Writing a fictional story, I have this little beat:

She found her talent there for presenting herself as sympathetic, even though it was completely uncalculated and she wasn’t consciously aware of the effect …

The term in question is ‘sympathetic’. I’m not looking for a synonym. ‘Sympathetic’, referring to a person, typically means ‘one who is compassionate to the feelings of others’. That’s not what I’m trying to say.

What I am trying to say by ‘presenting herself as sympathetic’ is ‘presenting herself as someone who would likely draw sympathy’, not speaking about her capacity to express it.

So it’s the wrong word. I’m stumped. Prof. Google is, too. Can you think of a word? Or a better way to say this?

  • Try pitiful, perhaps. Feb 15, 2020 at 22:46
  • How about pathetic?
    – Jim
    Feb 15, 2020 at 23:16
  • Needy? Wronged? I have met the nicest people who present themselves as damsel in distress by milking their victim status. Feb 16, 2020 at 0:50
  • She has a good bedside manner.
    – Lawrence
    Feb 17, 2020 at 6:38

2 Answers 2


If you are looking for a term for someone who causes others to be sympathetic towards her then

inviting sympathy

is probably what you are looking for. Also

the object of sympathy

for someone to whom people behave sympathetically, or for whom they have sympathy.


Assuming that your character is not seeking for attention (i.e. being melodramatic), I would say piteous is the word you are looking for.

Piteous [adjective]

Of a kind to move to pity or compassion.

Link to definition

  • Please add a reference to a dictionary definition or two and correct your spelling mistake. Also it's either "looking for" or "seeking" without "for".
    – CJ Dennis
    Feb 16, 2020 at 4:48

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