109. Empathy vs. Sympathy: Exploring the Contrast and Its Meaningful Implications

In this episode, host and transformative communication coach, Alejandra Siroka explains that empathy involves truly understanding and sharing in someone else's feelings, while sympathy is more about expressing concern for another person's suffering. Throughout the episode, Alejandra draws upon her experience with Nonviolent Communication and her background in empathy studies. She provides listeners with relatable scenarios to illustrate the differences between empathy and sympathy, offering phrases that illustrate each approach.


It’s important to use these sympathetic and empathic expressions mindfully, as they can significantly impact how the other person perceives your response.  Alejandra recommends considering the potential pitfalls of relying solely on sympathy, which might inadvertently reinforce the pain or suffering of the other person, particularly in the context of traumatic experiences. Finally, Alejandra suggests experimenting with expressions of sympathy and empathy and observing how each is received by others. As we take our time and practice, we will be better able to know whether sympathy or empathy lead us to a greater sense of connection in our daily conversations.



• “In a nutshell, empathy is about understanding or trying to understand. There's an old proverb that is a great example of empathy and it goes like this, “You can't judge a person until you walk a mile in their shoes.” So, one way of remembering empathy is that when there's empathy, there is no judgment.” (11:31 | Alejandra Siroka)

• “When you express empathy, you are in the feeling or trying to be in the feeling with the other person. When you say something such as, “You worked so hard for it and I know you have all the skills to get that promotion,” you're showing that your intention is to look at the situation in the same way, and perhaps with the same emotions that the other person is experiencing.” (09:45 | Alejandra Siroka)

• “When you respond with sympathy, and say something like, ‘Poor you, that sucks, I'm sorry that happened to you,’ you are conveying that you are with a feeling that may be similar to what the other person is experiencing and that you yourself feel badly, or sorry, that the other person is suffering or going through a painful experience.” (12:07 | Alejandra Siroka)



To Give Alejandra a birthday gift and enter a raffle to win a 45-minute mini communication session with Alejandra, visit: languagealchemy.com/podcastbirthday 

To join the Language Alchemy mailing list, visit: https://www.languagealchemy.com

To ask questions you'd like Alejandra to answer in the podcast, visit: https://www.languagealchemy.com/podcastquestion

To find out about 1:1 transformative communication coaching with Alejandra, visit: https://www.languagealchemy.com/oneonone

To find out about couple transformative communication coaching with Alejandra, visit: https://www.languagealchemy.com/couples

To schedule a reduced-rate coaching consultation with Alejandra, visit: https://www.languagealchemy.com/newclient

To follow Alejandra on instagram follow @languagealchemy

Podcast Music composed by Gary Lapow: open.spotify.com/artist/1HlMhcNfKIELxYil5mVqD


Podcast production and show notes provided by HiveCast.fm