Have you ever walked out of a conversation feeling that the other person didn’t “get” you? Maybe you felt misunderstood or that your feelings were ignored. Or maybe you were the one who didn’t “get” them. And I bet, whichever side of the interaction you were on, the conversation didn’t positively affect your relationship. Which brings us to a topic we’ve been discussing in our DBT multifamily skills group- the importance of validation.
In group we’ve covered different skills we can use to handle interpersonal conflict and create more positive interactions with the people we love. Validation is the most crucial of these skills. When you validate someone, you show them that they make sense to you, that you’re listening, you understand, and that you care about the relationship.
But what if it’s hard for you to validate someone? Maybe you think they’re being irrational, or maybe you don’t want to give the impression that you approve of their behavior. That brings me to the most important point! You can always find something to validate. If you can’t validate a behavior, maybe you can validate the cause of a behavior. Or maybe you can validate the emotion they’re experiencing - because an emotion is always valid. And if whatever you say isn’t effective in making the person feel understood, try something else, try a different way. Every person finds different things validating. There is always a kernel of truth, even if you have to look pretty hard to find it.
But why all this emphasis on validation? It’s simple - because validation is the key to open the door in any relationship. If you want things to change between you and someone you care about, validation is where you start. There are different levels of validation - maybe it’s “you’re valid given your history,” or “you’re valid given your current situation.” And maybe sometimes all you can do is validate by actively listening to the other person - by making eye contact and being present with them.
One way or another, you can find a way to validate. If you don’t get it the first time, you can try another way next time. So there you have the secret to successful relationships. One word: validation.