Compassion is the expression of care and concern for another person or group of people. Compassion can come in many forms. A few examples include: a kind word, a gift, a smile, a show of concern, and depending on the context, something as simple as not letting someone feel alone. The key to compassion is the ability to recognize when it is appropriate. Though this point is debatable, compassion is probably not something that should be issued carte blanche. For this reason empathy is a valuable intellectual skill that can supplement our work as we recognize instances calling for compassion.
Empathy is the ability to see things from someone else’s emotional perspective, "to get in their shoes." In order to have an empathic understanding of a given situation, a person must foster a certain degree of intra and interpersonal awareness. As this is accomplished, a person develops a form of emotional understanding with others. It is through this emotional understanding that we can recognize the right time for compassion. The question we need to answer is, when is compassion called for? Empathy can be what answers this question. Understood in this way, we can think of empathy as a kind of mental awareness of others, and compassion is the proper behavioral product of that awareness.