Compassion Vs Empathy – What Is The Difference?

Last Update on January 29, 2024 : Published on January 7, 2024
Differences between Compassion and Empathy

Have you ever wondered why you help someone when you see them suffering or having a problem? Is it because you feel the need, or is there an inner voice that tells you to help them? It is because of two deeply ingrained aspects: empathy and compassion. These terms are the basis of our humanity, yet most people don’t know much about them and confuse them. Hence, to clarify things, we will discuss this in this post, and we will understand how they differ,  their advantages, and disadvantages.

Compassion and empathy are essential for building deeper and stronger relationships with others. They help in connecting and understanding others. Whether supporting a friend during a difficult period or a family member during a challenging time, you can be by their side as you feel empathy and compassion for them.

When you are compassionate, you connect emotionally with the person; when you are empathetic, you can understand what the other person is going through. To learn more about them in detail, keep reading.

What is Compassion Look Like?

Compassion is understanding and connecting with someone emotionally and genuinely wanting to help them without being asked for. It is like putting oneself in someone’s shoes, understanding their need, and showing kindness that helps deal with negative emotions. For example, when you notice

someone needing help while crossing the street, and your help is what is being compassionate.

Due to this, compassion and empathy are often confused, but they are different. While empathy is understanding what others feel, compassion is one step ahead. It helps them reduce their suffering.

Empathy makes you connect with someone emotionally and be supportive. However, it alone can’t work.  On the other hand, compassion is empathy in action. It is understanding the other person’s problems and giving them a hand to soothe their issues. It involves taking an action step as it is the driving force that makes you kind and generous.

Compassion is about recognizing others equally and extending a helping hand, even when you might not understand what they are going through.

This explains compassion motivates to do an action while empathy helps establish connections. They have a meaningful impact and create a more caring and supportive world.

What is Empathy?

Empathy is a quality deeply ingrained within all humans. It makes you caring, kind, and instinctual. It makes you capable of comprehending and establishing a connection with the emotions of others and is called cognitive empathy.

When one practices empathy, one can reap several benefits and enjoy them. An empath always shares good relationships, is appreciated by others, and is welcomed professionally and personally.

However, there is a drawback to empathy,  called emotional empathy. It happens when an empath actively participates in others’ pain, comprehends their situation, and shares their pain like theirs—leading to different issues like biases and even acts of cruelty.

In addition, researchers have done several studies and stated that empathy is well-intentioned but not completely impartial, impeding relationships and hindering the ability to lead others effectively. Also, it unconsciously inclines you to be more sympathetic towards individuals with similar experiences or backgrounds.

Consequently, this hinders connecting with individuals whose experiences differ from yours, as empathy is sowed in the sense of similarity, which is essential because biases are inevitable. For instance, we can feel connected to people we know compared to total strangers. Likewise, if a natural calamity impacts home and neighborhood, it will evoke more intense emotions even when there is no connection with those affected.

What is the Difference Between Empathy and Compassion?

When we look at the definitions of compassion and empathy, they look alike, as both are emotions, but it is important to remember that they are not the same. Empathy is a precursor of compassion.

For instance, to connect with a person, you need an emotional connection, which comes with compassion. However, to feel their pain, you need to have a connection and put so much into it that their pain feels like your own, and this can happen only when you are an empath. This is what sets both empathy and compassion apart.

Compassion Empathy
Compassion allows you to detach yourself from the suffering of the person you are involved with. It is an instinctual feeling that cannot be controlled.
When you are only compassionate, you can be on the back foot and stop yourself from getting too involved. When you are empathetic, you are too involved in other’s problems.
Compassion makes you acknowledge the suffering and, at the same time, avoid being overwhelmed You acknowledge the suffering and get too involved in it that your well-being starts to deteriorate.
You can help the one suffering through spiritual well-being. You get so involved that, at one point, you feel like it is your own story.
Compassion is making a conscious decision. The decisions an empath makes are never taken consciously. Emotions and feelings always guide them.

Pros and Cons of Empathy

Both compassion and empathy are required for survival, but this doesn’t mean they don’t have a downside. If not managed properly, they, too, have negative consequences.

Advantages of Empathy

  • It helps connect with others and their problems.
  • It helps build a healthy and long-lasting relationship essential for living a fulfilled life.
  • Serves as a basis for compassion.
  • It helps one be a better person.
  • It helps see things differently and from others’ perspective.

Disadvantages of Empathy

Although empathy is amazing, it still has downsides. Here, we list some of the disadvantages of empathy.

  • It is cognitive biases.
  • Empathetic people relate more to similar people who display the same feelings.
  • Empaths cannot relate and get along well with those who oppose them or don’t think alike.
  • Are not good for decision-making because understanding the situation the other person is in might cloud the judgment.
  • It can lead to emotional exhaustion. The more the person gets involved with others and their problems, the more the chances of them getting emotionally vulnerable and dealing with emotional well-being issues.
  • Empathy can trap a person in a cycle of sadness, anger, or loneliness.

Whether empathy or compassion, we must learn to master our emotions rather than dwell in them.

Pros and Cons of compassion

As explained, compassion and empathy are different, as are their benefits and drawbacks. Where one is about emotional connection, the other is about taking action. Here are some of the advantages of compassion.

