They're often lumped together, but empathy and sympathy are very differentEmpathy is about making an emotional connection with someone, while sympathy is -- generally -- about finding a silver lining. Both are important, but this animated short explains nicely how they differ.
The key to being empathetic is to not judge the other person, but to instead recognise what they're feeling. You're not trying to solve the problem for them -- the goal is to let them know you're there and that how they feel matters to you. Doing so, however, requires you be aware of your own emotions and fragilities, which can be hard for many people.
That said, there's a time for sympathy too. As long as it's not judgemental, trying to help someone find a silver lining or even a distraction from a pressing problem has its place as well. The real skill to be learned is when empathy is appropriate, and when sympathy is appropriate, and what message you send to the people in your lives with each. Hit the video above or the link below to see more.