Humans have an intrinsic need to feel accepted. We want to be seen for who we are, have our opinions heard, and know that our feelings are valid. Validation makes us feel important, understood, and enhances our connections with others.
Validation, in its purest sense, is communicating our acceptance and understanding of others. When we pay attention to the specific emotions and conflicts the people in our lives have gone through, we can witness, legitimize, and soothe their emotional responses. When you validate someone, you are lending legitimacy to their emotions, concerns, and behaviors, despite sharing their views or not. When we receive validation in return, we feel supported and cared for, which aids us in continuing to speak freely, openly, and honestly.
So, what exactly does this validation look like in our daily lives and relationships?
Validation in Romantic Relationships, at Work, and with Your Family
Validation is at the very heart of effective communication. Whether it is your relationship with your boss, your partner, or your kids, infusing this practice into your skillset will transform the depth of your connections.
Diana Raab, Ph.D. explains that there are two approaches to interpersonal communication. Some “listen to understand” whereas others “listen to respond.” Those who “listen to understand” generally have higher satisfaction in their relationships when contrasted to those who are waiting for their chance to respond.
Attentive listening like this encourages the speaker to analyze and express their thoughts, adequately navigate their emotions at their own pace, and determine the appropriate course of action.
With a Partner
In romantic relationships, validation between partners, as well as truly showing that you hear one another, will increase your overall connectivity and can also increase your intimacy. Through validation and active listening, intentionally taking the time to check in and make sure you are accurately hearing and interpreting what they are saying will reduce defensiveness, misinterpretations, and disagreements on both sides. Showing your understanding and openness to accept your partner’s perspective, despite disagreeing, can build trust and a sense of emotional safety, which will noticeably ease the tension between each of you.
Check-in with your partner to make sure that you’ve heard them correctly when they express a concern. It’s not about repeating back to them what they’ve said just to prove you were listening, it’s about working with them to get to the deeper root of why they’re feeling that way. This might involve putting your own language to what they’re going through, or developing a metaphor that would make sense to you if you were in their situation. Active listening means staying with your partner in their ponderings and suspending your own need to turn the conversation until they feel fully heard.
Unsurprisingly, finding yourself in a toxic, hostile, and tense work environment can affect your work performance. As an employee, receiving dismissive responses, feeling unsupported, neglected, being unable to take time off, and feeling a lack of flexibility in your responsibilities can increase stress and make it even more challenging to function in the workplace. Alternatively, receiving validating feedback decreases stress, which boosts professional performance.
While the state of the workplace appears to be changing, and more power is delivered into the hands of the employee, workplace relationships still require mutual respect and understanding. An employee’s responsibility to the employer is to listen when they receive tasks, ask questions when clarification is warranted, and complete their work as requested. Conversely, the employer’s responsibility is to create an environment where employees are recognized for their contributions and empowered to take responsibility for their role in the company’s success. In each aim, validation is essential to fostering this sense of competence and sustaining motivation and overall work satisfaction.
As parents, our responses also teach our children how to respond to others. Therefore, we must do our best to provide examples of effective communication in order to aid in developing a firm foundation of emotional wellness. Validating children for their good behavior—teenagers especially—has proven to help them manage their emotions and leads to fewer behavioral problems, which may also improve your relationship with them. Alternatively, responding to children with criticism or dismissing their feelings in any situation can lead to aggression.
One of the most common ways to increase the positivity within your household in a way that feels authentic is to “catch your kids being good”. When you’re looking for ways to praise and validate them, you’ll find that those instances occur more often than you thought! Even when things aren’t going well, but they’re better than they were before, or your kid shows an attempt towards reining in their emotions, you can validate that effort!
When the ideals of validation are embraced, parents and children will connect on a deeper level, see eye to eye, move beyond conflict, and be able to work towards a compromise. When we let our children know we understand their challenges and validate our child’s experiences, we teach them how to understand the legitimacy of themselves and to be open to lifelong learning and growth.
At Pure Health Center, our therapists are here to support individuals, couples, and families in understanding how their communication affects those around them, as well as how it influences our own mental health. If you or a loved one are experiencing low self-esteem, career challenges, problems with communication or conflict resolution, or understanding your child’s behavioral problems, or are going through a family transition, please contact us to schedule an appointment today.