To validate someone is first to accept someone’s 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 communicate respect for who they are as an individual. We can accept their observation, feelings, thoughts and needs without defensive counter attacks. We are demonstrating that we accept and respect their perception of things after they have shared themselves. We help them feel heard, acknowledged, understood and accepted.
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. On the other hand, when they are feeling excited and enthusiastic, this validation encourages them and helps keep their spirits high.
Invalidation is to reject, ignore, mock, tease, judge, or diminish someone’s feelings. Invalidation goes beyond mere rejection by implying not only that our observations, feelings or needs are disapproved of, but that we are fundamentally abnormal.
Psychological invalidation is one of the most counterproductive ways to try to manage communications in a relationship. It kills confidence, creativity and individuality.
Telling a person they shouldn’t feel the way they do feel is akin to telling water it shouldn’t be wet, grass it shouldn’t be green, or rocks they shouldn’t be hard. Each person’s feelings are real. Whether we like or understand someone’s feelings, they are still real. Rejecting feelings is rejecting reality; it is to fight nature and may be called a crime against nature, “psychological murder,” or “soul murder.” Considering that trying to fight feelings, rather than accept them, is trying to fight all of nature, you can see why it is so frustrating, draining and futile.
With validation, you are going to have less debating, less 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.
Below is a modified version of Marshall Rosenberg’s Non-Violent Communication process from
A Language of Compassion by Marshall Rosenberg, PhD. It is an appropriate way to give and receive validation in a compassionate manner.
Non Violent Communication
Give: Clearly expressing how I am without blaming or criticizing
Receive: Empathically receiving how you are without hearing blame or criticism
Give: What I observe (see, hear, remember, imagine, free from my evaluations) that does or does not contribute to my well-being: “When I (see/hear)…”
Receive: What you observe (see, hear, remember, imagine, free from your evaluations) that does or does not contribute to your well-being: “When you (see/hear)…”
Give: How I feel (emotion or sensation, rather than thought) in relation to what I observe: “I feel…”
Receive: How you feel (emotion or sensation, rather than thought) in relation to what you observe: “You feel…”
Give: What I need or value (rather than a preference, or a specific action) that causes my feelings: “…because I need/value…”
Receive: What you need or value (rather than a preference, or a specific action) that causes your feelings: “…because you need/value…”
Give: Clearly requesting that which would enrich my life without demanding
Receive: Empathically receiving that which would enrich your life without hearing any demand
Give: The concrete actions I would like taken: “Would you be willing to…?”
Receive: The concrete actions you would like taken: “Would you like…?”
Keys to Validation
1. Acknowledging the other person’s feelings
2. Identifying the feelings
3. Keep listening
4. Helping them label the feelings
5. Being there for them; remaining present physically and emotionally
6. Show patience
7. Be accepting and non-judgmental
4. I hear you.
5. That hurts.
6. That’s not good.
7. That’s no fun.
8. Wow, that’s a lot to deal with.
9. I would feel the same way. (I would be sad/hurt/angry/jealous/etc., too)
10. That is sad.
11. That sounds discouraging.
12. That sounds like it would really hurt.
13. That must really hurt.
14. I know just what you mean.
15. I would feel the same way.
16. I can understand how you feel.
17. It sounds like you are really feeling ____.
18. It sounds like _____ is really important to you.
Suggestions for When You Need to Lead the Conversation
1. I can see that you are really upset.
2. Also, to help someone release their feelings, try: “What bothers you the most about it?”
3. For others, you might encourage them to keep talking with short questions such as: “Really?” “Yeah?”
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