We seem to live in a world in which telling other people how wrong they are is a sport. We seem to be incapable of having empathy for one another, we just want to be RIGHT. Ignoring others’ pain, minimizing the experience of others, and walking past blatant needs is a daily occurrence. The frequency with which I see people NOT holding doors for one another, the sea of people eating at tables alone in the same room, or walking through life with earbuds in is the new norm. Unfortunately, the cost of this sort of behavior is damaged relationships, isolation, and dissatisfaction.
Living in a world that tells us that our perceptions are wrong or our emotional experience is exaggerated leads to people who question their interpretations. People who aren’t sure if what they are feeling is correct or accurate leads to increased anxiety. People are anxious that they will be judged for their beliefs which leads them to retreat away from peers and isolate.
The answer to this predicament is to become a more validating culture as a whole. Validation is the art of communicating to another that their experience makes sense to you. If it doesn’t make sense to you, validating can also take the form of listening and letting them know that you are willing to hold their emotional experience without judgment or trying to “fix it”.
- When your spouse is venting about some workplace “drama” that makes no sense to you, you could say “wow hun…it sounds like the workplace politics are really stressful for you” (And that’s it! You just listen and validate..do not try to give a million solutions! Not unless they specifically ask for it).
- If a friend is having high levels of anxiety over something that doesn’t worry you, you could say “being that anxious is exhausting, I am sorry you are feeling overwhelmed”. (And that’s it! You just listen and validate!)
- If a friend has had several difficult experiences in one week, you could say “That sounds hard, I would be having a hard time if all that happened to me too!” (And that’s it! You just listen and validate!)
- If your teen just got an acceptance letter to the college they have been waiting for, you could say “I am SO excited for you, this is amazing news!”
- If your parent is having a difficult time justifying a “splurge” because they were raised in poverty, you could say “It really makes sense that you would struggle to make a big purchase, given your childhood” (And that’s it! You just listen and validate!)
If we can work on HEARING each other more and trying less to FIX each other, we would come together and build relationships instead of building so many walls. More connection will decrease the anxiety and depression in our world. Give it a try!