Validation is the ability to communicate to another person that they, their perceptions, their feelings and/or their opinions are valid. Our world tends to be quite Invalidating, in that we are berated with the message that we aren’t enough and we don’t make sense. It reminds me of the teacher that we all had, that would correct your response even if you read from the text the exact answer. Validation is a skill that will instantly improve relationships, especially if you learn to validate and then STOP. The STOP is about not jumping into problem solving. Think about how it feels when people hurl solutions to you (have you tried____________??) without taking time to understand the problem or communicate to you that the problem is anywhere near valid.
Validation requires you to find the truth in another person’s point of view. This means that no matter how ___________ (dumb, pointless, absurd, irrational) you deem their experience to be, if you want to expedite their calming down, it is necessary for you to validate something. Validating is not the same as agreeing with them if you truly do not. You could say something like “I can see that you are really passionate about this” or “It sounds like you had a difficult day and it has you feeling really depressed”. If you agree with them, you can be more validating by saying “I think it makes sense that you feel that way” or “given your background, I understand why his statement bothered you”. Letting someone know that you hear them will aide in their ability to calm down and thus problem solve.
Some tips for validating
- Make eye contact, stop what you are doing and put your phone down. Communicate to the other person that they are important enough that you can give undivided attention
- Pay attention to their body language and whether it is congruent (think slumped teenager saying “I’m fine” and attend to the one you believe is more authentic
- Be open to correction. If I think you have your head down because you are disinterested in what I am saying, I need to remain open to you correcting me and telling me you have a headache
- Communicate to them with your words, that you think the make sense either because of their history or because ANYONE would feel that way given their circumstances
- In unique situations, share the feeling with them (not one-upping them, not taking the focus off of them) ie: when they get REALLY good or REALLY bad news
I have a feeling that if you reflect on who you like to spend time with, they are a fairly validating people! If you can channel that person, it may be easier to validate by thinking “what would _________ say?” Take time to practice!