Empathy and fellow feeling: a deeper embrace than sympathy

The challenge with empathy is that it is harder than sympathy. Even those of us in reasonably sound mental health will know what’s meant by a phrase like ‘making sympathetic noises’ – and how little those noises might really mean to the person making them. Empathy is more demanding: you don’t just have to demonstrate the socially acceptable response to someone else’s plight, you have to be able to imagine yourself in it and then make some adjustments.

The challenge with empathy is that it is harder than sympathy. Even those of us in reasonably sound mental health will know what’s meant by a phrase like ‘making sympathetic noises’ – and how little those noises might really mean to the person making them. Empathy is more demanding: you don’t just have to demonstrate the socially acceptable response to someone else’s plight, you have to be able to imagine yourself in it and then make some adjustments.