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How Do You Show Sympathy

Updated on January 2, 2012

What is sympathy

The following is one of the best definitions of sympathy that I've ever read, and which will accurately set the tenor of the article. "Sympathy is a social affinity in which one person stands with another person, closely understanding his or her feelings. Also known as empathic concern, it is the feeling of compassion or concern for another, the wish to see them better off or happier. Although empathy and sympathy are often used interchangeably, a subtle variation in ordinary usage can be detected. To empathize is to respond to another's perceived emotional state by experiencing feelings of a similar sort. Sympathy not only includes empathizing, but also entails having a positive regard or a non-fleeting concern for the other person." Couldn't have said it better myself. That being said, again I ask the question, how do you show sympathy? Let's put this question under a microscope.

Standing With Another Person, Understanding Their Feelings

Suppose someone comes to you with their, to you, trivial problem. Their beloved pet died, and to them it's the worst things that's ever happened to them, and they're just devastated. Well, you lost your mother, sometime ago, and that's the worst thing that's ever happened to you. Is your comment to them, "it was just a dog, cat, or whatever, you can get another one? Now me, on the other hand, I lost my mother, I can't get another one." Or would your comment go something like this, "I'm so sorry to hear about your loss, I can see how much he meant to you, is there anything I can do to relieve your pain?" You see, their pet meant as much to them as your mother, maybe not in the same way, nevertheless their love came from the heart. Remember the subtitle, "the ability to stand with another person, understanding their feelings, well do you? Keep in mind their loss has as much validity as yours, so don't minimize, or trivialize it.

The Feeling of Compassion or Concern for Another

Let's explore this from another angle. Paul just loss all of his worldly goods in a fire, however he was compensated very well by his insurance company. He still express pain and anguish over his loss, from time to time. Think about this, even though material things, such as furniture, clothes, jewelry, etc, can be replaced, but what about photos, personal items he's collected over the years, from his travels, letters, cards, maybe even items of clothing, or furniture that he's cherished, and can never replace. Do you say, or think he's being materialistic? Before you let your mind, or your mouth go there, think how you felt when you had a loss of any kind.Your expressions of care, and concern could go a long way in validating his feelings of loss, and not making him feel any worse than he already does. I'm just saying. Could you perhaps offer to help him find photos from friends, and relatives, okay, maybe you can't do that, well just sit and listen, offering words of consolation without judging, and minimizing his loss. By all means, don't compare his loss to one you've had, none really can compare, at least not to him.

Responding to Another's Perceived Emotional State by Experiencing Feeling of a Similar Sort

How can we do the above, the Bible says, "cry with those who cry." Here's another scenario. Your good friend is recently divorced from her cheating husband. You know he was, in the vernacular of today, "a no good lying, cheating dog." (Oops, did I go too far)? Anyway, she never wanted the divorce, she loved him and wanted it to work, so her response is total devastation, constantly in tears. Do you say to her, "buck up, you're well rid of him, move on, stop wasting water over that bum," or words to that effect? To the converse, do you, when she seems so out of control, sit with her, and shed a few tears over her loss, realizing the same fate could also befall you someday, and what would you want your friend to do when you're in that state. You see what she needs at this point is pure ole, down home sympathy, not criticism.


So, remembering the first paragraph, in showing sympathy, could you, stand with another person, closely understanding their feelings, show compassion, or concern, wish to see them better off, or happier? What about responding to another's perceived emotional state by experiencing feelings of a similar sort, or have a positive concern for another person? So I ask again, How Do You Show Sympathy? Before you answer, put yourself in the shoes of the other person, and think how you would feel if the shoe was on the other foot. If, after careful consideration you find that your idea of showing sympathy is lacking in some way, take the opportunity to put into practice some of the suggestions listed herein. Then you will be able to properly show sympathy to deserving ones.


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    • fastfreta profile imageAUTHOR

      Alfreta Sailor 

      5 years ago from Southern California

      Thank you so much Seafarer Mama for stopping and reading, please come back.

