Relationship Tip: Empathy Versus Sympathy


Do you need a VERY POWERFUL AND CRUCIAL relationship tip? Have you ever had your spouse tell you “I just need you to listen and empathize with me!”? Maybe you even practiced active listening with your spouse, BUT the feedback you got was: “I don’t need you feel sorry for me! Just say something! Anything!” At that point, you might have said: “But you wanted me to listen! Nothing I say or do is good enough for you!” Watch this short movie and learn the difference between empathy and sympathy.

My guess is that one of the many reasons why relationships and communication can be hard is because we confuse these two terms (or we automatically go into the fixing mode!) Brene Brown said that sympathy drives disconnection and EMPATHY DRIVES CONNECTION.

Remember, it takes a lot of practice to be truly empathetic, so don’t get discouraged if it is hard for you to empathize with your spouse. Also, being truly empathetic requires a lot of courage because we need to let ourselves feel the pain/sadness/fear of others, and that can cause us feel all of these intense emotions ourselves.

If you find yourself feeling angry, resentful, and constantly frustrated with your spouse and empathy is the LAST thing you can think of, that might be a sign that your relationship needs a tune-up!


Reader Interactions


  1. Tobias Armstrong says

    I think the difference between sympathy and empathy is one that cannot be overstated. It really can be scary to allow yourself to feel the pain and fear that your spouse is feeling, but in my experience it really can lead to a stronger connection. Thanks for sharing.

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