One of the most important emotional skills is the skill of validation. It is a skill because it can be learned. Whether it is or ever will be part of the academic or corporate measures of emotional intelligence, is uncertain at this point. But if you want to have better relationships with people, the skill of emotional validation is extremely useful.
The relationship will be better because with more validation you will have less debating, fewer conflicts, and less disagreement. You will also find that validation opens people up and helps them feel free to communicate with you. In fact, if there is a communication breakdown, if there is a wall between you and someone else, it probably has been built with the bricks of invalidation. Validation is the means of chipping away at the wall and opening the free flow of communication.
|What Validation Is
To validate someone's feelings is first to accept their feelings. Next, it is to understand them, and finally it is to nurture them.
To validate is to acknowledge and accept one's unique identity and individuality. Invalidation, on the other hand, is to reject, ignore, or judge their feelings, and hence, their individual identity.
When we validate someone, we allow them to safely share their feelings and thoughts. We are reassuring them that it is okay to have the feelings they have. We are demonstrating that we will still accept them after they have shared their feelings. We let them know that we respect their perception of things at that moment. We help them feel heard, acknowledged, understood and accepted.
Sometimes validation entails listening, sometimes it is a nod or a sign of agreement or understanding, sometimes it can be a hug or a gentle touch. Sometimes it means being patient when the other person is not ready to talk.
|Basic Steps to Validation
Here are some simple ways to validate someone when they talking to you and they are feeling upset, hurt, sad etc.
Most of us truly want to help other people, but often we don't know how, or we try too hard and we start giving advice, as our parents did to us. But I have found that usually if I just validate someone, they are able to work out their own emotional problems even faster than if I were to give them my advice. This I believe is a sign of not only high EQ but of wisdom. Though I read about validation and "active listening" I didn't learn the importance of it. I learned it from life. And from watching what works and what doesn't work. If you want to help someone, try some of these. I have found they have amazing power.
For some people all you need to do is use these short, validating comments and they will continue to talk.
For others, you might encourage them to keep talking with short questions such as:
If you find yourself in a position of needing to lead the conversation you might try:
Also, to help someone release their feelings try:
Often, the fewer words from you, the better, especially when someone needs to talk and they are both willing and able. I have found, as I am sure you have, that it takes more to get some people talking than others. But once most people start, and feel safe and validated, they will continue.
Validation allows a person
to release their feelings in a healthy, safe and
supportive way. It also helps us get to know them better.
Thus it builds bonds of caring, support, acceptance,
understanding and trust. When a person is feeling down,
these bonds are sometimes all that another person needs
to begin to feel better and solve their own problems.
For example when someone is excited, proud etc. You might say:
By validating someone we demonstrate that we care and that their feelings matter to us-- in other words, that they matter to us. By "mirroring" someone's feelings, we show them that we are in tune with them. We feel connected with them and they feel connected with us.
|A message from a social worker on
validation and invalidation
I LOVE your site! You've put a lot of work into this and I found your site helpful.
I work with as a Social Worker at a
'Safehouse' for abused/neglected children. I found your
site by typing "validating feelings" at Yahoo's
search engine. Your site was third in the search list.
Often I notice other social workers invalidating a child's feelings. We social workers want so badly for the kids to be happy that we often unintentionally invalidate the kids feelings.
Just the other day we took a small boy to the doctor's office and I asked him if he was a little bit scared. It was obvious by his face that he was scared and I wanted to share, understand, and validate his feeling. But after I asked if he were a little bit scared and before he had a chance to answere the other social worker interupted us and in a scolding tone of voice told him there was nothing to be afraid of! I felt very sad for the boy but I wasn't sure how to handle the situation. I need to get along with my coworkers too... but these kids desparetely need to be heard.
I read everything I could find on
your site about validating feelings...
|An Example of Validating a Child's
Feelings - "I want Mama!"
When someone is experiencing a strong
feeling, sometimes we
By Josh Freedman, http://www.6seconds.org
|A Validating Father
1. vfvalidation.org/whatis.html - link was broken as of Feb 2011