Recognizing and Expressing Validation in Our Relationships
Within our relationships with others, there exists a core need for the experience of validation. We may have varying ideas and levels of validation that we might consider as we evaluate our relationship with others and ourselves. One might understand validation as finding a way to accept or make sense of another person’s perspective, way of thinking or situation.
What is Validation?
Validation is a way to let another person know that what they are expressing through words or actions makes logical sense. The core idea is that one can understand and make sense of another person’s perspective and ideas without having to agree with the other person or even like what they are doing or saying. Rather we are intending to communicate that based on what another person understands about a situation, it makes sense that one would feel a certain way, think in a certain way and behave in a certain way.
Validation in Relationships
Often when we experience conflicts or heightened tension in our relationships, there is a communication breakdown that occurs. It may be difficult for us to fully listen or understand another person due to our own desire to defend ourselves, to protect our values and what is important to us and to get our point across to the other person. When we practice the art of validating others, it is believed that this way of connecting can improve our interpersonal relationships by reducing the need to prove a side (who is right or wrong), confrontational reactivity, and anger/frustrations and by promoting problem solving and support.
Validation and Communication
What does validation look like in a conversation with others? Before going through different possible steps, consider what it would be like to fully comprehend and align with another person’s experience.
What would your body language be like?
What would you say or not say in order to better understand another person?
How would you let the other person know that you are listening and making attempts to understand them?
How would you be able to recognize what another person is thinking, feeling or acting/reacting to and let them know what you understand?
How can you act as if the other person’s perspective is valid even if you do not agree with or approve of their feelings, thoughts or actions?
How to Validate:
- Active Listening- Communicate to the other person that you are willing to hear them out and truly mean it. That means, you are engaged in listening to what they are saying, how they are saying it and even allowing yourself to have an emotional response as if you were in their position. Let the other person know that you are interested in what they have to say.
- Body Language- Making eye contact, facing the speaker and nodding your head when they say something that makes sense can communicate that you hear them and are making attempts to understand. This can be validating in itself.
- Mirroring Back- You may be asked to or request to repeat back what you heard in order to ensure that you are fully understanding what you are hearing. This is a great way to adjust any communication breakdowns and directly communicate that you are invested in understanding the other person rather than assuming, generalizing, or judging.
- Create Understanding- Intentionally listen for and ask about how the other person is feeling, thinking or making sense of their situation, problem or challenge. You may ask other questions to gain further insight- about their personal history or current stressors that might connect to how they are reacting.
- Show not just Tell- Show the other person that you believe their thoughts, feelings and actions are valid by responding in a way that makes sense in response. If someone states they are feeling sad because they lost something important to them, consider problem solving or even acknowledging that that experience is really difficult- to feel a sense of loss for something you really cared about.
- We are all human- Consider the uniting experience of humans is that we are fallible- we all make mistakes that we can learn from and we are all innately imperfect, which also makes us importantly unique. We all will have different ways of understanding and making sense of the world and what is happening around us and we all have areas to grow, improve and learn.
Consider how practicing validation techniques in your relationships with loved ones may potentially improve and strengthen your relationships. Consider what might be difficult about engaging in this practice? Feel free to explore this topic through journaling or in a session with your therapist.
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