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The Power of Validation 

Have you ever felt exhausted and hopeless after a full hour (or more) of conversation with a loved one where no progress was made towards a resolution? Perhaps it turned into a big blow up and left you feeling hurt, unheard, misunderstood, or resentful?  

I see this all the time in families, marriages, friendships, and the workplace. Individuals come together with the best intentions to reach a resolution, only to find that their efforts to discuss it make it much worse. 

If people knew there was something they could do to reach through the conflict, to connect with the other person, to move forward, I’m sure they would do it right away.  

Many times we want to do the talking, the criticizing, the pleading, or the controlling. As necessary as it is to express our feelings and point of view, healthy and effective communication begins with an open heart and a willingness to listen. Listeners tune into words as well as feelings. Most of communication is non-verbal; it is facial expressions and body language.  

Validation is not about giving up or giving into the other person. It’s not about agreeing with them, resolving the conflict, or manipulating them to sway them to agree with you. Validation is about trying to understand and express acceptance of another person’s emotional experience. It is a willingness to understand your partner’s (or child’s) perspective.  

Validating feelings is vital to connecting with others. Validation communicates that the relationship is important, even though you may disagree on issues.  

Validation can happen in one moment when you say that you understand another person’s feelings. That one moment of understanding is powerful and has the ability to change the course of your interaction.  

3 Steps to Validate Someone 

  1.  Change to a listening posture. Instead of trying to be heard and understood, try to listen to what the other person is saying with an attempt to grasp the feelings behind what they say.  
  2. Try to feel what the other person is feeling, especially if you do not agree with it. When you try to listen with the intention of understanding the other person, you open yourself up to be empathetic and compassionate and you allow yourself to try and see things from their perspective. In that moment, the person you care about feels heard, understood, and more important than the issue.  
  3. Tell the other person you understand why they would feel that way. You do not need to say, “You’re right,” or “I agree.” You just need to say that you understand.  

When you give someone a moment of validation, you are accomplishing several things all at once. You are sending the message that the other person matters to you, you are connecting, and you are helping the other person open up to your point of view as well. 

People who feel validated are much more open to the opinions of others. Once you have been able to validate the feelings of someone you care about, they will be far more able to hear what you have to say and imagine what you are feeling.  

Validation has the power to turn a negative cycle into a positive one.  

 

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Written by Whitney Hebbert, MSm LAMFT

Whitney is a therapist at the Spanish Fork Center for Couples and Families. She received masters degrees from BYU in Exercise Science and California Lutheran University in Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy. Whitney ran cross country and track at BYU and is an avid runner. She lives in Utah County with her husband and three children.

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