Distinguishing Sympathy, Empathy and Apathy

The difference between sympathy, empathy and apathy explained simply.

This was an answer to the question: What’s the difference between Sympathy, Empathy and Apathy?

This is how I answered this in one of my classes in B-school.

Example: My friend broke his leg.

Sympathy: I feel really bad, I’ll do something to help him. Though I don’t know how it feels to break your leg. (Sympathy without empathy)

Empathy: I’ve broken my leg before, I know how he must be feeling. But I don’t want to do anything to help him. (Empathy without sympathy)

Neutral: I know he’s broken his leg. Though I don’t really care much.

Apathy: I don’t know what’s happened to him and I don’t care either.

Sympathy = Feel for someone.

Empathy = Feel with someone.

Neutral = Nothing. You just know a fact, don’t feel anything.

Apathy = Less than nothing. You might have heard something, but you definitely didn’t care about it. And you’ll do your best to forget it as well.

I also think that some elements of all of these are helpful. Even apathy, which otherwise gets a bad rap.

There’s just too much noise in the world – if you aren’t apathetic to it, you’ll always be distracted.



Thanks for the detailed explanation


Hii sir,
I have a question about recent incident,
A 19year old girl in hathras is gang rapped ….
What do you thing people feel empathy ,sympathy or Apathy about it.


I can’t talk for other people.

For myself: Sympathy for the victim and her family.
Disgust for anyone who could perpetrate such an act.

Empathy – is perhaps not the right word, because few of us could really understand what such suffering entails


Thank you sir for replying,
But sir don’t you think feeling sympathy in this situation is really bad .As being a girl it become really difficult for us to copeup with this.
Everyone see us with different way.
Rather than feeling sympathy we should feel shameful .
Sir as you are a public figure ,its a request to write something on this topic .

Reena Singh

Hi Pratyush..,
The last line is just spot on!

Surabhi Singh

Hello Sir, I have a question about recent encounters in UP adding Vikas Dubey encounter there were 119 encounters in UP since 2017 ,what do you think about this and judicial system in UP as well as in different parts of a country for example last year in Preeti Reddy (name changed) case in which her rapist were killed in encounter do they indicate the failure of judiciary system and what do you feel about this?