We can all appreciate feeling validated. To feel that our feelings and our actions make sense in the eyes of another is important. We all like to feel validated. Having someone tell us that “it makes sense” is sometimes all we need in order to release a little bit of the tension and stress. Validation is just this, the ability to see the other person’s point of view and let them know their response is understandable. People are entitled to their point of view. We all come into situations with our own background, our own experiences and how we make sense of our environment. A very important point to make is that validation is not acceptance or agreement, simply that we can see things from another’s point of view, that it is understandable.
Validation can be a very powerful tool. In a relationship, taking time to validate how the other is feeling can quickly disarm an argument and lead to a more productive conversation. Isn’t that what most arguments are about anyway…just wanting to feel heard and understood? Taking the time to not just listen to the other person but to actually hear what they are saying is an important piece of communication and being part of a relationship. Part of this skill of really hearing what the other person is saying is about listening attentively and not working on the defense and retort while they are talking. This never works and only leads to more frustration, for all involved. I ask this of you, the next time you are in a disagreement with someone, stop and validate them. Then watch the conversation take a very different, more constructive turn for the better.
When was the last time you felt validated for an action you took or a feeling you expressed? Hopefully recently. How about the last time you felt invalidated? Someone saying you “shouldn’t “ feel a certain way, or not allowing you to express how you were feeling or what you were thinking? Often the consequences of living in, or being in a consistently invalidating environment can be damaging to the relationship and increase symptoms of mental health concerns such as low self esteem, difficulty trusting yourself and others, feelings of depression and anxiety, just to name a few. On the other hand, being validated helps people learn to trust their own response to situations and leads to healthy expression of emotion.
So how do we validate? First allow the other person to express themselves openly, reserving judgment or jumping to solutions or offering what they should have done or said. Simply observe the other person’s emotions and describe to them what you see. For example, when someone is crying say, “I see you are crying. Are you feeling sad or upset?” Also, communicate to the other person that what they are feeling is reasonable given the circumstances. Example: “I know you are upset because I forgot to call. I can see why you were worried,” instead of “I just forgot to call! It’s not a big deal! I am just fine, everything is fine!” It makes a world of difference. I encourage you to validate not only yourself but also someone close to you each day and reap the rewards of a more beneficial and enjoyable relationship.