E3: Validation: The Most Powerful Relationship Skill You Were Never Taught

I Hear You
I Hear You
E3: Validation: The Most Powerful Relationship Skill You Were Never Taught

Show Notes

Episode Transcript

Forgive typos and odd grammatical mistakes—this was transcribed using the magic of AI.

[00:00:00] Welcome back to the I Hear You podcast. I’m your host, Michael Sorensen, and I’m stoked about today’s episode. It will be well worth your time. I guarantee it. And that’s because this episode focuses in on a skill known as validation. And it is seriously like a superpower. It’s the skill I learned through years of therapy that had a profound impact on my life, so much so that I wrote a book about it because I couldn’t find any resources that taught it in the way I felt was most valuable when I wrote the book. I wondered if others would find it as valuable as I had. And yet, just a little over two years after publication, the answer is a resounding yes. Literally hundreds of thousands of people have benefited from better understanding this skill. And I’m going to do my best to distill it down into forty five minutes today. So in this episode, we’re going to defined validation and explain why it’s so powerful. We’re going to talk about invalidating statements and why they actually harm our relationship, even though we use them in an attempt to help. We’re going to dive into some fascinating research on how validation actually comes us physically and helps us stay positive. And we’re going to give you practical tips for applying this and actually seeing results to day. I’m not even exaggerating. It’s really that simple and that powerful. All right. Enough of the intro. Let’s get to it.

The Magic of Validation

[00:01:44] We’re going to start off today’s episode with a story. This is actually the same story that I lead out with in the first chapter of my book, because it was the first time in my life that I realized the true power that validation has to connect and to mend and strengthen relationships and to help us feel closer to those around us. This was over 10 years ago.

[00:02:09] I had not yet met my wife and I was still very much in the dating scene. And I met this met this woman. I thought she was beautiful. Know she was sharp. It was she seemed fun. And I got her number and I asked her out for just something simple. I think it was ice cream. You know, the next week and I thought was gonna be a great time. So I picked her up and pretty quickly I realized she was not the same woman that I had met just a week prior. She was very closed off. She you know what we were talking I would ask her questions and she would just give me one word answers. And she just really did not feel like she wanted to be there. And I remember sitting there thinking, what did I misread the situation here? I mean, is she just not she just not into me? You know, I don’t know what was going on. I didn’t know what was going on there. But clearly, she wasn’t interested in the conversation we were having and she didn’t seem interested in me. And it was so bad that literally after 10 or 15 minutes on the date, I thought I should probably just take her home, because this clearly isn’t fun for her. It’s not fun for me. I misread the situation. Well. And so I started to kind of wrap up the date and we got back in my car and I asked her a question about her family. And she paused for a moment and kind of indicated that it was a bit of a sensitive subject.

[00:03:31] And I remember in that moment thinking, oh, OK, maybe there’s something here. Maybe this isn’t about me. Maybe something bigger is going on in her life. And sure enough, I think I asked about her parents and she said, well, my parents are in the middle of a divorce. And in that moment, I thought, bingo. That’s what’s going on here. She’s she’s going through something very difficult. And so in that moment. I simply validated her, I said, oh, my gosh, I’m so sorry. And she quickly shot back. Putting on this faux tough girl face and said, Oh, it’s it’s fine. I’m OK. It’s not that big of a deal.

[00:04:11] Which was very it was not believable. And and I recognized that. And I couldn’t figure out why she was closed off or why she kept shooting herself down like that. But I invited her to open up and I said, no, that’s not okay. That’s got to be incredibly difficult.

[00:04:26] And she paused for a sec and said. Yeah, actually, it really sucks.

