Most people have conflicts in their relationships and fail to resolve them because they confuse between empathy, sympathy and compassion. This confusion can be caused by either person in the relationship. It can be a result of ineffective expectations or insufficient support. Regardless the reason, life, the ultimate examiner, would give a “Fail! Big time!” on this test.
Understanding the difference between the three is essential to passing the relationship test. Here is my version of the difference.
Empathy is when you notice and understand the other persons’ situation, experience, perspective or feelings. It does not mean you share their feelings, agree with them or have been asked to share your judgment, thoughts or ideas. It definitely does not mean you need to solve their problem.
The best way to proceed is to say, “I can see that you are very disappointed and upset”, or just be a sounding board and repeat back to them what they said, “So you are sad because he was rude to you. I can understand why”. Often times, people only want empathy. Someone to talk to that will understand their perspective and feelings. Empathy is a way to give support with your presence.