3 Ways To Validate Others for Stronger Relationships
Think about the loving relationships in your life, perhaps a significant other, a spouse, or a parent. Now think about a time when you attempted to express yourself to them. How did you feel in those moments when you were pouring your heart out? Were you feel like you were being heard and validated for what you were sharing with them? Or did you leave the conversation feeling blamed, attacked, or minimized for your thoughts and feelings?
No matter what age or background we come from, we all have a universal need to feel like we are important and that we matter to the ones we love.
With this solid foundation in a loving relationship - whether between partners or between parents and their children - we are able to create a secure and strong bond that can shield us from any pain or discomfort life may throw at us.
So how do we solidify (or create) this bond I’m talking about? We can start by showing each other that we really, truly hear the other person; that we take their experiences as true and important and we feel for them. Their pain is our pain. Their joy is our joy.
When we are being accepted and validated for our experiences, we are more likely to bring our guard down and feel closer to one other.
Validation happens when we recognize and accept another person’s (or our own) thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. We show a deep level of understanding that is judgment-free and we take these expressed feelings and thoughts as authentic and real to the other person.
Does this mean that you have to agree or approve of what the other person is sharing? Nope. Instead, you’re showing acceptance: that the relationship matters and is solid, even through the differences.
When we set aside our own thoughts or judgments and pave a way to validate each other by showing up with unconditional support, we inevitably strengthen our relationship.
Learning how to show authentic validation to another person takes some practice. Here are 3 ways you can start validating others:
- Be present
This is easier said than done. I’m talking: gadgets put away, eyes, ears, on your S/O, like you’re really, truly present, like nothing in the world matters but what they’re sharing with you right here, right now.
We are actively listening and showing up when they need us, however they want. Maybe it looks like holding their hand when they are being vulnerable or handing them a box of tissue if they need it. If you don’t know how they best like to receive comfort from you, ask them!
Being present also means acknowledging your own internal experiences - any personal discomfort that may come up - and accepting these emotions without letting them get in the way of you continuing to give the other person your full attention.
Many people share that a lot of the discomfort lies in not knowing exactly what to say or how to respond back to the person sharing. When in doubt, validate by showing you’re present in a caring, nonjudgmental way.
Summarize what you’ve heard in an authentic and gentle way with the intention of truly understanding the person’s experience, and possibly correcting any information you may have misunderstood.
You’re validating what they just shared by providing an accurate reflection. It may look like, “I really want to make sure I’m getting this right. It sounds like you’re feeling let down and disappointed because your mom didn’t help you with the kids like she said she would, and I know you really needed that break.”
- Normalize & Show Empathy
Realizing that your emotions make sense and are normal is helpful for all of us to know. This can be incredibly validating and can help the other person feel heard and loved. It can look like, “It makes sense you’re feeling anxious. It can be so scary standing before your peers and managers and giving a presentation. I would be anxious too!”.
Validation is a powerful skill that can strengthen relationships and diminish the sense of disconnection that can otherwise build up in its absence. When was the last time you validated a loved one?