Jamie Goffin, LCSW
Recently I was traveling out of state and had tried to use a credit card that I do not regularly use. When I went to process the card, it was immediately shut down and within seconds I received a text that my card was disabled until I contact my card company to verify my purchase. At the time, I was watching a Seahawks game and if you have ever been inside CenturyLink Stadium, you know how loud it can be. I was quite frustrated that I wouldn’t be able to finish the call until much later.
When I finally got the chance to make the call, I was annoyed and frustrated over the inconvenience of the whole situation. The employee who assisted me caught me off guard as she validated so nicely my feelings. Our conversation quickly shifted to my compliment of how she used such effective validation skills. She informed me that she has taken lots of communication courses on validation and it showed!
Validation really is such a simple and effective communication skill. If used correctly, it can quickly dismantle power struggles, resolve arguments and build trust. Validation can also be one of the most important parenting tools. I’ve noticed that when you try to teach someone how to use validation they often confuse it with comforting, praising or encouraging. Validation is also not the same as trying to fix someone’s emotions or problems. It doesn’t mean that you agree with them, either. It just means that you understand what a feeling means to that person. Validation recognizes that a person’s feelings/thoughts are true and real to him/her regardless of logic or whether it makes sense to anyone else.
It also doesn’t mean letting your child do whatever they want- which is a common misconception when parents are learning the art of validation. For example, you validate your child’s feelings of not wanting to go to dance practice but you also communicate that missing practice isn’t an option.
Lastly, don’t validate what is not valid. Don’t validate statements people may say about themselves or others which are not true and could be damaging if considered to be ‘true.’ Examples may include a person stating, “I’m such a horrible person or my life isn’t worth living.”
A great resource for learning effective approaches of validation is the book;
The Power of Validation: Arming Your Child Against Bullying, Peer Pressure, Addiction, Self-Harm, and Out-of-Control Emotions.