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Giving the Gift of Validation

Jessica Stewart

Two young female friends with coffee conversingValidation is important because it communicates I hear you, I see you, and I care. When experienced from others it can feel like you have received the gift of acceptance and feeling understood. This is what makes learning the art of validation so important. It is an important skill that increases healthy communication with others, deepens feelings of acceptance, and is a necessary step towards self-love.

Inversely, if you have ever felt invalidated you recognize the wounds it creates. Invalidation can be used in more overt forms of emotional abuse and manipulation in relationships. What is difficult about identifying validation versus invalidation is that many acts of invalidation are committed from well-intentioned loved ones who desire to love and support us. Often the goal of well-intentioned invalidators is to “make you feel better” or “help you see a different perspective”. However, what is often experienced is feelings of sadness or shame for feeling the way that one feels.

Here are some helpful ways to practice giving the gift of validation to others.

  1. Be present and Practice Attentive listening skills: When listening to others’ feelings or thoughts show them you are interested by maintaining eye contact, and not multitasking (Check your phone after the conversation is over). Reflect back what you hear to make sure you fully understand what they are saying. Make sure to be aware of your tone, as to not sound judgmental when doing this.
  2. Mind Reading: Pay attention to what is not being said by the person speaking. Look at facial expressions, body language, what is happening and what you already know about the person. Take your reflection a step further and reflect back the feeling “I can see you are really hurt. This must be painful”. Remember when making an observation you may be wrong so be open to correction and listen for the actual emotion expressed.
  3. Understand your loved one or yourself: Acknowledge that everyone has their own biology and history. Look at how their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors make sense in light of their past experiences, present situation, and current state of mind. Practice self-validation by remembering your own history and past experiences that may be influencing your present moment.
  4. Normalize common reactions to emotions: People often feel shame about feeling the way they do in varying situations. There are common emotional responses to reactions that others can feel validation when we note that for them. For example, “Of course you’re anxious, going on an interview can be scary for anyone”.
  5. Be Authentic and Genuine: People respond well to authenticity. Be yourself when practicing validation. It will add to the feeling of acceptance to know you genuinely are not trying to treat them as fragile or incompetent.

Here are some helpful statements to stay away from that increase the feelings of invalidation:

“I’m sorry you feel that way”

“You shouldn’t feel that way”

“At least its not as bad as..” or “It could be worse”

“Just don’t think about it and move on”

“ I won’t have this discussion”

 

Practicing validation can be difficult, but it is not impossible. Using these tips and avoiding certain statements can lead to increase healthy communication skills. If you or a loved one need further guidance in practicing healthy communication skills and navigating the difficulties of relationships, The Summit Counseling Center has therapist at both our Main and Satellite locations. To schedule an appointment or for more information call 678-893-5300 or visit us at www.summitcounseling.org.

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