[00:04:30] And then she started to open up more. She said, you know what? What’s even worse is when your best friend just tells you to put a smile on your face and tough it out. And she started going on almost venting to me and telling me about how all these people in her life who clearly cared about her were trying to help her, but they were invalidating her. They were shooting down her emotions. They were saying, don’t be angry, don’t be sad. It’s not worth being being all broken up over it. You’re going to get over it. It’s going to be fine, but blah, blah, blah, blah. All of these things we’re going to talk about in a moment are invalidating statements. And the reason I point that out now is because the way I respond in this instance, the way I was taught to respond, made all the difference in how the rest of the evening played out. So instead of giving her the same invalidating statements instead, I just tried to show her that I appreciated how she felt and she had every right to feel that way. And it was like a breath of fresh air for her. I could tell. I mean, she just completely opened up to me and we talked literally think about a sermon. It was ten fifteen minute date. At that point and I was about ready to take her home, we ended up talking for at least two hours in my car that evening. And she just unfolded all of these difficult things that she had been holding all these.

[00:05:45] I mean, her her brother had just been diagnosed with cancer. She and her mom had been in an accident. Not one to two weeks prior. And remarkably, they escaped unscathed. But she had so many of these things that were going on in her life that she was just keeping bottled up because she didn’t have people around her that knew how to validate her, that knew how to help her process it. And by the end of the date, I remember walking her to her door and just giving her a hug and feeling this immense sense of love for her. Not obviously a romantic sentence, right as a first date, but that love that you feel for someone who’s just for a fellow human being. Recognizing that someone’s going through a tough time. And in that moment, we shared a very connecting experience. And it was a large part, thanks to my understanding of validation and recognizing that she didn’t need advice, she didn’t want somebody to tell her to feel better. What she wanted was for somebody to help her not feel crazy, for somebody to allow her the space, to feel the emotion and let it go and process it. So that evening, I remember going back and writing in my journal and just talking about how powerful this validation idea was. And that was the first real moment. That first experience that I had that really opened my eyes into just how versatile and just how powerful this principle is.

What is Validation?

[00:07:05] So what is validation? I’ve used the word a number of times already here. Validation is essentially the act of helping somebody feel heard and understood. Think of it as saying essentially, I understand how you’re feeling and it makes total sense to me why you’re feeling that way.

[00:07:25] My book is titled and this podcast, incidentally, is titled I Hear You because colloquially we use that phrase to me, not just I’m listening to you, not just I understand the words you’re shit you’re saying, but that I understand the emotion that you’re feeling. I understand where you’re coming from. That’s what we as humans crave.

[00:07:45] And so the core premise of my book and the core premise of today’s episode is this: the truly great listeners of the world do more than just listen. They listen, seek to understand and then validate. There is what a lot of us miss out on. And yet that’s where the real magic happens when you’re wanting to connect with someone.

What Does Validation Look Like?

So what does validation look like? Well, first, let’s look at what it does not look like. Let’s look at invalidating responses and invalidating responses. Anything that shoots down or dismisses or tries to, quote unquote, make better their statements like don’t worry about it. Oh, it’ll be fine. Tough it out. Don’t cry. It’s not that big of a deal. You know, though, those types of things or I’m sure she’s OK, it’ll get better. He certainly didn’t mean to do that to you or certainly didn’t mean to hurt you. All of those things are invalidating.

[00:08:45] And what I mean by that is they’re basically telling the other person that whatever emotion they’re feeling is not OK or basically telling them don’t feel this way, which is not a great message to receive, especially when you are in an emotional state. It’s something that, frankly, as I went through all of those years of therapy, my eyes were opened to the reality and the unfortunate reality, I should say, of the society that we live in, the world that we live in, because we are taught that certain emotions are good and certain emotions are bad.

[00:09:19] So the good emotions are happiness, joy, comfort, grateful. Right. Those are good emotions, bad emotions. Well, I’m sure you can guess there are things like anger, frustration, resentment, embarrassment, fear.

[00:09:39] Those are all emotions that we’ve labeled as bad. And that’s that’s not a great spot to be in.

[00:09:46] Because emotions just are there just how we’re feeling. There really isn’t anything good or bad about them.

