A film by RSA Animate.

Empathy and sympathy are not just two different approaches to confronting the emotional challenges of others; they are diametrically opposite responses in many important ways. Sympathy places another's problems at a distance from us, places us in a position of superiority, and "drives separation", says the film's narrator, Dr. Brené Brown. Empathy, on the other hand, requires that one internalize the feelings of another. That shared experience drives interpersonal connection, she says. "What makes things better is connection."


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  • Christian Fuentes

    The video emphasized the importance of genuine connection and the impact it can have on the other person.

  • Carrie Imus

    reminder to understand, not judge and to sometimes say "i don't know what to say".

  • norma

    I think Empathy is better than Sympathy because of better connection.

  • julie

    To stop and listen to what that person is saying. Plus never use the word at least.

  • letha J Jerry

    I felt i could be both

  • Ed

    clear and and want to help others

  • Kate Pakenham-Walsh

    I found ti's video and the message very emotional because it relates to a current situation I have been experiencing. Firstly my own grief and depression over the last 2yrs and a more recent one experienced by my adult son who suffering with cptsd. And this is exactly the response just about everyone has to both our situations. It's time for a change. It's not acceptable that we don't know, understand hw to communicate with empathy 🤷 is it that people just don't care about each other anymore? Or do we live in a society that forces us to ignore because we don't have time to stop and listen? I'm going to hope it's the latter 💕🌈

  • Sher

    "Connection is the key to begin with"

  • betty john

    connection makes things better to begin with

  • April Loving

    Terrific video. Empathy fuels connection.

  • Matilda L Wilson

    the choice of better communicating and making the person feel better about their situation.

  • Julie Simmons

    What makes things better is connection.

  • Norma

    I believe I am sympathy.

  • kevia stackhouse

    that empathy is more touchy than Sympathy, Empathy has a better connection as to making it better for a situation.

  • Tonya

    Being able to understand and share the feelings of others. When we put ourselves in the position of others it helps us to understand how we would feel in that situation and help us to make informed decisions.

  • FeliciaGarrett

    Empathy is a connection. Please do not judge people and remember they are human and their feelings matters. Making sure we show kindness and be helpful.

  • Teresa

    that empathy is having a connection to make it all better

  • Shaye

    The Emphases on not trying to Silverline the problem but that we try to connect with the person to help them feel our connection and that we stray away from judgement

  • ariadna facyson

    made it clear how empathy could be more touchy

  • Tabitha Lund

    Showing empathy is showing you care and have a connection and show compassion towards other situations. Being able to relate to their situations and finding solutions to better assist their situations.

  • Ad Hughie

    Knowing the difference between the two

  • Beau

    This really touched me today. I really appreciate that physically the empathy equals following the person into their own underground, throwing light just by being there so someone doesn't feel alone in their suffering. Beautiful. Thank you.

  • Leona Whitehead

    Everyone goes through something and it is not good to focus on the negative things in life we should be grateful for what we do have

  • Andrea Kemp

    Empathy renews the human connection that shows people that you care.

  • kendra mason

    Sometimes offering positivity isn't what others need, they need for someone to sit down to listen and care.

  • Nora Diaz

    understanding and having empathy about what someone is going through. Their feelings are valid and need to be validated. Not brushed over. It makes them feel a little better and appreciated it

  • Carmen

    Sympathy is still caring about the person - it's just not expressing it in a way that is helpful to the person. Empathy is connecting to that person, whether you have experienced that problem or not.

  • Elizabeth Sibbett

    That you aren't alone Empathy is a vulnerable choice, a connection Try to make things better Connection makes something better....

  • Ms. Kuki (Marilyn Figiel)

    You don't always have to fix things and situations, just connecting and having the other person know they have been heard, is good enough. That's Empathy for me. The feeling of connecting and being heard.

  • Amber Downs

    Learning the difference between empathy and sympathy and understanding how important empathy goes.

  • Eva

    it is important to know how to respond, and act while a person is going through such a hard time. Sometimes people don't know how to cope with what their going through and just to have someone show that they care can really change a person's mood.

