I have been trying, literally for twenty years, to sort out how people understand and commonly use the words empathy and sympathy. I started thinking about the two and how they might be related to solidarity for my Swarthmore college thesis. Since then when they come up in conversation I have regularly asked people what they understand the words to mean, and what they see the difference as. I have become convinced that people use them in widely different ways - so if you hear people use them don't assume you know what they mean by these terms! Here are Brene Brown's definitions, beautifully animated by the RSA.