Advantages of Compassion

  • Compassion is about taking action.
  • It is not about sucking up all the energy of the other person. It is about reciprocation.
  • Compassion makes one feel less anxious and depressed and have decreased stress levels.
  • It helps boost confidence and self-esteem.

Disadvantages of Compassion

  • Excess of anything is harmful. The same is true for compassion. The more compassion a person has, the greater the chances of “compassion fatigue.”
  • Caregivers and helpers are more prone to compassion fatigue.
  • Compassion can lead to physical symptoms, including anxiety, depression, difficulty concentrating, aggression, and a detachment from reality.
  • There is no set boundary for how much one can be compassionate. It can go to any lengths.
  • It is not always easy to understand as sometimes, when you try to be nice and over-compassionate, you might enable negative behaviors.
  • It can interfere with well-being and impede personal growth.

Compassion Vs Empathy

How do you Practice Compassion?

Each day is a new day and another chance to develop compassion. Here, we explain some common ways in which you can practice compassion.

1. Contribute to the greater good:

Blaming others and picking on them is easy, but playing our part is complicated. Therefore, try to contribute more to be compassionate and promote your and others’ well-being. It is essential for a meaningful life.

Be it at the office, home, or any other place, when you find someone in need, try to help them. If you can’t do it financially, try to be an active listener and understand their pain and what they have been through. True compassion involves actively participating in other’s issues and suffering, regardless of your relationship.

2. Be an active listener:

Sometimes, one needs someone who can listen to and understand them without judgment. If you notice that your colleague, friend, family member, or anyone you know needs help or is sad, a kind and compassionate response can help them overcome the issue and find a solution.

A compassionate response says they are in a judgment-free zone and can freely express themselves. Refrain yourself from sharing your own experiences or trying to fix their problems. Just be present and listen actively.

3. Perform acts of kindness:

Even the smallest acts of compassion and kindness can make a significant difference during difficult times. It’s remarkable how bringing happiness to someone else can also bring joy to your heart. Engaging in selfless acts of kindness brings a sense of fulfillment and surpasses the satisfaction of selfish pursuits.

4. Engage in loving-kindness meditation:

Loving-kindness meditation, also called meta meditation, is a beautiful practice deeply rooted in the Buddhist tradition. It has the power to cultivate empathy and altruism towards others.

Start by directing warm and positive thoughts towards your loved ones, and gradually extend them to acquaintances and even those who challenge you. This meditation is a nurturing space to train and develop compassion within yourself.

5. Prioritize self-care:

It’s important to remember that constantly helping others without taking care of yourself can lead to compassion fatigue or burnout. Practicing self-compassion is crucial. Treat your emotional well-being with the same level of care and kindness that you would extend to others.

By incorporating these practices into your daily life, you can nurture and expand your compassion capacity, benefiting yourself and those around you.

How do you build Empathy in Yourself?

Learning how to effectively manage empathy and channel it into acts of compassion can transform one’s life. Here are three valuable tips to help you make the most of this innate response:

Do you want to know how to regulate empathy and channelize it in an act of compassion? See how it can transform an individual’s life by following the points below.

1. Consider the below causes for empathy.

When you find yourself surrounded by someone else’s emotions, thinking that they are yours, take a break to respond on why and how this link exists. It is possible that their situation and condition resemble yours, or it might reveal that you are inventing a more profound sense of emotions. You could sufficiently comprehend the other individual’s feelings by probing the causes behind the empathy.

2. Immerse in the mindful empathy.

Several times, feeling overwhelmed by empathic distress can lead to inappropriate reactions towards the person in pain. To create emotional distance, try observing these feelings with a nonjudgmental sense of calmness. Mindfulness techniques or meditation can be helpful tools in training yourself to achieve this balance.

3. Take compassionate action.

Direct your empathetic feelings towards acts of compassion. Extend your condolences to those grieving, or offer support and care to those suffering. When you and another person share the experience of pain, taking action to alleviate it can be a healing and cathartic process for both parties involved. Ultimately, compassion provides a meaningful outlet for your empathy.

Remember, by mastering the art of managing empathy and channeling it into compassionate actions, you can make a positive difference in your own life and the lives of others.

Compassion and empathy are both important.

To foster empathy and compassion in our daily lives, it is crucial to cultivate an environment that supports these qualities. Additionally, it can be beneficial to distinguish between empathy and compassion. If you find yourself or someone you know facing challenges in developing these essential skills, do not hesitate to contact a coach for assistance.

Listening is an incredibly powerful tool for showing empathy and compassion. It doesn’t require having all the answers but being present for someone and allowing them to share their thoughts and burdens. By doing so, you can provide them with a sense of relief and support.

Another way empathy can make a difference is by acknowledging and validating someone’s emotions. Too often, people are dismissed or told to “get over it” when their feelings are significant. By understanding and affirming their emotions, you can go a long way in showing love and empathy.

Lastly, there are times when a simple gesture like a hug can have a profound impact. Individuals dealing with anxiety or depression often crave human connection to feel better. Something as small as a hug can brighten their day and remind them that kindness exists. Let’s strive to be compassionate and kind-hearted individuals.

About The Author

Ayush Yadav
Ayush Yadav

Aayush is a writer, and storyteller who is passionate about using words to help drive positive change and make people aware about the history. He holds a bachelor's in law, lives in the princely state Jaipur and is passionate about helping people in anyway possible. In his spare time, he is usually out with friends and enjoys exploring different facets of life.

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