The Power of Validation in Relationships

Have you ever come across the YouTube video, “It’s Not About the Nail”? It’s hilarious because it resonates with a fundamental truth about relationships. We, as humans, have an innate need for connection, regardless of age, gender, or background. Validation plays a crucial role in fulfilling this need. It is the act of making someone feel heard and understood, and it holds the power to calm fears, resolve conflicts, and make people more receptive to advice.

I experienced the significance of validation firsthand while dating a woman who was a great listener but terrible at validating. Whenever I shared an exciting or challenging experience with her, she would respond with a blank expression and a dismissive comment like, “Cool!” I longed for more – to feel seen, understood, and celebrated. I craved the connection that genuine validation can bring.

One evening, after such an encounter, I stumbled upon an article about psychologist John Gottman’s research on relationships. Gottman discovered that couples who responded positively to each other’s bids for connection had significantly healthier and longer-lasting relationships compared to those who ignored or responded negatively. This finding struck a chord with me. I realized that what Gottman called “turning toward” bids for connection was equivalent to validation – showing genuine interest and affirming the worth of another person’s thoughts and emotions.

Validation, as I discovered, is critical for building healthy and satisfying relationships, whether romantic or not. It forms the core idea of my book – to become a great listener, one must become a great validator.

So, how can we validate effectively? It boils down to two main components:

  1. Identifying the specific emotion the person is experiencing.
  2. Offering justification or understanding for that emotion.
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For example, imagine your significant other venting about a frustrating colleague. Instead of immediately offering advice or reassurance, try validating their emotions first. Respond with something like, “Ugh, I can’t stand Kate either! That would drive me crazy!” By acknowledging their specific emotion and justifying it, you show respect and strengthen your connection.

There are countless ways to validate, as long as you express recognition and acceptance of the other person’s emotions. For instance:

  • “Wow, that would be confusing.”
  • “He really said that? I’d be angry too!”
  • “Ah, that is so sad.”
  • “You have every right to be proud; that was a major accomplishment!”
  • “I’m so happy for you! You’ve worked incredibly hard on this. It must feel amazing.”

Conversely, invalidating responses minimize or dismiss another person’s feelings. Examples include phrases like “You’ll be fine” or “It could be worse!” Instead of helping, these responses invalidate their experiences. Learn to catch these responses and replace them with validating ones to make a real difference in your relationships.

If you want to take a deeper dive into the art of validation, I recommend checking out the Extraordinary Relationships Master Course or my book, “I Hear You: The Surprisingly Simple Skill Behind Extraordinary Relationships.” Both resources provide practical examples and actionable approaches to deepen your connections with others.

Remember, the next time someone shares something with you, try validating their emotions. Engage in their experience, identify their feelings, and show that you understand. It’s a surprisingly powerful way to connect on a deeper level.