Brené Brown on Empathy

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  • Published on Dec 10, 2013

  • What is the best way to ease someone's pain and suffering? In this beautifully animated RSA Short, Dr Brené Brown reminds us that we can only create a genuine empathic connection if we are brave enough to really get in touch with our own fragilities. Voice: Dr Brené Brown Animation: Katy Davis (AKA Gobblynne) www.gobblynne.com Production and Editing: Al Francis-Sears and Abi Stephenson Watch Dr Brené Brown's full talk 'The Power of Vulnerability' here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXSjc... Dr Brené Brown is a research professor and best-selling author of "Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead" (Penguin Portfolio, 2013). She has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. Find out more about the RSA: http://www.thersa.org Follow the RSA on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/thersaorg Like the RSA on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thersaorg


  • can i hug that fox too please?

  • If you translate the Greek for "sympathy" you get "fellow-feeling," or even more literally "together suffering" but there is definitely more distance in how the interaction plays. Empathy is more close, personal and passionate, while sympathy is understanding but from a distance.

  • this is great.

  • So asking "What do I say at a funeral?" is the WRONG question to ask.

  • This is interesting. I'm not sure if I agree wholeheartedly, but it's interesting. I'm autistic, so according to stereotypes, I am incapable of empathy (Ugh, stereotypes...)

  • "Rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is connection." True dat.

  • Sympathy = "I see your pain". Empathy = "I feel your pain"

  • "I have an alcohol addiction"

  • don't say "at least" huh, got it.

  • Empathy doesn't start with 'at least', or 'chin up', or 'get it together' or 'get over it'... it starts with the silence of listening

  • "At least..." is a form of invalidation - the most disastrous emotional abuse for a human being. It's definitely not a sympathy.

  • BS. That moose was displaying apathy, not sympathy. Sympathy is literally "feel together" sym=together, pathy=feeling. Sympathy is "I can't say I know what you are going through, but I feel sad that you are sad, so let is feel sad together, I care about you and feel with you." empathy is "same feeling". In which you express you have felt the same thing as them. Maybe you also miscarried a child, or know how it felt to fail that test because I did it too, and yeah, it is tough. I understand you. You aren't alone.

  • From a linguistic perspective, I’m sorry to say that this is completely fallacious. It appears the speaker has no real conception of what the two words actually mean, and decides to create a false dichotomy between them in order to argue her point. Quite to the contrary, in fact, sympathy is the state in which one feels as another feels; empathy involves the effort to understand the feelings of another from an outside perspective. The OED’s definition of the two words is as follows: empathy: ‘orig. Psychol. The ability to understand and appreciate another person's feelings, experience, etc’; Sympathy: (late Latin sympathia, Greek συμπάθεια , συμπαθής) having a fellow feeling, σύν sym- prefix + παθ-, root of πάθος suffering, feeling, πάσχειν to suffer.' While empathy is a more recent word, used primarily in twentieth century psychology, sympathy is a concept which comes to us from the ancient Greeks, describing a profound mutuality of suffering and a sharing of powerful feelings. All this to observe that if one is to make an etymological or linguistic argument, one should most likely know what the etymology actually is.

  • I've watched this video 3 times already. I keep coming back to see it cause it just connects with me so much. After my dad unexpectedly passed away, I've learned that there are 4 types of people who try to comfort you.

  • Maybe she needed that sandwich...

  • Frankly, she is just plain wrong on sympathy, while she has empathy right "I know what it is like down here" it is just plain insulting and the height of condescension to claim you know how another feels if you have never been through what they are going through. If someone who has never been through what you have been through tries to claim empathy, then that is just the perfect way to drive someone off, to hurt them more and to dismiss their pain. Offering sympathy is about saying "I can't imagine what you must be going through, but if you need anything from me I will help you as best I can." The thing with the sandwich in the video offers neither empathy or sympathy, but rather indifference and dismissal.

  • I'm always the bear, and it's horrible, but I can't help it. I always feel other people's suffering, always put myself in their shoes and suffer with them. And that keeps me from being happy for myself, and end up being depressed all the time. Because there are many people around, and I have only one heart, busy crying for them.

  • She took the best out of Sympathy and Empathy and attributed it to Empathy, they are both important. 

  • Never has a 3 minute animation short explained things so perfectly.

  • I feel like this is misrepresenting sympathy. Sympathy can be heartfelt, not just condescending unsolicited advice. Also, how is it a good thing to say "I know how you feel" to someone who had a miscarriage? I feel like it'd be offensive and emotionally undermining to assume I know the depths of devastation a miscarriage can entail when I've never had to suffer through one.