    • Seafarer Mama profile image

      Karen A Szklany 

      5 years ago from New England

      So many super examples of how to be with someone in their time of distress. Thanks, FastFreta.

    • fastfreta profile imageAUTHOR

      Alfreta Sailor 

      7 years ago from Southern California

      Thanks Kathy, interesting, I never gave that much thought, but you've put it on my mind. Thanks again for stopping, see you again soon.

    • Chatkath profile image


      7 years ago from California

      Wonderful hub fastfreta! I always wondered why some people are able to feel so much empathy towards others suffering to the point where they actually feel the pain and others are able to block it out completely...Great topic!

    • fastfreta profile imageAUTHOR

      Alfreta Sailor 

      7 years ago from Southern California

      Thanks Eiddwen so much for stopping and taking time to leave a comment, hope to see you again soon.

    • Eiddwen profile image


      7 years ago from Wales

      A great hub fastfreta, I vote up without a doubt.

      Take care


    • fastfreta profile imageAUTHOR

      Alfreta Sailor 

      7 years ago from Southern California

      Thank you so much Hello,hello, you are too kind. Thank you for stopping, and leaving those encouraging comments.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      7 years ago from London, UK

      You are such a wonderful writer being able to put such feelings into words and explanation. Thank you for the pleasure reading your hub.

    • fastfreta profile imageAUTHOR

      Alfreta Sailor 

      7 years ago from Southern California

      Thank you Jo, I'm glad to be back. I'm on the road, attempting an adventure of a lifetime. Check out my hubs. Actually I guess you can call the next few hubs, blogs. I don't know if you saw the two hubs about losing my house to foreclosure, if not check them out to get to the beginning of my adventure. Stay tuned.

    • jo miller profile image

      Jo Miller 

      7 years ago from Tennessee

      Great hub!! So glad to see you back.

    • fastfreta profile imageAUTHOR

      Alfreta Sailor 

      7 years ago from Southern California

      Thanks Pam, so good to hear from you. You know Pam, I've always felt that in your comments.

      Thank you so much preety girl, so glad you enjoyed it.

      Again thank you both for stopping, and taking time to leave those encouraging comments. Please come back again.

    • preety girl profile image

      preety girl 

      7 years ago

      Freta...Good hub.. interesting topic.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Very good hub. I try to put myself in the other persons place when showing sympathy and as a nurse for so many years I got a lot of practice. God Bless you Freta.

    • fastfreta profile imageAUTHOR

      Alfreta Sailor 

      7 years ago from Southern California

      Thanks all for weighing in on this my first real hub after my self imposed hiatus.

      Thank you Susan, you sound like a very warm and caring person, I'm sure your friends feel fortunate to have you around during their hour of need. You're the type of person I'd like to have in my corner in my hour of need.

      Seeker7, you totally validated my hub. You also sound like the person I'd like most to have around when I need someone to turn to.

      You know what dahoglund, sometimes it just takes someone being there for a shoulder to cry on, with words unspoken.

      Thank you all so much for stopping and taking the time to leave those precious comments.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I always have a problem expressing these things even if I do feel them.

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 

      7 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      Hi, great hub and so important for us all to reflect on. I'm similar to Susan in that I try to put myself in the other person's shoes and do what I can to support them.

      Also, people who have lost items in a fire etc. I agree with you, I don't think they are materialistic. A house fire happened to a good friend of mine a few years ago and she lost two of her most treasured possesions. One was an old hand-knitted cardigan her Mum had made for her and the second was a hand made wallet with a photograph of both her Mum and Dad who had died a few years previous to the fire. Her insurance certainly covered all her lost items but nothing could replace the very personal and well loved items that kept her close to her Mum and Dad. As she told me this was actually the hardest thing to come to terms with rather than the chairs and tables etc.

      This was a very beautiful and insightful hub. Many thanks for sharing.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I agree with you 100% on this one. For me I always try to put myself in the position of the other person and try to imagine if the same thing had happened to me, how I would feel. I do this in many different situations not just when it comes to sympathy.

      Excellent Hub!


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