Have you read the news lately OR had a recent conversation with your family or friends.... or the person standing behind you at the grocery store? It seems everyone is fighting with everyone about everything. There are always the hot topics like politics, sexuality, climate, race, & religion. You name it, there’s a squabble going on. I’m actually amazed we haven’t blown each other off the planet by now.
However, on a much less dramatic plane, the way we relate to one another on an everyday basis is equally... interesting. The people I chat with, or overhear having conversations, seem to struggle a little with their finances, health and a few other non - human issues. But for the most part they are frustrated or having a difficult time navigating...
That’s what life is made up of for the most part. PEOPLE. More than ever, we, as a human species are wrestling with the ability to live in harmony with one another.
Why is that?
Taking an inventory of my own life, I’d say, for the most part, it’s because I want to be heard, understood, and valued regardless of what I’m feeling, I’ve said, or am experiencing in any given moment... but surprisingly all those people I thought were so amazing, quickly become the enemy when I find myself ‘dis-regulated.’
We all want to be heard, understood, and accepted...
In another word: VALIDATED.
Validation is a relatively new term for our family, but this ONE SKILL alone has made the biggest impact in resolving conflict in our home over the last several years!
What is validation?
Validation is the art of affirming another person by actively listening & accepting the person as they are, in the moment, and communicating that acceptance to them.
It’s the ability and willingness to enter fully into the experience of another person. Validation honestly, is love in action. It requires that you reflect back what the other person is feeling even if you don’t feel the same way – or do not agree with what they are feeling. Validation is purely observing the other person in a nonjudgmental manner that communicates clearly that you are really interested in what they are thinking and feeling. There is no right or wrong to feelings – because what a person feels is simply what a person feels. Validation is all about describing what you observed in an unbiased, empathetic way. After the person has shared their thoughts or heart, it’s saying things like:
“I can only imagine how frustrating this must be for you.”
“Wow, I can see how painful it must’ve felt for you to experience what you experienced.”
You’re simply reflecting back to them with nonjudgmental tones. It’s also very helpful to share what you share with the same intensity they shared their concerns. For example, if the person you are listening to communicates with strong emotion – mimic their emotion with a strong emotional validating response. This let’s them know you understand how upset they are.
It’s also not about understanding the other person – you don’t need to know ‘why’ they feel how they feel – it’s not about logic. It’s simply about the other person feeling valued and loved. In fact, you can truly love someone their whole life without validating them – but if you do not validate them they will not feel loved. When you validate someone – all of the emotion and toxicity of the moment is released – then you can move to understanding and logic.
The crazy thing is that validation works even when you know someone is doing it. It’s like magic.
I remember one day a few years ago – our church was hosting a city wide women’s event with Beth Moore, and I was suppose to MC that night – our daughter Danielle was in a rough spot on her journey and coming to visit from out of town – our son Luke was moving out of our house into an apartment after a year of living with us – and our son Caleb’s birthday was coming up. Needless to say my emotions were all over the place & I was feeling completely overwhelmed. I had cried all day long, prayed and talked to a few friends, but honestly I could not get ahold of myself. I felt like I was losing it, and had no idea how I could host this huge event. Then Rob came home, I told him what was going on – and even though I knew what he was doing, he grabbed me, held me in his arms and tenderly said, “Laura, you are an amazing woman, you are a fantastic leader, you love your kids so deeply, and you are missing your son. It’s 100% understandable that you feel the way you feel. I am a father and I love our kids, but I can only begin to imagine how you must feel, as a mom, to have all of our kids leaving the nest when you’ve nurtured them and had them in our home all these years. I am so sorry for the pain you are experiencing in this moment. It’s okay to cry, it’s okay to feel sad. Can I pray for you? And Laura, you are going to do a fantastic job tonight hosting these women, because you are so great at loving others.”
All I have to say is - it worked. The tears stopped, peace came, and off I went to one of the most memorable evenings ever!
Believe me, validation takes some practice and it’s easy to drift back into judgment, shame, defensiveness, anger, and all those other ‘not so kind’ responses we’re use to engaging in... But if you learn and practice the art of validation, you will be astounded at how wonderful your relationships become.
You might even discover all those PEOPLE are a lot like you...