[00:09:54] One of my favorite quotes from William Shakespeare is “nothing is either good nor bad, but thinking makes it so.” In other words, you can feel embarrassed. You can feel angry. You can be scared. And that just is. But if people tell you that you shouldn’t be scared, then that starts to make it a bad emotion. And then that means that we try to stop ourselves from feeling scared. So on and so forth. And if you look at fear, just as a brief example here, fear is not bad because fear biologically, evolutionarily, if that’s even a word, is designed to protect us. So we would never want to actually remove fear from our lives, because if we did that, the human race would eventually just die away because there will be nothing stopping us from just jumping off cliffs and trying extreme stunts or feeding the tigers and so on and so forth. So fear, anger, all of those quote unquote, negative emotions.

[00:10:51] They’re not bad. And the reason I’m spending so much time on this is that that’s you have to understand that to really appreciate the power of validation. Because when we feel these negative emotions and we repress them, they fester if we’re upset because somebody did something and they harmed us and we’re just told to get over it and to not worry about it. And to not feel angry, that doesn’t help because we do feel angry. We are hurt. And until somebody gives us the space and says, you know what? Of course you’re upset. And they allow us to feel that it’s going to be very difficult to heal it.

[00:11:32] So what does validation look like? We’ve talked about invalidating statements, things that shoot down, that bury emotions that say, oh, don’t worry about it’s gonna be fine. Validating responses allow that space to feel that emotion. So in the earlier example that I shared my my experience on that date with that woman, my validating response was very simple.

[00:11:53] It was just, oh, my gosh, I’m so sorry. I can’t even imagine that. Validating responses in other situations might look like saying no way. I can’t believe he said that to you. Or you might say, oh, I I’m so sorry.

[00:12:10] I know you worked so hard on that. That’s so rough to get an F on that paper, right? To get a C or whatever the grade is, it might be talking to your teenager when they’re all upset because they found out people are talking behind their backs and instead of saying, oh, don’t worry about it. You know, just get over it. Forget them, instead saying, ah!

[00:12:29] That’s that’s brutal to find out the people are talking about you like that. I’ll also say this validation is every bit as powerful in positive situations.

[00:12:41] So a validating response to say somebody comes to you and they’re all excited because they just got a promotion at work, you could respond and say, hey, nice job or cool. And leave it at that, which is not very validating because, again, validation shares that excitement, shares in that emotion and it gives them justification. And so more validating response would be. No way. That’s that’s Hossam. Congratulations. How did it happen? Or, you know, what what was what was the background behind it? You ask questions. You get excited. You share in the emotion that they’re sure they’re feeling. And that, in turn, fuels that energy and fuels that excitement. And they feel like you appreciate and understand them. And that’s very connecting.

[00:13:24] So, again, validation, validating responses, rather, have two main components. One, they identify a specific emotion. And two, they offer justification for feeling that emotion.

Why Bother with Validation?

So why validate, though, I want to pause in this episode here for a moment and just go back to what I mentioned at the very beginning. Why even bother? Why? Why is this so important? Well, I could go on for a long time, but I’ll give you a list of eight key reasons. It shows genuine connection and care to people that you’re talking to with validation. You can help others process difficult emotions. You can help them find solutions to their problems, even if you don’t know how to solve it yourself.

[00:14:07] It’ll help you defuse arguments or tense situations. I can talk a lot about this because this is one of my favorite skills. When somebody is angry at me or when there’s a tense situation at work, they quickly defuse them. You can help other people become more open to your point of view. So if thus far you’re thinking, well, that’s great. But what’s in it for me? Well, if you’re ever in a situation where you feel like somebody isn’t listening to you, knowing how to effectively validate them will actually make it easier to get your point heard. Validation will actually help your team at work perform better, more efficiently. We’re going to dive into a little bit of research that backs that up here in just a moment. Validation will help you increase your employee or patient retention. That’s something that I hone in on quite often when I speak at corporations, because there’s a well-known adage people don’t quit their job, they quit their manager. And boy, is that true. Especially in today’s workforce. You want to talk about the millennial generation of which I am apart. There’s a lot of focus on the general vibe and the respect in the workplace and the appreciation validation helps you convey that. And finally, validation. Just help you increase your overall charisma. It makes you an all around, more likeable human being. And again, as you get into actually practicing this, you’ll know I’m not just blowing smoke here. I get e-mails daily from readers telling me how powerful this is, how much of a game changer it has been in their lives.

