Improving Your Relationships Through Emotional Validation
Emotional validation is an important social skill that anyone can learn. Validation helps us feel more respected and accepted and is a skill you can practice with your loved ones and with people you barely know!
Basics of Validation
1. Define validation. Validation refers to acknowledging someone’s feelings. That’s not the same as saying you agree with them or that you're condoning their behavior. You can talk with your child about how feeling afraid led them to hide their failing grades without suggesting that was the right thing to do.
2. Offer validation to yourself. Learn to validate yourself as well as others. Similar techniques work in both cases. Recognizing your true feelings is the first step in being able to manage them constructively.
3. Monitor your nonverbal expressions. Body language is part of the process. If you feel patient and attentive, you’re likely to look relaxed and welcoming. On the other hand, rolling your eyes at a person can feel just as dismissive as any verbal ridicule and is most certainly not validating.
4. Take advantage of daily opportunities. It’s easier to master a skill when you use it frequently. Every social interaction can be a training opportunity, whether you’re talking with your mother or the cashier at your grocery store. Try it on: how can you validate the people in your life more regularly, even for the small things?
Benefits of Validation
1. Help people to feel like they belong. The need to fit in is fundamental to human nature. Validating each other’s feelings helps us all to feel more respected and appreciated. We’re reminded that we all have value just for being who we are.
2. Reduce conflicts. Let people know that you care about them and that their feelings matter. Fewer disagreements arise when people trust each other and demonstrate good will.
3. Improve communications. In the absence of judging or casting blame, many people will be eager to open up immediately. Open-ended questions and supportive comments can also help promote more constructive dialogue.
4. Empower others. Authenticating someone’s feelings strengthens their capacity to resolve their own dilemmas. They may get insights into underlying motivations and recurring patterns of behavior that will help them adopt more constructive approaches and become more confident.
How to Validate
1. Listen fully. Start by giving the other person your full attention. Remove all distractions like cell phones and televisions and listen carefully with an open mind. Let people continue talking until they finish their story and provide all the facts.
2. Summarize what you hear. Reflect back to the person what you think they said. That way they can clarify whether you understood the message correctly.
3. Label the emotions. Help the other person to sort out what they’re feeling. If emotions have been suppressed for a long time, it can be difficult to make sense out of them. Someone may discover they’re still distressed by an incident that took place many years ago.
4. Consider the person’s history. Different individuals react differently to the same situations depending on their personality, life history and other factors. A child who grows up in poverty may view money differently from one who had a wealthier background.
5. Recognize the valid aspects of any experience. Ultimately, we all try to avoid suffering and make ourselves happy. Even if you think a particular action shows poor judgment, you can probably find some aspect of the situation that you can relate to if you keep an open mind.
6. Show empathy. Let the other person know that you acknowledge their feelings on the deepest level that is genuine for you. If you’re both struggling to lose weight, you may feel a natural empathy. Even if they’re disappointed by something that seems odd to you, you can still be sensitive to their pain.
Improve your relationships by getting better at providing genuine emotional validation. You’ll learn to manage your emotions better and help those around you to feel more connected and loved.