26 Jun Empathetic VS SympatheticEMPATHETIC vs SYMPATHETIC answers. A co-worker, Larry, comes to you with the following concern: “I know you’re concerned that I have been coming late to our team meetings the last few weeks. Frankly, I don’t see anything productive happening with this project as far as my involvement is concerned. As a result, I am having a hard time showing much interest in it. My input no longer seems needed, and you and the rest of the team seem to have everything under control. So I don’t know if coming to the meetings any more is even necessary.” Empathetic response: “So you’re telling me you’ve lost your enthusiasm for this project because you don’t see that your contributions are valued or needed any more. Is that right?” Sympathetic response: “Don’t feel down, Larry. We truly want you on : this is a project team. Really, don’t feel sad about this.” The empathetic response addresses where the speaker is coming from — the heart of the message. The sympathetic response expresses a feeling of sorrow for the speaker but doesn’t quite exhibit an understanding of his meaning. If you spend time feeling sorry for Larry, one possibility is that he may not mind the attention he’s getting but then you don’t get to the issue regarding his involvement in the team. The other possibility here is that the sympathetic response is likely to become a major turnoff to Larry.Sometimes, people fear giving an empathetic response because it may come across as condescending just like a sympathetic response can. Can Larry respond with a retort like, “Of course, that’s what I said. What are you, deaf?” Use the following tips to minimize these kinds of reactions and make sure that empathetic responses are well received: As you’re identifying emotions that haven’t been stated and using content to summarize the situation, use your own words not the speaker’s words. You’re more likely to get a negative reaction when you mimic someone. As you check your understanding (instead of declaring that you know something), do so with a tone of sincerity. Without sincerity, your words don’t matter. People tend to respond well when others listen to understand the heart of their messages. Don’t be afraid to do so. A great aspect of active listening with empathy is that you don’t have to agree with what you hear. Maybe in this example, you’re thinking to yourself, “Larry, you big lump. What we need on this team is for you to get in there and make some contributions and not back away.” Rather than verbalizing this judgmental response — and creating a huge barrier in the conversation as a result (more about the problem of creating barriers in the following section) — listening with empathy helps you first understand where Larry is coming from. When you gain that understanding, you’re better able to reduce tension and come up with solutions.