[00:15:36] So there’s a lot of reasons to validate. There’s a lot of reasons to better understand and to hone this skill, because, again, we’re talking about every relationship in your life.

The Research

All right. So let’s dive into a little bit of research here. I’m not going to spend a ton of time on this because this episode, this podcast series is designed to be short and concise and to the point. But I do want to hone in on at least one bit of research that, at least for me, is foundational and really helps drive this home. Dr. Gottman, who is a world renowned marriage researcher. He and he and his colleagues set out to try to understand what makes healthy, happy marriages last. What do people do who are healthy and happily married years down the line? What do they do differently compared to those who are divorced, to people who have unhealthy unhappy marriages? He and his team put together an interesting experiment where they basically decorated their lab at the University of Washington to look like a beautiful bed and breakfast. And they invited 100 or so, 120 or so newlywed couples to come in and just spend the weekend there and do what any couple would do on an ordinary weekend, hang out, cook meals together, chat, talk, work on different things while the researchers observed them, which I always say I think is kind of creepy. Sure. Live your life. We’re just going to watch you. But again, people do weird things for money and for science. And for that, I’m grateful.

[00:16:59] Nevertheless, Dr. Gottman and his team sat and they just observed and they collected all of this data and they started to notice a pattern. They noticed that couples throughout the day would make small, seemingly insignificant bids or requests for connection.

[00:17:15] So, for example, that the husband might look out the window and see a beautiful car drive by, a beautiful car, a really cool looking car, drive by and comment on it to his wife, say, honey, check out that car.

[00:17:26] Now, the wife can respond in one of three ways here she can respond positively. Oh, that’s awesome. Negatively. Oh, that’s hideous color or passively. That’s nice, dear.

[00:17:40] Not the way people spouses responded actually has a profound impact on the satisfaction in that couple’s marriage, which might not sound that surprising. Right. Of course, you want people to respond positively. And yet that positive response. Dr. Gottman calls it turning toward the bitter. I like to refer to it as validation, kind of semantics here. But basically what I’m talking about today, that validation piece, again, helping somebody feel heard and understood, sharing in their emotion. That is what Gottman is referring to here. When people respond in a positive way like that. So what his team found when they went back, they followed up with these couples six years later and they said, are you married? And if you are married, are you happily married or unhappily married or have you separated?

[00:18:28] And then they looked at what the differences were between the two. The key takeaway here is that those who were separated six years down the line turn toward each other or essentially validating each other. Only 33 percent of the time.

[00:18:44] Whereas those who were still happily married and together six years later validated each other. Eighty seven percent of the time. In other words, almost nine times out of ten, the healthy, happy couples were validating each other. They were getting into that experience. They were turning toward their partner and saying, I get you. I hear you. Yeah. That’s awesome. Oh, that’s hard. So on and so forth.

[00:19:08] And now the kicker.

[00:19:09] By observing these types of interactions, Gottman can apparently predict with up to ninety four percent certainty whether couples rich or poor, gay or straight, younger, mature will be broken up together and unhappy or together and happy. Several years down the road.

[00:19:28] Ninety four percent certainty. That’s crazy.

[00:19:33] Now, obviously, there’s a lot that goes into a healthy, happy marriage, and I’m not suggesting that Gottman just focuses in on just this one core principle, but in my study of his research, this plays a significant role in my own personal life. I can vouch for this, that it plays a significant role in the general happiness of a marriage and the general happiness and satisfaction of any relationship in your life.

The Four-Step Validation Method

[00:19:58] So let’s talk about how to validate.

[00:20:01] I’ve given you the basic premise, the basic definition of validation. And yet in my work and in my research and in my experience, I found that it helps to distill it down to give a basic framework for those of you who may be wrestling a little bit with this to help guide your efforts as you as your home, the skill. I refer to this in my book as the four step validation method. And I’ll go over the four points briefly, and then we’ll dive into them a little bit more here in just a moment.

