Video: A Bear and Fox Show Why Empathy Brings Us Closer than Sympathy

Empathy involves a deeper connection than sympathy does, and often means sharing a bit of emotional vulnerability.

If you can never remember the difference between empathy and sympathy, this cartoon bear and his sad fox friend will fix that.

The bear and the fox explain it much better than we can.

The two ways of relating to others are quite different, even though people get them confused. When someone tells you that their marriage is falling apart, sympathy is saying something like, “At least you have a marriage.” Empathy involves a deeper connection and often means sharing a bit of emotional vulnerability.

But the bear and the fox explain it much better than we can.

Brene Brown, research professor at the University of Houston’s Graduate College of Social Work, narrates the video and explains how we should avoid our urge to put a silver lining on a friend’s or family member’s difficult situation.

Instead, we should climb into the deep hole of emotions and feel with people. Connection, not advice or easy words, is what helps people heal.

The video was produced by RSA Animate, a project of the Royal Society of the Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce.