There is a difference between empathy and sympathy. Empathy is a large concept to unpack but essentially at its core, empathy simply means “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.” Now we know this does not mean that you physically trade shoes with the person who is venting. Rather, you imagine yourself in their situation.
What would you feel like experiencing what they are experiencing?
Empathy allows us to connect with the person where s/he is emotionally. All too many times, we bypass empathy and try to place a “silver-lining” over their situation. Family and Friends may say things like, “it’s not that bad,” “it could be worse,” or “at least it’s not as bad as this.” These phrases show a lack of empathy and inadequate listening.
Phone Pals use phrases like “I am sad that happened to you,” “I wish that I could change this,” or “I’m here for you.” Sympathy is focused on feeling sorry for the person. Empathy validates a person’s feelings, sympathy does not acknowledge the feelings involved. Empathy is active, sympathy is passive. Phone Pals are here to empathize. Just talk, we will listen.