How To Validate The One You Love. Validation builds emotional safety within relationships. As a Marriage Counselor I talk to people who don’t even know what that means. We all want to feel wanted, needed and understood. Learning to validate our feelings and those of others builds emotional connectedness. In Couples Counseling the couples who build an emotional connection with each other lay the foundation for emotional safety. With emotional safety we can venture into our environment with the confidence needed for every day living.
Courtesy photo from Bon Dobbs book: When Hope Is Not Enough
When working with Couples in Marriage Counseling I often hear the wife say her husband rarely listens to what she says especially if she is sharing about her difficult day or how she hates a certain situation at work. If he does listen he tends to try and “fix” her problem rather than offer any supportive comments or feedback. Using Validation we confirm, mostly through words, that other people have their own emotional experiences. A simple statement like, “It must be difficult and frustrating to have something like that happen to you,” can be validating. According to Dobbs, Validation is not agreeing with their emotional experience, it is reassuring them that it is okay for them to feel the way they do. Validation is confirming the person has specific feelings. We are not confirming that the feelings are right or even okay, we are also not confirming they are wrong. We are confirming that they are just received.
Examples of Validating Statements:
“It must be very difficult to be in this situation.”
“I can’t even imagine what you are going through.”
“I’m not sure, but it appears you are saying that you are very upset right now.”
“I’m sensing this brought up alot of negative feelings for you.”
“I can see you are angry right now.”
“If I were you I would be feeling that way too.”
“Tell me if I have this right. What I hear you say was my comment was very hurtful towards you and it’s not the first time you have felt this way.”
In making validating statements you should never:
Make them about you. “That happened to me too.”
Tell them how they should feel. “You should feel lucky, blessed, etc.”
Try to give advice. “What you should to is…”
Try to solve their problem. “You should just quit your job if you hate it so much.”
Make “life” statements. “Well, life’s not fair….that’s life for you.”
Make judgements. “What you did wrong was….”
Make character statements. “You’re just too sensitive.”
Use reasons or facts. “That’s not what happened….”
Label the person. “You’re crazy, nuts, etc.”
In Couples Counseling I emphasize the problem being discussed is not as important as what the person needing the validation feels about it. So the problem that must be addressed is his/her feelings and not the situation. Easier said than done. It is a skill building process that needs to be learned like a foreign language or a dance step. To address his/her feelings, you must do so using emotional language, not rational or judgmental language. Being able to validate the one you love makes them feel emotionally safe, therefore, wanting to open up and share more with you.
If you want to learn more about how to validate your loved ones please contact me at (858) 735-1139. It is a skill worth learning as people you meet will be attracted to you as you will be perceived as genuinely caring about them as an Empathic person.