Emotional validation is a powerful skill and gift you can give to your loved ones. I dramatically refer to it as an “elixir for the soul. “ Validation is the technique that most therapists use to support their clients.
It doesn’t mean that you agree with what the person is saying. It simply means that you are acknowledging them and accepting them as they are. Many of us do this in our daily life without even realizing it, especially those of us who are caretakers by nature.
Imagine your friend telling you that she’s hurt because the man she was dating broke things off. That man happened to be married. Logically you may think “well she shouldn’t have gotten herself in the situation in the first place” or “what did she expect to happen?” You may even judge of the morality of her choice.
Validation isn’t about approving of her behavior. It means listening and understanding the other person’s point of view. Validation an elixir for the soul because it helps people who are distraught to feel understood and it’s a way you can be present for a friend or other loved one.
When you validate a friend, you might respond by saying “I understand”, “I get it”, “I know it must be painful”.
Another part of validation is your body language. You can show that you’re listening and understanding by leaning in toward them as they talk and nodding your head.
Now let’s consider a non-validating reaction. We’ve all had the experience when we’ve been highly anxious, or very down in the dumps and someone has responded in a way that is inadvertently insensitive. Let’s imagine that somebody very close to you has just died.
Because people often feel uncomfortable discussing death or dealing with strong emotions, it is common for people to try to reassure us by using platitudes like “well he’s in a better place now”. Intellectually, you may know this is true but that’s wont alleviate your hurt.
Beyond helping Someone feel understood, validation helps the other person move beyond overwhelming emotions to a place of reflection and problem-solving.
Once they feel less distressed, they can process their emotions and Think about their situation. This step leads to increased insight into what’s bothering them, and possibly coming up with how to confront their situation.
One final thing to know about how to validate another person is making sure that you are entirely present and the person has your full attention. Checking your texts while they are pouring out their heart to you, while semi-consciously muttering “uh huh” won’t cut it.
While offering a friend the opportunity to vent and being there for them may feel like a simple thing, it’s truly a priceless gift. It doesn’t cost you a thing!