WISE Talk: Sympathy vs. Empathy

March 8, 2017

Parents sometimes are confused about the difference between sympathy and empathy. Sympathy is really feeling sorry for someone. It’s really feeling sad about a situation that’s happening for someone, but it’s not the same thing as empathy. What kids really need and what they need to learn is empathy and how to be empathetic with others.

Empathy is like if you’re down in a deep, dark pit and I climb down with you and I say to you, “It’s really dark down here. Wow, it’s pretty cold down here. Wow, how are we going to get out of here?” That’s really empathy. That’s stepping into your shoes and figuring out what it is that you’re feeling and how to solve the problem.

Sympathy is looking down at the hole and saying, “Hey, you want a sandwich?” It’s not really the same thing. It’s not going to help. So you want to try to empathize with your kids, really try to get in their shoes and say, “I can tell by your body that you’re feeling this way,” or “Gosh, it’s scary to have that feeling. Yeah, that must be really hard for you.” Really empathizing.

You’d be amazed to see what comes out from kids’ mouths when you empathize with them versus just feeling sorry for them. You’re teaching them to really solve problems, and that’s really one of the keys.

Until next week, Be Wise!

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