Some time ago, I watched a video appeal, and while I definitely felt sympathy for the speaker, I cannot say that when pressed to make a decision about his cause I would support it. I understand why the position that is opposite to the speaker's exists, and it makes more sense to me logically.

Is there a single word that can capture the essence of the "I know why you feel X, and I'd feel X in your place, but I support opposite of X."?

  • Lip service, of course.
    – Kris
    Jun 20, 2018 at 9:48
  • @Kris I don't think that's quite it, since the cause I cannot support rings genuine notes to me; it's just that the opposing side makes a stronger case.
    – Ivan T.
    Jun 20, 2018 at 11:50
  • 3
    This is the situation that the phrase "I sympathize, but..." was invented for. I don't think you'll find anything more succinct. You probably could soften the blow by using many more words, but telling you how to do that gets into writing advice territory.
    – 1006a
    Jun 20, 2018 at 12:12

2 Answers 2


You are showing at least a degree of empathy, which can be conveniently contrasted with sympathy as mentioned in the question title.

People often confuse the words empathy and sympathy. Empathy means ‘the ability to understand and share the feelings of another’ (as in both authors have the skill to make you feel empathy with their heroines), whereas sympathy means ‘feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortune’ (as in they had great sympathy for the flood victims)


You can understand the speaker's position and why he feels the way he does. There are degrees of empathy: while you understand his position you don't have to share it.

  • That covers half the ground, though.
    – Kris
    Jun 20, 2018 at 13:31
  • (a) Sometimes half is as good as it gets; (b) if you read through to the last sentence then this answer actually covers all of it.
    – Andrew Leach
    Jun 20, 2018 at 13:46
  • It's possible to both sympathize and empathize. It's an important distinction, but they aren't mutually exclusive. While most people do misuse the two, I think that when somebody sympathizes with someone they often have to empathize to some degree too. Jun 20, 2018 at 16:11
  • Perfectly true. They are distinct, and the quote shows the distinction. I think it's primarily intended to help with malapropisms, but it serves to help answer this question too.
    – Andrew Leach
    Jun 20, 2018 at 16:14

Agree to disagree

Of two parties, to mutually accept that they simply do not (and will not) share the same view on a particular issue, in the interest of moving past the issue or avoiding further confrontation. After their discussion about politics intensified, Fred and Sue had to agree to disagree before it impacted their friendship. I'm sick of arguing with you, so let's just agree to disagree and move on from this issue.

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