Empathy is simply being able to feel and understand another person’s feelings, when they are in a difficult situation. It is being able to communicate your understanding of that person’s feelings to that person, and being non-judgmental. While this is important and certainly a good skill to use often, healthy and intimate relationships have to go beyond this. Think about it: just because I know what you are feeling doesn’t mean I care or will act in a helpful manner.
Compassion is going a step further. Compassion is the desire to show care, concern, sensitivity, warmth, love, tenderness and kindness, because you care and want to alleviate the suffering. Empathy is knowing: compassion is caring. Empathy says, “I know how your feel.” Compassion says, “I want to be part of this with you, so how can I help?”
Both skills are connecting, and kind. Knowing the difference can help assist you to respond and connect, in the manner you feel is most helpful and appropriate for your relationship and the situation.