the face of very difficult conversations is we try to make things better. If I share something with you that’s very difficult, I would rather you say “I don’t even know what to say right now, I am just so glad that you told me”.

Because the truth is rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is connection.


empathy2_2766929kFuels – to give support or strength to (something).

Drives – to cause (someone) to behave in a particular way.

Relevant – relating to a subject in an appropriate way.

Stuck – difficult or impossible to move from a position.

Overwhelmed – to affect (someone) very strongly.

Silver Lining – something good that can be found in a bad situation.

Miscarriage – a condition in which a pregnancy ends too early and does not result in the birth of a live baby.

Falling apart – to become unable to live in a normal way because you are experiencing a lot of confusion or emotional pain.

In the face of – while in a situation in which you have to deal with (something or someone that is dangerous, difficult, etc.).

Rarely – not very often.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *