Do You Need Sympathy or Empathy?

The writer working to develop an EMPATHETIC character is careful to delineate between the root word EMPATHY as it contrasts to SYMPATHY.

empathetic | adj.

As mentioned above, empathy is the root word in “empathetic,” so we must look to its definition to begin to understand character development or personality traits of an empathetic person.

Closely related to the word “compassion” in its definition, empathy is more difficult to characterize because the traits are more transparent.  A list of related words found at Merriam Webster is very helpful.

When developing this character, ask yourself how you would want to be treated in a time of trouble, frustration or worry. Then work from there.  Perhaps even a visual will help to capture your empathetic character.

The basic difference between the empathetic character with one showing sympathy is found in the fact that empathy can be shown when one has experienced the same circumstance as the person needing comfort and understanding.  Sympathy is shared when the other person has experienced a loss and comfort is being offered.

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14 thoughts on “Do You Need Sympathy or Empathy?

  1. Great tips, Sherrey! It’s important that readers can emphasize with our characters, especially the protagonist. I’m enjoying these tips.

    1. Hi, Joan! Glad you’re enjoying my A to Z journey tips. I’m enjoying it but would rather be writing on my book. ๐Ÿ™‚ Doing both is a bit tough.

  2. Empathy for sure….not so much sympathy anymore. I am not in need of sympathy as much as understanding of how drastically things have changed for me whether you realize it or not…ya know. Thanks! Great distinction.

    1. Hi, Wyndy Dee! So good to see you here. Yes, I understand that changes and transitions in life create a different need in us. Thanks for sharing that.

  3. For some reason I was just thinking about the difference between these two words just the other day!

  4. Great post, Sherrey. I think empathy is one of the most important traits we can have as human beings. Being able to honor the feelings of another is vital and connects us as people. On the contrary, we know what happens when empathy is missing. No one wants to be around the sociopath.
    Have a great weekend.

    1. Grace, hoping the rain isn’t so bad it’s keeping you from your garden. Thanks for stopping by. I agree without empathy we aren’t lovely, caring human beings. And you’re right — “no one wants to be around the sociopath.” ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Great post, I hadn’t considered the difference between empathy and sympathy in a character until now. Very helpful information!

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