Validation is the expression of understanding and acceptance of another person’s personal experience, whatever it may be. Validation does not imply agreement or approval. Validation strengthens connections and soothes unhappy feelings. It is empowering to know that you are understood and that others acknowledge your emotions and opinions. Validation is similar to relationship glue. Accepting your own internal experience, thoughts, and feelings is what self-validation entails. Self-validation does not imply that you believe your thoughts or feelings are valid. Many times, you will have thoughts that surprise you or do not reflect your ideals or what you know to be true. You will also experience feelings that you know are unjustified. If you battle the thoughts and feelings or judge yourself for experiencing them, you will experience more emotional distress. You’ll also lose out on key facts about your personality. Validating your feelings and thoughts will allow you to relax and handle them more successfully. Validating yourself will assist you in accepting and better understanding yourself, resulting in a stronger identity and improved ability to manage powerful emotions. Self-validation aids in the discovery of wisdom. It is not easy to learn to self-validate. It is important to note that mindfulness and self-validation go hand in hand. Being aware of your ideas and feelings is required before you can validate that internal experience.
Acceptance is one of the options we have in any problem situation. Validation is one way we express our acceptance of ourselves and others, and it does not imply agreement or approval. When a family member or your best friend makes a decision that you disagree with, validation is a way to support them and strengthen the relationship while maintaining a different perspective. We can consider validation a way of communicating that the relationship is solid and meaningful, even if you disagree on specific issues.
The recognition of another person’s thoughts, feelings, sensations, and behaviors as understandable is referred to as validation. Self-validation is accepting and recognizing one’s own thoughts, feelings, sensations, and behaviors as valid and understandable.
Of course, you need to practice in order to learn how to use validation effectively; to understand it better, let’s have a look at Marsha Linehan, Ph.D.’s six levels of validation:
#1 Being present
There are numerous ways to be present. Being present includes holding someone’s hand during a painful medical treatment, listening with your entire mind and doing nothing but paying attention to a child describe their first day at school, and going to a friend’s house at midnight, just to sit with her while she cries because she’s going through a bad breakup.
You are not present if you are multitasking while listening to your child’s story about his soccer game. Being present entails giving your undivided attention to the person you are validating.
Being present for yourself entails acknowledging and sitting with your internal experience rather than “escaping” from it, avoiding it, or pushing it away. It is difficult to sit with intense emotion. Even the feelings of happiness or excitement can be unsettling at times.
A lack of language is one of the reasons why people are uncomfortable with intense emotion. Being present and paying attention to the person in a non-judgmental manner is often the solution. For yourself, being aware of your own emotions is the first step toward accepting them.
#2 Honest reflection
Accurate reflection entails summarizing what you have heard from others or summarizing your own feelings. This type of validation can be performed by others in an awkward, sing-songy, artificial manner that is truly irritating. Accurate reflection is validating when done authentically, with the intent of truly understanding the experience rather than judging it.
This type of validation can sometimes help someone with sorting out their thoughts and distinguishing between thoughts and emotions. “Basically, I’m feeling pretty angry and hurt” is a self-reflection. Someone else’s accurate reflection could be, “Sounds like you’re disappointed in yourself because you didn’t pass the exam.”
Mind-reading is the ability to guess what another person is feeling or thinking. People’s ability to recognize their own emotions varies. Some people, for example, mix up anxiety and excitement, while others mix up happiness and excitement. Some people may be unsure of what they feel because they were not allowed to experience their emotions or were taught to be afraid.
People may hide their emotions because they have learned that others do not appreciate their sensitivity. This masking can lead to them not even acknowledging their feelings to themselves, making emotions more difficult to manage. Being able to accurately label feelings is a necessary step toward regulating them.
Take note of someone’s emotional state as they describe a situation. Then, either name the emotions you hear or make an educated guess about what the person is feeling. Level Three validation is “I’m guessing you must have felt pretty hurt by her comment.” Remember that you could make a mistake, and the person could correct you. It’s their emotion, and they are the only one who understands better how they are feeling. Accepting their correction validates you.
#4 Understanding behaviors
At this level, I’m talking about understanding the person’s behavior in terms of their biology and history. Your biology and experiences influence the emotional reactions. If a dog recently bit your best friend, she is unlikely to enjoy playing with your Labrador Retriever. At this level, validation would be saying, “Given what happened to you, I completely understand your aversion to being around my dog.” Comprehending your own reactions in the context of your previous experiences would be self-validation.
#5 Recognizing emotional reactions
Recognizing or normalizing emotional reactions that anyone would have is level five. As an example, “Of course you’re worried. Speaking in front of an audience for the first time is nerve-racking for anyone.”
#6 Radical sincerity
When you understand someone’s emotion on a deep level, you have demonstrated radical genuineness. Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience. Sharing that experience as equals is what radical genuineness entails.