The Power of Empathy – Empathy vs Sympathy

Heather Callaghan

Would you believe we live in a culture that pushes people into pitying others – but not being there for them? To “brightside” them, but not truly comfort? Or to overreact in an attempt to “feel for them?” (and they end up having to do the comforting?)

Where have we all been? Immersed in the awkwardness of not knowing what to do? Washing our hands of it all?

Sympathy rings hollow and without love…It requires no action and is the most disengaging response to receive. It is laced with shame.

But true empathy is a powerful force like no other.

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It can be silent, but it is potent. Vulnerability requires courage, and stepping up. To be fully there.

When you really break it down; empathy and sympathy couldn’t be further apart.

Maybe you’ve heard of author and researcher Dr. Brené Brown? Or maybe you’ve seen her popular TED talk on vulnerability?

We are going to let her break down the difference between empathy and sympathy, but this is a new way to view her work.

Here words have been animated! *You might need a tissue* Powerful stuff…

This has been an RSA short with animation by Katy Davis (aka Gobblynne). Please check out their talented YouTube channel for more shorts. Image by Katy Davis, from YouTube.

Excellent work by Brené Brown:
Daring Greatly
The Gifts of Imperfection

Heather Callaghan is a natural health blogger and food freedom activist. You can see her work at and Like at Facebook.

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