So many people are looking for “connection”. They want to “be heard”. They want their partners to “be there” for them. This is all about wanting emotional validation. Everyone wants this. Here’s how to start giving the people in your life the validation they want and need. The benefit for you is that it increases the chances they will listen to you. It also strengthens your relationships.
To validate others, identify their feelings and then give them a reason for feeling that way. Just those two things. You don’t need to agree with them to do this. Remember, if someone feels heard, he/she is much more likely to want to hear what you have to say.
Also, and this is important, stop jumping to give people advice. Even if they tell you they want your advice, they probably mean they want your validation. Yes, there will be times when you give advice, but for the most part, hold back.
Here are some examples of validation:
“Wow, I can really get why you are upset. If I had worked hard on a project and my boss gave me a laundry list of what was wrong with it, I’d be upset too.
“Are you serious?! After all your planning your sister just suddenly decided she wasn’t going on the trip just so she could spend time with her new boyfriend?! I would feel hurt, and betrayed too. I can definitely see why it would be hard to trust her again.”
Validation is also for positive emotions. If you fail to get excited about something your partner is excited about, it often feels like you don’t care or don’t “get him/her”. So, jump up and down and wave your arms a little. It won’t kill you.
Here’s an example:
“Oh my gosh! You closed the deal!! I bet you are so proud of yourself for really going after it, especially when it didn’t look like it would ever happen. I don’t blame you. I would feel that way too, if it were me. That is soooo great!” (Jump up and down here if appropriate.)
Validating other people’s feelings is not a “quick fix”; however, over time you will probably find this one skill will improve and strengthen all your relationships. Connecting with others is a skill. You can learn how to do it and you can get better and better at it the more you practice it. To review:
- Identify a specific emotion.
- Provide a reason for feeling that way.
If you don’t know what the person is feeling, you can ask them. “What are you feeling about that?” Or, go on a fishing expedition: “Wow, I would imagine you might be feeling ____ about that. Are you?” If you really don’t know, you can also say “I can’t even imagine how you must feel.” That is also a very validating thing to say.
Try not giving advice and giving emotional validation instead. Most of the time that’s what we all want.
What’s that you say? “What about me?” Simply ask your partner for what you need and want. Just say “Could I unburden myself to you for 10 minutes? Something happened that really upset me, and I just need someone else to know and care that I am upset. I’m not asking for advice.”
And lastly, if you are frustrated with your relationships, I don’t blame you. It’s not easy to navigate this complicated old world, especially when you don’t feel you have the support you need. (See what I just did there?)