Validation - What Is It and How To Do It

Validation is a very effective communication skill that can allow you to get through a difficult conversation, get your point across better and feel heard. Validation communicates to another person that his or her feelings, thoughts, and actions make sense and are understandable to you in a particular situation. For example, saying to yourself, "I'm so tired today" or telling someone else, "I hear you". Self-Validation involves perceiving your own feelings, thoughts, and actions as accurate and acceptable in a particular situation. Validation does not necessarily mean that you agree with what the other person is doing, saying, or feeling.

WHAT should we validate?

Validation techniques taught by Bridging Hope Counseling in Rogers and Buffalo, MN.Feelings, thoughts, and behaviors in:

   Other people

WHY should we validate?

It improves relationships!
Validation can show that:
   We are listening
   We understand
   We are being non-judgmental
   We care about the relationship
   Conflict is possible with decreased intensity

HOW can we validate others?

  • Actively listen. Make eye contact and stay focused.
  • Be mindful of both nonverbal and verbal reactions in order to avoid invalidation (rolling eyes, walking away, saying "That's stupid", "Don't Be sad", or "I don't care what you say").
  • Observe what the other person is feeling in the moment. Look for a word that describes the feeling.
  • Reflect the feeling back without judgment. The goal is to communicate that you understand how the other person feels (It makes sense that you're angry", "I understand that you are having a tough time right now") (for self, "I have a right to feel sad").
  • Show tolerance! Look for how the feelings, thoughts, and actions make sense, given the other person's (or your) history and current situation, even if you don't approve of the behaviors, emotions, or actions themselves.
  • Respond in a way that shows you are taking the other person seriously (with or without words). If someone is crying, give a tissue or a hug. If someone is presenting a problem, start problem solving immediately (unless the person wishes merely to be heard).

Validation is one of the many skills we teach in our DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) Skills Groups for Adolescent Girls, Boys and Adult Women.

From "Dialectical Behavior Therapy with Suicidal Adolescents" by Alec L. Miller, Jill H. Rathus, and Marsha M. Linehan. Copyright 2007 by Guilford Press. 

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