Validation: Why it matters.
by Mary Martha Abernathy, LPC
We have all experienced a situation where we have not validated a person’s beliefs or behaviors as we interact with them. We also know what it feels like for someone to ignore our feelings, minimize our experiences, or change the subject of a conversation when the topic really matters. Validating our own feelings and those of other people is an important skill to have and to hone.
What is validation? Validation means “acknowledging that a person’s emotions, thoughts and behaviors have causes and are therefore understandable”.
To validate someone means we are looking for the kernel of truth in another person’s perspective, even if we don’t agree with them.
Why is it important? Well, it shows that we are listening to the other person and that we are trying to understand them. It helps to strengthen our relationships because we can avoid a power struggle over who is right by validating the other person. When we don’t validate others, it hurts.
How do we do it? Pay attention to what the other person is saying. Actively listen and reflect back to them what they are saying, without judging them! We have to use our observation skills and we have to be pay attention to the conversation. It is important to notice the little things, how is the person standing, are their arms crossed, is their face red, do they look like they are getting ready to cry? All of these clues help us in conversation.
We need to notice how a person is acting, listen to what a person says, and respond according to what we see and hear to help create and improve connection in relationships.
What’s the impact? Like I said, validation helps to create connection. Validation challenges us to be present in conversation. We have to be listen to what the other person is saying in order to respond in a way that helps a person to feel understood. Validation can de-escalate a situation because you’ve avoided the fight and acknowledged the other person’s experience.
Give it a shot!
Information adapted from DBT Skills Manual for Adolescents, Rathus, Jill H., and Alec L. Miller. “Validation.” DBT Skills Manual for Adolescents. New York: Guilford, 2015. Print.