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Thursday, 20 October 2011

Stuart's Daily Word Spot: Sympathy or Empathy?

Sympathy or Empathy?
Sympathy: noun - harmony of disposition or temperament, making people compatible; common feeling; sharing or being in agreement with the feelings or condition of another or others; feelings of pity and sorrow for the suffering of another; a feeling or expression of compassion or condolence.

Empathy: noun - the ability to mentally identify with and fully comprehend a person or object of contemplation.

Sympathy is relatively common, especially for someone in distress of some sort. But it involves no more than sharing feelings with the victim.

Empathy, on the other hand, requires a deep and comprehensive understanding of the full implications of the emotions felt by a victim; it is, in a sense, 'becoming' that person in the way that a fine actor will 'be' the character rather than simply portray the person.

By all means portray a character sympathetically, if that suits the story. But, as a writer, you need to be empathetic and get into the skin of the character you're depicting.

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