woman showing empathy to another
Type: Vocabulary
Originally published on April 5, 2023 and last updated on May 14, 2023

Empathy is a fundamental aspect of human interaction that allows us to connect with others on a deeper level. It’s an important skill to have, and not just for personal relationships but also in professional settings. Being able to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and understand their perspective is crucial for effective communication and problem-solving. That’s why conversation topics related to empathy can be a great way for English learners to improve their vocabulary and overall level of English.

By discussing empathy, learners can practice using a range of words and phrases related to emotions, feelings, and interpersonal relationships. They can also learn to express themselves more clearly and empathetically, which can help them build stronger connections with others. Additionally, discussing empathy can help learners understand cultural differences in how empathy is expressed and perceived, which is important for cross-cultural communication.

Empathy vs Sympathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It’s about putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes and seeing things from their perspective.

On the other hand, sympathy is acknowledging another person’s emotions without necessarily sharing those emotions ourselves. In simpler terms, empathy is feeling with someone, while sympathy is feeling for someone.

It’s important to distinguish between the two because empathy involves a deeper level of understanding and connection with others. By practicing empathy, we can build stronger relationships and improve our communication skills.

Go through the vocabulary below with your students and ask them to try and use this vocabaulry where possible when discussing the different conversation questions.

Useful Vocabulary

Try and use the following vocabulary when answering the question. Click to look up the definition in the dictionary

  • empathise (verb)
  • empathetic (adjective)
  • kindness (noun)
  • reach out (phrasal verb)
  • compassionate (adjective)
  • stand in someone else's shoes (idiom)
  • thoughtful (adjective)
  • relate (verb)

Conversation Questions

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  • How would you describe empathy to someone who didn't know the meaning?
  • Can empathy be taught or is it a natural ability?
  • How do you show empathy to others?
  • Do you think the subject of empathy should be taught in schools?
  • Does the lack of empathy contribute to social and political conflicts?
  • Do you think empathy is more important than sympathy? Why or why not?
  • How can empathy help to resolve conflicts between individuals or groups?
  • What are some ways that you can develop your own empathy skills?
  • How does social media affect our ability to be empathetic towards others?
  • Can empathy help to build better relationships? Why or why not?
  • How can we encourage more empathy in our communities and society as a whole?
  • Does a lack of empathy contribute to bullying and aggression?
  • In what professions is empathy important?
  • What professions could empathy be a bad thing?
  • Do you think it's important to feel empathy towards animals as well as humans?
This conversation topic was prepared by Gregory

Gregory is a qualified TEFL teacher who has been teaching English as a Foreign Language (ESL) for over a decade. He has taught in-person classes in Spain and to English learners around the world online.