They are one: Listen empathically. Two: validate the emotion. Three is when you give feedback, advice or assurance. And then four: validate again.

[00:20:40] Now, to some of you, this might sound like a lot to remember, you think, oh, no, here we go. Now, every time I talk to somebody, I have to go. Okay, step one. Step two. Where am I? You don’t have to do that. This is a loose framework. And the reality is you’re you’re gonna go through this in 30 seconds. You can go through all four steps and 30 seconds, or you might go through the four steps 10 times in an hour conversation. But it’s designed to give you a basic framework on how to most effectively validate others. So let’s unpack it just briefly here.

Step 1: Listen Empathically

Step one, listening. Empathically. What do I mean by that? Well, empathy is essentially getting into the other person’s shoes, trying to see things from their perspective. So when you’re listening empathically, you’re not just listening to the words they’re sharing, but you’re listening for the emotion that they’re feeling. That’s what I mean by listening empathically because that sets you up to better validate them in step 2.

Step 2: Validate the Emotion

So you listen empathically, then you validate the emotion. And again, that means identifying any emotion and offering justification for feeling that emotion. And this doesn’t have to sound clinical. Right. A validating statement like we’ve talked about earlier. It can be as simple as just a grunt. You might just say, oh, or you’ve got to be kidding me.

[00:21:54] That right there satisfies both points here, a validation because you recognize that they’re frustrated in this hypothetical situation and the justification is just the way you are responding to hearing it, right? If I respond like that, it tells you I’m just as upset as you are. And that is validating. Now, we’re going to talk in a moment here about how you can validate somebody even when you disagree with them. Because I do want to point this out right now. You do not have to agree with people to validate them. And again, we’ll talk about that in a minute here.

Step 3: Give Feedback, Assurance, or Advice

So returning to the four step method: one—listen empathically; two—validate the emotion. Step 3 is where you give feedback or advice or assurance if it’s appropriate for the situation. Now the order of the steps is critical. Feedback or advice is number three by design, because that’s the number one mistake I see most people make in their day to day lives. Somebody comes to them, they share something difficult that’s going on and they immediately want to fix it because why else would they be coming to us? Right. If you’re coming to me and you’re complaining and you know what to do about work, well, naturally, I assume that you want help. I assume that you want guidance on how to solve it.

[00:23:06] Very rarely is that the case. And that is a huge eye opener. That was a huge eye opener to me. Because what typically happens in these situations is, let’s say I come to you and I’m venting about a co-worker and I’m just complaining I can. Can you believe that she did that? So on and so forth. And then you start giving me advice and you say, well, well, you should just do this. And then I’ll probably respond and say we’ve already tried that and she’s not listening to me because I la-la-la. And then you’ll go, Oh, OK. Well, then you should just do it alone. And you give me another bit of advice and then I say, well, that’s not going to work because of this reason and this reason and this reason. It’s suddenly we’re in a little bit of a lightweight argument here. And by the end of these conversations, we both stop, we’re both frustrated. Right. I’m. I’m sitting there feeling frustrated because I didn’t get what I wanted from the conversation, which wasn’t advice. I wanted validation. And yet I didn’t know that you’re frustrated because you’re trying to help me. And I’m just responding with negativity and defensiveness and everything. And you’re like, what the heck? Then why are you coming to me if you don’t want my advice? Well, I might want your advice, but what I wanted first was validation.

[00:24:16] And the trickiest thing about validation here is that most of us don’t. We’re not aware of it. We don’t really know it by name. And so this dialogue, the sample dialogue that we just walk through happens all the time. It happens between parents and children, it happens between spouses. It happens with co-workers. It happens with friends, you name it. If there is a situation where you’re talking to somebody, inevitably you’re going to run into this where one person wanted validation but didn’t know it. And the other person also didn’t know it. And so they just start going back and forth and the conversation falls flat. So I strongly advise. Not always. This is not a hard, fast rule, but I strongly advise waiting to give feedback or advice until after you’ve validated someone. That is why give feedback, advice or assurance is Step 3 in this method.

