Many people seek counseling when there’s a rift in one of their major relationships. Whether the relationship has been deteriorating for decades or just suddenly came apart- there is one ingredient I always recommend as a first start to repairing things: validation. Validation is the act of acknowledging that you can see how someone is thinking and feeling and why they might think and feel that way. It’s not agreeing or backing down. It’s really putting yourself in their shoes for a moment and being aware of what’s going on for that other person.
It’s simple and it’s powerful. Almost everyone responds well to feeling validated. It usually opens them up to being able to validate you in return. However, it does require practice, patience, trial and error, and then even more practice. So, I’ll give you the quick-start version:
- When someone is telling you how they feel- you need to RECOGNIZE that they are telling you something important.
- You will feel the urge to react immediately- hold on and LISTEN carefully.
- Let them know what you heard them say. Say something like, “So I hear you saying…” and repeat their words as close to what they just said as possible. This will make sure you REALLY GOT IT. If they don’t agree that you get it, listen and repeat again.
- Now take a minute and see if you can IMAGINE what it would be like if you were them. You probably know this person well, so take into account what they’re like and how they often perceive things.
- Let them know that you can see HOW AND WHY they are THINKING AND FEELING the way they are. You can say something like “I can see that you are feeling ____. Given _____ I can see where you are coming from.”
- MAKE SURE THAT YOU GOT IT RIGHT. Say “Do you think I’m getting it?” If not, repeat steps 1-5.
I can imagine that some of you are feeling skeptical right now. This might seem unnatural or just plain weird (notice my use of validation, feels good right?). That’s the thing about validation, its so helpful and yet so few of us practice it regularly. It’s like anything, practice makes it feel normal and natural. So give it a try today. Think of it as an investment in the relationships you value the most. Because so few of us have been taught this skill, consider seeking some help in mastering it if needed. It will be worth your time and effort.