  • Veronica

    Empathy is imagining how someone can feel under a circumstance and sympathy is knowing what or how they feel having gone through the exact same thing.

  • Kyle Bullock

    You don't have to really know someone for you to empathy for someone. You may never know what the next person may be going through and a lending ear and kind words may be what they need to make them smile for a change.

  • richelly

    This showed me the difference between listening to someone and actually being there for someone

  • Iesha .

    This Video showed me that even thou I thought I was doing right by showing sympathy to someone, empathy lets that person know I can connect with them and help more then just trying to make a person feel better with not understand what they are really saying or feeling.

  • Bebe

    I am an empathy and what inspired me was that this video makes it very easy for others to understand the difference between empathy and sympathy.

  • Wendy Spence

    Listening and just being there for someone

  • Consuelo

    Listening with your heart

  • rishana

    what I have learned is just to listen don't judge just be that happiness for the other person.

  • Sydney Gibson

    What made a tear come to my eye is that its so true in our everyday life when someone is expressing something that may be heart wrenching we sometimes do respond with the at least response instead of just lending a ear and actually hearing what the other person is stating. I loved the response of I don't even know what to say I'm just glad you told me, because in some situations we don't know what to respond and say. I'm going to definitely try it today when I go home. A friend of mine had a heart wrenching conversation with me and I did say thinking it would make her feel better the at least statement. After listening to this video I definitely will take a different approach. Thank you.

  • Malachi

    please send me recovery videos for drinking

  • shadakshary


  • connie parras

    I have a renewed outlook on the difference of empathy & sympathy which will guide how I handle these situations much better.

  • Michele Christmas

    I actually never knew the difference between sympathy and empathy. I believed they were one and the same. This video really brought a perspective in how I address others when they speak about a situation going on in their lives. No longer will I place a "silver lining" on their bad situation.

  • Serena

    This was so touching! I love Brene Brown too... she is so freaking wise. I have been empathic my whole life and am just now realizing it and it is videos like these that help give me the clarity to understand what is mine and what it is someone else's and what is the best way to go about living with this ability. I love this distinction between empath and sympathy—it makes perfect sense on so many levels. For anyone else who is experiencing similar things as I am, I found an *amazing* article that goes into even more depth on this topic here: http://www.consciouslifestylemag.com/empath-sensitive-person-guide Empathy is amazing but you have to be careful about going too far and taking on the person you are empathizing with's baggage. That has been my biggest problem over the years. Anyways, much love to you all and the wonderful folks at KarmaTube for sharing this <3

  • tim

    I disagree with the author's definition related to differentiation between sympathy and empathy. Instead I would offer: empathy stays outwardly focused in the present while sympathy moves towards an internal focus which reduces atunement.

  • Brian Kearsey

    Good job on empathy but poor job on sympathy. I agree that empathy is more positive and fuels connection, but the callous examples of "at least..." in the video is anything but true sympathy. Off the cuff, I'd say sympathy is "mere" pity and can sometimes encourage someone who is wallowing in victimhood to keep wallowing instead of helping them find a solid foundation to either see their situation more clearly or, if they are indeed a victim, accepting it and beginning to recover. Empathy is just really connecting with the other person without necessarily re-enforcing their perspective on the situation.

  • Edward

    This was the stupidest video I have seen this year. I cannot disagree more and this video illustrated the "sympathetic" person being an absolute dick.

  • Julia

    It's funny to read the comments on here from people who disagree with the video on the part of sympathy. Sympathy is still caring about the person - it's just not expressing it in a way that is helpful to the person. Empathy is connecting to that person, whether you have experienced that problem or not. The real ticket to the video was, "Whew. I don't even know what to say. I'm just glad you told me." A sympathetic person never says that. A sympathetic person just says "Sorry." Zero connection. Thanks, Brené Brown. A game-changing video.

  • David

    The most influential video on my practice and profession this year, I'm a critical care physician. Sharing with other. Really makes a strong, immediately applicable, practical point.

