Validating ourselves and others is critical to creating and sustaining both a healthy self concept and healthy relationship with others. Many people struggle with self-validation and/or validating the people in their lives. The reason for this is fairly straight forward. As children their parents or caregivers did not effectively validate them, and as a result they did not develop this skill. For others they were validated when things were going well, but when things went poorly or their parents were emotionally triggered they were shamed or guilted instead of validated.
Validation is a skill you can learn and improve. All of us can benefit from learning new tools and skills in validation.
WHAT IS VALIDATION?
Validation means reassuring someone that their feelings, thoughts, beliefs, and experiences are real and understandable. There are two components of validation:
- Validation of self
- Validation of others
If you are unable to effectively validate yourself, you will most like be ineffective at validating others. However, stress and anxiety can effect your skill level. In addition, the situations you experience can also effect your skill level. For example, in some situations you might find that you are very skillful but in other situations you might find that you have limited to no skill. Practicing the validation strategies in this article are key to your continued success.
What is self-validation? Self validation is quietly reassuring yourself that what you feel inside is real, important, and makes sense.
Emotions, thoughts, and sensations are all experiences that we sometimes doubt in ourselves. We might ask ourselves: “Should I feel this way?,” “Is it “right” to feel this way?” In addition, we may look to others to understand how we should feel or ask others what we should feel, because we do not trust our inner experience.
Improving the ability to self-validate helps us:
- Quiet defensive/fearful emotions so that we can problem solve.
- Let go of the distress that comes from self-justification and self-doubt.
- Trust our inner experience.
What is validating others? Validating others is calmly reassuring another person what they think, feel, believe or experience is real, important, and makes sense.
Improving the ability to validate others helps us:
- Make relationships work more smoothly.
- Calm situations so that we can problem solve.
VALIDATION: HOW-TO STRATEGIES
First and foremost we need to understand that validation does NOT mean that you AGREE or APPROVE of behavior. In fact, validation is non-judgmental.
Below you will find five strategies to validate yourself and others.
1. Focus on the inherent worth of the person, whether it is yourself or someone else
2. Observe—Listen carefully to what is said with words, expression, and body. Intently listen, block all distractions and just focus on yourself or the other person in that moment.
-If you are self-validating, honor your experience by sitting quietly with it, knowing it for at least a few moments.
-If you are validating someone else, use good eye contact, nod, and focus on them completely. Keep a calm facial expression.
3. Describe—Non-judgmentally state the FACTS of the situation.
4. State the Unstated—Note the presence of feelings, beliefs, etc. that have not been voiced.
-If validating others you might say: “You seem to feel angry, but also hurt by what that person said to you.”
-If validating yourself, identify primary emotions. If anger is obvious, explore your feelings of any shame, hurt, or disappointment that may be hiding beneath.
5. Find what is true/valid about the experience and note this. Without feeling that you have to agree or approve of the experience, find a piece of it that makes perfect sense, and validate this!
-If validating yourself— you might realize the thoughts you are experiencing are “irrational.” However, validate the existence of your thoughts and how powerful they are in the moment.
-If validating someone else— even if you disagree with their behavior, find something that you can empathize with. For example, you might say, “When you get that angry, you want to strike out at someone.”
VALIDATION PRACTICE EXERCISE
After reading each situation, identify all of the responses that are VALIDATING. Some of the responses may be skillful, but not validating. Remember to focus on reassuring self/other that their experience is real, important, and/or makes sense. Identify all of the validating responses for each question.
1. Your child threw a toy at you and has received a time out. She is very angry and is crying.
a. You sit down with your child and say nothing.
b. You ignore her, because you don’t want to give her attention for bad behavior.
c. You say, “You were really upset, weren’t you?”
d. You say, “You could have hurt me when you threw that toy.”
2. Your co-worker is always late for work and was reprimanded by your boss. He’s late again and asks you to lie for him.
a. You say, “You’re really worried about being in trouble, and I can understand that, but I can’t lie, and get into trouble too. Let’s find another solution.”
b. You immediately go tell your boss what he said.
c. You try to avoid him. When he approaches you, you say, “I can’t talk right now, I have to make a call.”
d. You say, “Are you asking me to tell our boss that you weren’t late?”
3. You are feeling a lot of irritation and you don’t know why. You snap at your spouse or partner who has done nothing wrong.
a. You tell yourself, “I’m always irritable and drive people away.”
b. You force yourself to behave more patiently with others than you actually
feel for the rest of the day.
c. You talk to a friend and tell them,“I just snapped at my spouse, and I don’t know why. I’m irritable and confused.”
d. You think your spouse deserved it because he or she argued with you last week.
When we improve our ability to validate ourselves and others it can powerfully improve our lives. It can help us manage our emotions move effectively, improve our personal and professional relationships, and increase our overall wellbeing. I spend countless hours coaching clients how to validate themselves and others. I model this for them in the interaction and then show them how to do it. It is never too late to improve validation skills. The next time you get triggered emotionally or experience conflict with a loved one make a decision to practice the 5 validation strategies in this post. You might print out these 5 strategies and tape them to your refrigerator or wall.
Contact me: If you would like coaching on how to more effectively validate yourself and others, please contact me through my website to schedule an appointment.