Improving Communication Through Validation

Improving Communication Through Validation

What is validation?

Validation is defined as recognition or affirmation that a person or their feelings or opinions are valid and/or worthwhile.

How does validation help with communication?

  • Allows a person to feel heard
  • Allows a person to feel secure
  • Lets a person feel understood
  • Increases feelings of being accepted
  • Increases one’s ability to regulate their emotions

In order to strengthen our ability to communicate through validation, it can be helpful to consider “real life” examples of both invalidating statements (statements we want to avoid) and validating statements (statements we want to try to use).  Have you used any of these?

Examples of invalidating statements

When trying to validate others in our communication with them, we want to avoid invalidating statements/approaches, such as the following: 

  • Make it about you. “I hated it when that happened to me.”
  • Tell them how they should feel. “You should feel lucky, blessed…”, “What’s the big deal?” 
  • Try to give them advice. “What you really should do is…” 
  • Try to solve their problem. “I’m going to call that girl’s parents and…” 
  • Make judgmental statements. “What you did was wrong/bad/stupid, good/great…” 
  • Make “revisionist” statements. “If you had only…” 
  • Make “character” statements. “You’re too sensitive.” “You’re so dramatic.”
  • Use “always” or “never” statements. “You always get yourself into these situations…” 
  • Compare the person to someone else. “Why can’t you be like your sister?” 

Examples of validating statements

Below are examples of ways we can help others feel validated when we are talking with them.  Remember, if you want a validating statement to feel “true” to the other person, make your feedback about the truth of the situation for them (i.e., the way they feel about the event).

  • “I can see that you are very (upset, sad, frightened, scared). “
  • “I guess that must have been hard for you.” 
  • “I can see you are making an effort.”
  • “That’s gotta be so (difficult, upsetting, frustrating, etc.) for you.” 
  • “Wow, how hard that must be.” 
  • “It makes sense you would be so upset about that.” 
  • “It sounds like you feel it is really unfair. That must be really discouraging.” 
  • “That’s messed up!” (or stronger language if you are so inclined!)
  • “I can see you’re overwhelmed. Can I help?” 

Celes Smith, LCSW

Licensed Clinical Social Worker