It is through weakness and vulnerability that most of us learn empathy and compassion and discover our souls.-Desmond Tutu
There is a lot of chat these days about a need for increased compassion and empathy, but did you know most people confuse the two? When we read that quote above, it is clear that the very things required for human beings to exhibit compassion and empathy are the same things that make us hope that when we hit hard times, someone will offer them to us. So, what are the differences between compassion and empathy?
WHAT IS COMPASSION?
Compassion is deep sympathy and sorrow for another stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.
Compassion is an emotional response to the pain of others. It’s an emotion that we feel in response to the difficulties that others are experiencing. However, compassion is not just about feeling sorry for someone suffering; it also includes a desire to help.
WHAT IS EMPATHY?
Empathy is a word that has been used in many different contexts and for many different meanings. It’s essential to be clear about what we mean when we use the word empathy, so let’s break it down.
Empathy is the cornerstone of emotional intelligence and develops through various practices. It is an emotional response to someone else’s situation from which we try to understand their feelings and thoughts.
Empathy is often confused with compassion because it is rooted in our ability to imagine what someone else might be going through. Still, empathy is the ability to understand and share another person’s feelings.
Empathy is a type of social skill that involves understanding what someone else might be feeling. It can also entail imagining oneself in someone else’s place by trying to understand what they might be thinking or feeling. This process can help people better connect with others and become more understanding of their experiences.
WHAT ARE SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF COMPASSION?
When we think of a compassionate person, we think of someone kind, caring and understanding.
But some signs can help us know if someone is compassionate.
For example, they might ask questions regarding what the other person needs. They also could search for meaningful ways to help them feel better or to improve their situation.
It is crucial to know the characteristics of a compassionate person so we can identify them.
When an individual is showing compassion they:
Show genuine interest in other people’s lives.
Practice listening attentively to others when they speak.
Ask questions about how their day went, their interests, and their dreams.
Acknowledge how difficult a situation might be for others to handle.
Offer emotional support without any judgment, criticism, or agenda.
WHAT ARE SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF EMPATHY?
Empathy is beneficial in today’s world because it can help us understand other people’s points of view and make decisions based on what they might want. It can also help us feel less lonely or isolated when we are feeling down through relational expression.
We might hear someone refer to themselves as empathetic – often, empathy is conflated with compassion. Although they are both trademarks of genuine caring and concern, there is a difference between compassion and empathy.
When an individual is showing empathy they:
Listen without interrupting – they genuinely hear the person speaking to them.
Show concern for other people’s feelings.
Comfort others while they are upset or distressed over a situation.
Refrain from inserting their opinion or advice without solicitation.
Understand that every person is an individual with their own identity and set of circumstances (and recognize that this may impact their feelings).
HOW TO UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COMPASSION AND EMPATHY (IN LAYMAN’S TERMS)
A person who has compassion for others will try to do something about their problems but does not do so by feeling sorry for them.
A person with empathy will try to understand what it feels like for others, regardless of whether they are not experiencing any pain themselves.WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN COMPASSION AND EMPATHY? Click To Tweet