Validation is acknowledging that a person’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors have causes and are understandable, based on that person’s perspective and/or situation. Validation is not simply agreeing to or approving of everything the other person is saying or doing. Nor is it simply complimenting the other person. You want to validate only what is valid.
- Be nice, respectful, and treat the other person as an equal.
- Avoid using judgmental statements like “You shouldn’t do that”, “If you were smart, you would have…”.
- Avoid using verbal or physical attacks or threats like “If you don’t do as I say, you’re going to regret it.”
- Avoid conveying snarkiness through eye rolling, speaking in a sarcastic tone of voice, or smirking.
- Be an active listener.
- Listen to the other person without interrupting.
- Appear interested by making eye contact and nodding your head.
- Reflect back to check your understanding of what’s being said. Example: “So what you’re thinking / feeling / doing is ____. Am I following?”
- Be sensitive to what’s not being said. Try to imagine what the other person might be feeling or thinking.
- Example: You notice your friend is slumped and frowning. You say, “I’m guessing you were pretty hurt by that comment.”
- Show that you understand the other person’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors based on their past experiences, even if you don’t approve.
- Example: “Given your previous bad experience with dogs, I understand why you didn’t want to help care for your partner’s pit bull.”
- Normalize the person’s emotional reactions. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes, and acknowledge the validity given the facts of the situation.
- Be genuine and treat the other person as an equal.
- Example: “It makes sense that you’re anxious. A lot of people get nervous before public speaking.”
Refer to the Relationship Skills lesson videos for more on validation.