Validation: An essential skill to improve communication.

Humans are the most advanced animal we know on Earth. Many characteristics make us different from other animals. One of them is that we innately require social interactions. The social interactions that humans urge to have are much more diverse than other animals. He naturally needs deeper communication that allows us to truly connect with others, understand, learn about them, and in the process, find ourselves. We need to have this aspect of a relationship as it helps us understand our place in life and who we want to become. For this reason, many of us, through science and personal experience, have been attempting to learn how to better communicate with others. 

Learning to better communicate with others serves a great purpose. This is the need to create fulfilling relationships with others. When sharing with others, demonstrating that we are involved and cared about their feelings is an integral part of positive communication.

What is validation?

Validation is essential to build fulfilling relationships. At work, at home, with your spouse or partner, it is necessary to become a good listener, which will lead to excellent communication. The most vital part of being a good listener is learning to validate. Validation can calm fears, bring positive energy, and de-escalate situations. Validation is the act of recognizing and understanding the other’s feelings in a given conversation or case. Validation must possess the following components to make it effective: identify the emotion and justify that emotion. For instance, you are having lunch with your best friend, you haven’t seen each other for some months now, but you can feel that she is genuinely not present. She is constantly looking at her phone and not paying attention to the conversation. You become frustrated, so you ask her what is going on. She then says: “My husband was supposed to call me after he picked up our son from school. He doesn’t normally pick him up on Wednesdays; I am worried he forgot to do it.” You could reassure her: “Hey, everything will be ok. Maybe he just forgot to call”. You could give advice: “Well, that is very irresponsible for him. I would call him right away and see what is happening!” Or, you could validate her feelings: “I don’t blame you for worrying, mostly if he said he would call you.” You hold off on the advice and the reassurance, simply because they most likely already know how to solve their problem. Your friend only needs to feel that you are empathizing with her. It is non-jugdgemental or aggressive. Empathizing is the key to proper validation. Remember that empathizing is entering into the situation and feeling the emotion, as opposed to sympathy, which is a feeling of care or concern for another person. The better you get at validating, the better you can create long-lasting and fulfilling relationships. 

Common misconceptions:

There are several misconceptions about validating. Let’s go over some of them:

  1. Validation is only for negative emotions: I’m afraid that’s not right. You can validate any feeling and still help to build better communication. Validating both negative and positive emotions have been shown, through studies, to affect a relationship in an equally positive way. So, get excited when your spouse tells you about what a fantastic day she had! Show your happiness when your best friend shares about the promotion they received a few weeks back. 
  2. You cannot validate if you don’t agree: You can validate anyone, even if you disagree with them. Remember that validating is empathizing; this means you are saying: “I understand why you feel that way.” You are most certainly not agreeing with them or telling them that they are correct.
  3. Validation is simply repeating what the other person says: validating is different than merely rephrasing what somebody said. Rephrasing has a place and team, and it can be a valuable tool in certain situations. However, validating is about making someone feel understood and appreciated for their feelings. Rephrasing can sound unauthentic and very careless.

How to use validation systematically?

So far, we have learned about the concept of validation and how important it is to becoming and good listener and communicator. We have covered how it can help you have more fulfilling relationships and even fixed some lost ones. Applying validation in your daily communication takes practice and a lot of trial and error. It is impossible to give you exact scenarios and responses for every conversation you could have. However, we can give you some tips on incorporating validation and making it successful. Try to follow the following steps in every conversation you have:

  1. Listen and try to understand: this is where your empathy needs to kick in, and you need to step into the situation.
  2. Validate: Here’s where you do it!. Tell this person you understand them, and you are feeling with them. (“Wow, that is sad!” “Hey, Congrats!, That sounds amazing!”)
  3. Offer advice and encouragement: You should only do this if appropriate. Think about whether you genuinely have a piece of good advice. Listen to the other person. Are they indirectly asking for advice? Otherwise, encourage. Unwanted advice can start building a giant wall in relationships. 
  4. Validate again! And you are done.

Final thoughts

So far, we have talked about validation, what it is, how it is helpful, and most importantly, how to provide validation to others. Something vital, and we may not have mentioned it is you! You need to learn to ask for validation and even given yourself validation. You now understand what it looks like, so even if you need validation and people do not know what that means, give them some pointers. Tell them: “I am having a hard time. Can I vent with you? I don’t want advice of any sort, but I need to be heard.” Also, learn to validate yourself. We are our own worst critics, and validation will help us learn to love and understand our person.