What Is Emotional Validation?
The process of validation involves learning and understanding another person’s emotions. The aim of validation is not to alter people’s emotions but to accept them as they are. It helps diffuse conflict and increases effective communication. Validation is not the same thing as an affirmation. Validation does not imply agreement. It’s not about who is right and who is wrong. You can find some truth in every situation, regardless of whether you feel the same way, think the same way, or want the same things. Remember, the goal is to understand others are judging without trying to change their minds or shame them for it.
Validation is a skill that requires practice. Strengthening this skill will improve your relationships. It can also help you develop compassion for yourself and others.
How to Practice Emotional Validation
Listen to what the person is saying, acknowledge it, and rephrase it. Instead of changing or minimizing their emotions, this helps them feel seen and heard. Here are a few strategies to try if you want to validate others better.
1. Acknowledge Emotions
- Reflect on what you hear from them to show you understand their perspective. Ask yourself, “what are they trying to convey here.”
- This can be hard if they have not communicated their feelings, so you might have to ask them, o guess and then ask if you’re on the right track
2. Acknowledge the Source of the Emotion
- The next step is identifying the situation that led to the emotion.
- Have the person explain why they are feeling this way. You might say, “What is it making you feel that way?”
- Note that your loved one might not be able to communicate this or have the capacity to reflect at the moment. When this happens, state that they seem upset, you’d like to know why, and you need more information to make sense of the situation.
3. Validate the Emotion
- Noting that someone’s feelings make sense can go a long way. You can still validate their feelings by accepting what they are feeling, even if you don’t follow their reasoning.
- You don’t need to apologize for your behavior if you don’t feel you did anything wrong. You might defuse the situation simply by acknowledging the person’s feelings.
Examples of Validating Statements:
- I can see that you are very (upset, sad, frightened, and scared). Tell me more about that.
- That has to be so upsetting.
- That stinks! or That’s messed up!
- What a tough spot. How frustrating!
- Darn, I know how much that meant to you. I bet you feel disappointed.
Examples of Asking Clarification Questions:
- What are you feeling?
- I don’t understand; help me to understand.
- Are you upset with me?
- Would you like my opinion, or do you want me to listen?
- I’m a little confused. Can you give me some time to think about this?
Examples of Invalidating Statements:
- How do you think that makes me feel?
- Oh, you think you have it bad…remember when you did that to me?
- What you really should do is _____.
- You should feel lucky, grateful that you have ______.
- Well, life’s not fair.
- You’re so dramatic.
- There’s nothing to worry about.
Here are a few other ways to help people feel comfortable and accepted when they’re sharing emotions:
- Avoid trying to fix the emotion or trying to find the silver lining in a situation. This minimizes someone’s feelings.
- Give the person your full attention. Don’t be looking at your TV or your phone. If you seem distracted, they might feel that you aren’t taking them seriously or that you don’t care.
- Validation won’t make the other person’s emotion go away, but it can help defuse a situation. Be patient with the process.
- Try to make eye contact and avoid crossing your arms. This body language can help the situation feel less confrontational.
- Even if you would have handled a situation differently, it’s important to show that you care about the other person’s feelings.
- Express empathy whenever possible.
- Ask questions if you feel confused.
- Focus on showing support. Don’t blame someone for having feelings that you don’t like.