Ever been asked what’s the difference between empathy and sympathy? No? Well, we’re asking right now because a lot of times these words are used interchangeably. While they aren’t polar opposite in meaning, the subtle difference between these words matters enough to make a difference.
Very simply, sympathy is expressing care and concern for others. Empathy asks you to go deeper and try to experience how someone is feeling – walk a mile in their shoes, so to speak. Empathy is an important skill to develop because it helps you increase rapport and connection with others. You become a kinder citizen of the world when you practice empathy. And with everything going on in the world, we all could use more kindness, love, and empathy in our lives.
It starts with Y-O-U. So, how do you build empathy?
- Remind yourself of our shared humanity. Have you ever had one of those days? You sleep through your alarm, frantically get yourself and your kids ready, but your entire day is ruined anyway? We all have our version of that kind of day. Which is why empathy is partly about cutting some slack to others and yourself.
- Be kind to yourself. Take note of when you feel grumpy or snippy with others. Many times, it’s because there’s a basic need that you’ve ignored. I know we talk about self-care all the time, but it’s just so important to fill up your cup so that you have the energy to be empathetic!
- Empathy doesn’t mean you have to have experienced what the other person is going through. But, the best way to relate to someone is to listen. Practice your listening skills and you’ll automatically become more empathetic. We’re all looking for someone who will just listen to us, right?
- Make an effort on a regular basis. Be the listening ear for your client. Or, when you ask how someone’s day is going, really listen to their response.
See? Empathy’s not so hard to practice. Make the world a better place. Start with empathy.