What exactly is the difference between Empathy and Compassion?


if I get it right, Empathy is when you can recognize what the other person is feeling, AND you also take on some of those emotions, like, if someone is sad, you become said, when someone is happy, you become happy, etc.

Compassion is specifically for when you learn someone is in a negative situation, and you feel concern and sadness about the fact itself.

Thus, if someone has low empathy, they don’t just have a harder time recognizing what the other feels, but also have a harder time taking on those emotions, is that correct?

In: 11

Empathy is understanding why someone feels that way but compassion doesn’t require understanding why.

I wouldn’t worry about trying to define the differences too precisely. Both are pretty broad words with multiple shades of meaning, many of which overlap quite a bit. Empathy tends more towards being about the process of feeling another’s emotions, and compassion tends more towards being about concern for the suffering of others, but you can’t really draw bright solid lines around words like this. Depending on the context or who is using them, they might mean exactly the same thing, or rather different things.

Compassion is wanting others not to feel bad. Simple care for someone’s wellbeing.

Empathy is understanding the emotional state of another person, being able to place yourself in their head. That’s why empathy often breeds compassion, because an empathetic person can internalise the suffering of another as if it was their own.

So yes, you had that correct.

There are 2 types of empathy: affective empathy (the ability to respond with an appropriate emotion to another’s mental states.[30] Our ability to empathize emotionally is based on emotional contagion:[31] being affected by another’s emotional or arousal state.) and cognitive empathy (the ability to understand another’s perspective or mental state.).

Affective empathy is strongly related to compassion. However, it is possible to learn to have compassion without having affective empathy. You won’t feel what other people feel, but you still care for them. It is also possible to have affective empathy without compassion, but simply by being distressed in presence of the distress of other, that’s common with infants.


A friend is depressed and either tells me or I recognise it. I’m also depressed so I can understand from personal experience what they’re going through so I offer my support from a place of understanding. It makes me sad that they’re sad. That’s empathy.

A friend is depressed and either tells me or I recognise it. I’m not depressed nor have I ever been but I care about them and want to help them if I can. It might make me sad that they’re depressed but ultimately I have no personal experience with what they’re feeling. That’s compassion.