The Value of Validation

It’s a basic human need to want to feel significant, safe, important, understood and valued. We want to be and feel heard. It’s important to use this with your partner, children, friends, family and any other relationships in your life.

First, let’s understand what validation means. It’s accepting someone’s feelings. It is to really understand where they are coming from. When we validate someone, we acknowledge and accept their uniqueness and individuality. A big misconception is to think that if we validate someone, then they are going to think we completely agree with them. This is not true. It simply means I get you. I understand what you are feeling and saying. Invalidation is the opposite. It comes from a place of being right and judgment. The person doesn’t feel close and connected to you. They feel shutdown and disconnected.

It starts first with hearing and validating others. Often, we don’t learn this growing up, yet we have a need to experience to feel heard and validated. The good news is it’s a skill we can learn. If there is conflict, it can be because walls of invalidation have been built. Ultimately, validation allows someone to feel safe and encouraged to express their feelings. It will build stronger and deeper connections. 

Below are some steps to begin using validation immediately.

  1. Work on your own judgments and feelings. Work through your own hurt and pain. Perhaps, this is in the way of really connecting with others. Be in an accepting and open space.
  2. Listen with your eyes, ears and body. Face the person and make eye contact. Notice your body language and if you are open to really hearing them. Be present with them. No texting, using your computer or doing something else while you are with them. Allow the person to safely share their thoughts and feelings without judgment or blame. 
  3. Mirror back what you heard. For example, “What I heard you say is…” You are repeating or paraphrasing what you heard. You will notice someone nodding or saying, “Yes. Exactly.” They are feeling heard. This shows them we care and are in tune with them.
  4. Use short phrases to show you understand. For instance, you might say any of these statements, “I can understand how you feel. It sounds like you are really feeling _____. It sounds like ____is really important to you. It makes sense how you feel.”
  5. Don’t give advice. Most of us truly want to help others. We don’t know how to help. We start giving advice, as our parents did us. If you just validate someone, they are able to work out their own emotional issues faster than giving them advice.

-Kristen D Boice M.A., LMFT, EMDR Trained

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