The Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy in Business

Leadership / May 21, 2021

Empathy and sympathy are both useful tools when learning how to connect with others. Connection is essential for an entrepreneur. Nobody can run a successful business alone. At least not for long. So one of the most powerful things you can do is learn to understand these two terms and how they will help you connect.

So what is the difference between empathy and sympathy? These words are often used in place of each other, but they aren’t the same. There is an easy way to describe the difference. Sympathy is sharing the feelings of another person. Empathy is understanding their feelings. Both are important, but empathy is the greater tool for your growth as a leader.

To have empathy, you don’t necessarily need to feel the same as the other person. You can just put yourself in their shoes. This is why it is more powerful. Anyone can sympathize because it’s automatic. But it takes effort and work to empathize.

So how does this translate into your business? In a multitude of ways. You may not necessarily sympathize with your customer. You are not in the market for your service or product. But you can work to empathize with their needs and understand what they feel.

The same goes for your interactions with employees and clients. You may have no direct emotional sympathy for what they feel in a conversation. That doesn’t mean you can’t work to gain understanding. You do this through empathy.

Connecting well with other people is one of the fundamental tenets of entrepreneurship. Business is inherently social. If you can’t connect with the people you work with, it won’t matter how smart or skilled you are. Solving problems requires understanding all the factors involved. If you don’t understand the needs of the people you deal with, you’ll miss crucial information.


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