Community Voices: The Empathic Character is an Important Quality | Voices of the community

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Empathy vs. Sympathy. The last couple of months have made me think about the difference between the two in the context of working relationships. Empathy is the ability to understand what another person is feeling within one’s frame of reference – the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes. Sympathy, in the context of working relationships, means support in the form of shared feelings or opinions, which means agreement with an opinion or attitude, or approval.

During one controversy at work, I had LONG conversations with opposing sides of the argument to understand their point of view and why they feel strongly about a topic from their frame of reference, empathy. That doesn’t necessarily mean I agreed with their feelings about their opponents and their opponents’ perceived motives on the subject (sympathy), but taking the time to have long conversations with them allowed me to humanize both sides and see that there are nuances to their beliefs — that each of them is a more complex person than what you can tell from the emails flying around.

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