  • Cole

    Not inspired as much as uncovering an aspect of both words (empathy & sympathy). The mutually exclusive aspects of both words helps me clearify where I'm coming from when encountering a feelings intense conversation. I don't want to drive those feelings in the other person's conversation away! That would be counter to wanting to 'help' him/her. Thus EMPATHY not sympathy🙂

  • Rosa

    I have learned that empathy is not about be polite nor lovely, it is about listen carefully to understand others feelings and perspective. I can disagree with the other person and still be empathetic.

  • John

    I could not disagree more with this video. It makes a complete mockery of sympathy, and gets everything exactly wrong. Empathy does not connect you with another person. It connects you with a misfortune. It is only when empathy leads to sympathy (real sympathy, not the sympathy caricatured in this video), that the connection is made with another person. A masochist can empathize without sympathizing. I will never be able to empathize with the pains of child birth, while I can, and morally should, sympathize.

  • Abby

    I am empathetic in my heart and mind but let me fix it mouth get in the way

  • Gwen

    For me, this is an important reason why there's so much conflict between black and white Americans. Unless you've traverse a journey, starting in slavery to our present compromised state, it's hard to feel that connection. Yes, many are sympathetic, but it would be hard to understand its crippling affect.

  • Adam

    Now I know I am empathetic

  • aimeega

    My husband and I frequently debate empathy vs. sympathy. From his perspective you can't be empathetic if you haven't experienced the problem yourself. I completely disagree but have found it difficult to describe why. Connection...that's why. Thank you.

  • daniece.olandria

    simple and clear ♥♥♥

  • Kelley

    While there are some very good points on empathy, this is not an accurate description of sympathy at all. Empathy is about understanding how others are feeling because you have been in the same situation and experienced it yourself or you can put yourself in the other persons shoes, so to speak. Sympathy is showing you care about someone and the situation he/she is going through. Sympathetic phrases do not start with "At least ....".

  • Anthony

    Empathy is about 'understanding' which may be a better way than to say 'internalize the feeling of another'

  • Eileen

    Excellent, simple and demonstrative.

  • m.najaf mughal

    he comes down in dark place with her means he wanted to involve heartly that inspired me.

  • Renee

    WOW this illustrates empathy perfectly -- thank you

  • Yvonne

    Being empathetic allows one to be in the moment to share with another's distress and this is the greatest help one can give.

  • Ingrid

    Simple and eloquent. Thank you!

  • Gloria Magarelli

    Great visual and verbal exchange on the difference between sympathy and empathy. The video makes it easier to remember. Thanks

  • Bonne

    This shined the light on truth, and let us laugh at ourselves at the same time

  • Emmanuel Ale

    the content of this video is so enlightening and psychologically oriented

  • Amy

    The fluffy bear has empathy and the skinny elk(?) does not. Intentional?

  • NGW

    This need to be taught at an early age- very educational video for all ages

  • Dee

    clear and concise explanation. I will use in staff meetings.

  • Pradeep Kumar

    What inspired you about this video? Absolutely wonderful way to explain the difference !

  • mags

    how easy it is to misinterpretate different words and actions

  • Myra

    simple very clear easy to understand

  • Frank Nduu

    This video is both simple and meaningfull. Thank you for inspirations

  • divina

    very good video......and i think its too difficult for me to understand if it should be empathy or sympathy ..sounds no difference at all to me only how u deal with it....should be possible to be empathized or sympathized?

  • Alberto Celiz

    This video is great!!!

  • June Adamio

    Great reminder about being in the moment with another person in the midst of whatever is troubling them, not trying to fix things. As a nurse I'm used to fixing things. Sometimes just listening and being present is the most powerful thing we can do for another.

  • tom carpenter

    I am starting up an organization to help people serve others - called Serving Others Forward Together www.servingothersforward.org Would it be possible to add this video to my site (under resources) in order to help inspire people? I gladly give full credit. thanks

  • Joshuel Patterson

    Can we have more please? :)

  • Tony

    It's honest simplicity. It may not be easy to shift from sympathy to empathy when I'm in the midst of things and now I have a structure that will support me. Thank you Brene

  • Nwriter

    That such a profound message was said in such simple manner.In fact i just wrote a research paper that says exactly the same, but in a very philosophical way.

