Validation: The art of expressing recognition and acceptance of a person’s emotional experience.
So…what does that actually mean? Most of us have heard the term before, and we tend to be pretty good at recognizing when we are lacking validation from our partners, yet at the same time we tend to struggle remembering how to provide validation, and why it is so important.
Imagine that you are a mirror, and you are simply reflecting your partner’s experience back to them. We also call this active or reflective listening. This is not the time to worry about your experience (your thoughts, feelings, suggestions, reactions, opinions, arguments, anything!). Your sole job in this moment is to let your partner know “I see you, I hear you, I get you.”
Okay…what if I don’t get what they’re feeling, or why they’re feeling that way?
Then ask! Asking your partner open ended questions about their experience sends the message that, even though you don’t understand yet, you care about their experience and want to deepen your understanding. For example, “Mary, I see how upset you are, and I’m having a hard time understanding what’s going on. Will you tell me more about what upset you?”
What if I don’t agree with them?
Ah…and this is exactly why validation is so important! Most likely, your experience will be entirely different from your partner’s experience. You are different people, with different perspectives. The important thing is remembering what your job is right now, which is purely to listen to and validate your partner.
What does this actually look like?
Whenever I introduce the concept of validation to my clients, I almost always play this short video clip. It makes me laugh every time! Click here to watch “It’s Not About The Nail”. Enjoy!
Please note that this content is for informational purposes, and not a substitute for treatment. If you are in need of mental health treatment, please seek out a provider in your area.