If we asked ourselves, what do we prefer as a reaction from others, sympathy or empathy?
Most of us would prefer empathy. We want people to understand and share our feelings. We do not want pity or sorrow.
Sympathy normally involves this attempt to makes us ‘feel’ better, actually more trying to get us to not moan and ‘suck it up’ and get on. People say things like ‘well at least the other leg is OK’ or ‘could have been worse, you could have been killed’ or ‘well at least you’ve got some savings’. The list could go on.
What most of us want is someone to listen, to understand, to be able to be in our shoes, and to share the feelings. We do not want solutions or opinions or judgements, we want someone to share it with, someone who relates to how we are feeling.
The world offers sympathy, which is seen as kind, yet I would question that. I think the kind thing to do, is not to say ‘shut up moaning and count your blessings, and get on’, it is to listen, relate, understand and share the feelings of others. Helping them to understand that you have experienced what they are feeling, it’s normal, it’s OK and that you have dealt with it.
The reason there is little empathy, is it requires more time, more understanding and perhaps will lead to challenging how we deal with things in life.
The world would be a more harmonious place if we choose empathy rather than sympathy. Understanding others requires compromise and it requires bravery.