  • boat

    I really enjoyed this video. I agree that sympathy somehow does not seem sincere or connected to another person - it seems like a brush off. I am looking for empathy. Empathy with regard to grief and with regard to some undiagnosed health problems. I don't just want to hear "oh, other people have been there. At least, you are alive." Thank you for this video and I hope for more.

  • Kimstewartebo

    Loved this video, i'll be very conscious of not consoling people with 'At least...' from now on!

  • Paul

    Great video! Empathy is like eye sight for the mind. Once you can see, you can't believe how you have been blind to others' worries, pain, angst, aspirations, hopes etc. BTW, if you look into the eyes of an animal (a dog or a cow or a turkey), then you can relate with them too. Likely you will not touch meat after that!

  • Gerry O'Connor

    Connection is so important because when you try to “fix” the difficulty it implies that the person is broken. When you try to solve the problem it can lead people to feel more powerless. Connection accepts where people are at this moment in time. Gerry O'Connor

  • Skirnir Hamilton

    Why can't one be emphatic and still try to help? Being empathetic and then watching that person struggle and nothing get better, empathy seems so worthless.

  • hsk

    The empathiser is not trying to fix the problem, just connect with the person.

  • SoNDEA

    Everything - I luv the visual imaging along w the audio teaching.

  • js

    Always for empathy.

  • dibyadut ray

    I learnt it from u. Benefited from ur blog.

  • Gregg DesElms

    People thinking you're being sympathetic is what makes them upset if whatever they're going through hasn't happened to you, yet you dare to tell them you understand. Your actually being empathetic is what makes them wrong. __________________________________ Gregg L. DesElms Napa, California USA gregg at greggdeselms dot com Veritas nihil veretur nisi abscondi. Veritas nimium altercando amittitur.

  • patricia

    The realisation that what others see in me as 'TOO MUCH' when I can empathise, is ok and I am very ok with this now that it is in picture format and I can share it on FB. Its a pity that too many people dont trust someone like me, but it ALWAYS makes me feel honoured when someone shares how they are feeling when it is deep and I, having known and still go through very lonley times, recognise it in others and feel less 'the only one suffering'xx:)

  • katherine

    To think before I open my mouth and be sure I'm not being judgemental.

  • Demetrius

    I don't think I have ever seen anything so concise but incredibly clear on a topic

  • rob porter

    Thank you. I loved everything about this. As a follower of the 3 principles and a former teacher, I think all kids could see this in school to help their parents on a path of understanding.

  • John Hill Jr

    My wife and I have bin taking Dhamma(Dharmma)classes and classes on negative and positive emotions. In these classes, we have had discussions on the difference between them. Dr. Brene Brown's discussion and the animation video really capsulized the meaning of each more clearly for us.

  • Barbara Peters

    I know what is missing now, when I walk away and feel worse than I did when I started. I try to be Empathetic, but must admit I too fall short, at times. This clearly shows the difference. I would never want someone to feel that I was not Empathetic to their experience.

  • Marcia Myers

    I admit that I did not know the difference between empathy and sympathy. I definitely fall into the group that is empathetic. But sometimes being as empathetic as I am I cause myself angst. Does anybody else experience this?

  • Lynda Schofield

    The first thing I realized was that I truly didn't know the difference between the two. It was eye-opening and I am so very grateful for this new knowledge. In the different areas where I come in contact with people, this is important knowledge I think I can be more effective in the future. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful video.

  • Page 1

  • Dr. Brown studies the ways we make personal connections with each other. Watch her TED talks on "The Power of Vulnerability" and "Listening to Shame."
  • Consider the notion that we are hard-wired for empathy.
  • The next time you find yourself feeling sorry for someone, try to shift your reaction from sympathy to empathy. Ask yourself: how are they feeling and when have I felt this way also?

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