Sympathy is the feeling that you are sorry, sad and care about another person’s hurt, grief or troubles; it signifies concern, compassion and a general kinship with and understanding of someone else’s feelings. Sympathy compels us to reach out and offer help; it humanizes situations. Sympathy allows for affinity, harmony, fellowship and support between people.
Yet – you sympathize from a distance. When you feel sympathy you know how the other person feels – from your own perspective and perhaps from observing. You’re letting the other person know you “hear” them, feel for them, acknowledge them (and their situation), and you value what they’re feeling.
How can we show sympathy in the work environment?
Most importantly, recognize that everyone deals with pain, loss or hurt in their own individual ways – and perhaps differently than you would. Don’t give unsolicited advice (it’s not your place to help fix something without being asked), and don’t judge their situation. Acknowledge their circumstances and express your sympathy saying things such as:
– “That must be/feel really frustrating”
– “Would you like to talk about it?”
– “I’m sorry”
– “I’m sorry (that happened/for your loss/you’re going through this/for your accident)”
– “I’m here to listen”
– “I know you’re hurting/feel bad”
– “How are you feeling?”
– “I’m here for you anytime you need me”
– “How can I help you?”
– “Tell me how I can support you”
– “I’ll cover for you/run errands if you’d like”
Follow through with initiating a coffee to listen and talk, to cover a meeting or to pick-up dry cleaning over your lunch hour.
And, if your professional relationship is one that you’re comfortable with leaving a handwritten card or note on someone’s desk, or sending one to their home, by all means do so – the impact of your heartfelt written words can do wonders for sadness and grief as well.