Step 4: Validate Again

So step one: listen empathically. Step two: validate the emotion. Step 3: Give feedback or advice if appropriate. And step 4: validate again. Yes, it creates a nice little validation sandwich here, but that step four is actually important because it really ties off the conversation. It rounds it out again. Whether it was a positive conversation, something exciting you were talking about, or something difficult and negative because you’ve gone through the steps.

[00:25:33] And when you end it by just saying, hey, you know what? Congrats again. That was like, that’s really cool. You should definitely be proud of yourself. You ended on a high note. If you’ve had more of a heart to heart conversation and this person is going through a difficult time and you and you end it with like good luck with that, that’s a really tough situation. Then you end it with respect. You end the conversation by reminding the person that you’re not judging them. You’re not saying I know how to solve it and you don’t it. You’re saying, hey, hats off to you. That’s tough. You are in a tough situation. That’s powerful. Again, that that that brings respect into the conversation.

So those those are the four steps. And again, you can go through them very quickly. But listening empathically, validating the emotion, giving feedback and then validating again. It goes a long way in deepening the connection that you have with that other person.

Validation is a Powerful Negotiation Tool

So what does this look like in real life? I’ll I’ll share a handful of stories here. The first is actually something that happened a couple of months ago at work. We. I was speaking with a member of my team and he was making me aware of a sticky situation with a vendor.

[00:26:45] Apparently, somebody on my team had approved unofficially but had approved an order of 10000 T-shirts that we did not want. And this person that I was talking with was now trying to back out of that and trying to figure out how to navigate this difficult situation. And the the vendor was understandably upset. And I asked the guy to send me the e-mail chain and I’m reading through and I go, boy, this is messy. You know, I felt like I needed to step in and try to make things right here. And so I emailed the vendor and I said, hi, you know, my name’s Michael Sorensen. And I understand there’s been an issue here, a misunderstanding. Can we help on a call? Can we talk through this? And the anger was evident in his e-mail when he responded. I could tell he was coming. He was bringing his a game. His boxing gloves were on. He was ready to fight. And so in preparation of the call, I got centered. I got it, got my right headspace. And I made a point. I made a conscious decision to validate him right off the bat because I knew if I didn’t. It was just going to be an argument back and forth.

[00:27:50] So I call them up and I get them on the line and I say, hey, I’m so glad we were able to connect. Before we dive in, I just want to say this. This has been very messy.

[00:28:02] I recognize that this has gone on far longer than either of us would have liked. And it’s definitely sticky. So I don’t blame you at all for being frustrated with this. And I want you to know that I share that frustration with you. And I’m confident we can figure this out.

[00:28:19] And it was so funny. I literally could hear the shock in his voice on the other end. You kind of stumble, he just said, Oh, oh, oh, OK then. And the vibe, the energy I got from him was just a complete like his arms were up and ready to box and he just dropped him by his side and said, oh, Michael’s not going to fight me here. In fact, he understands where I’m coming from.

[00:28:42] Oh, OK. Well, then let’s talk.

[00:28:46] And we were able to have a very civil, very professional, respectful conversation. And that conversation wasn’t even me just saying, you’re right, we screwed up. We’re gonna pay you. It was a back and forth. It was a negotiation. I didn’t say, you’re right, we owe you for all t shirts because we didn’t. And yet we had a good conversation. And it wasn’t an argument because I was able to just validate how he was feeling, melt away all of the all of the anger and the frustration and just have a good human to human conversation.

Another Example: Teenagers Using Validation Among Friends

Example number two, this is out of the workplace. This is actually from a teenager that wrote me after reading the book and putting into practice the validation method. He said that he was with a group of friends and there were a few new kids in this group that they didn’t know very well. And they were having a conversation about religion, of all things, which, you know, conversations about religion or like conversations about politics. They never get heated. Right. So as you can imagine, there was one one kid in particular that was expressing a lot of doubt. I don’t even know that all of the details of the conversation. But all I know is the other kids there, they were basically I won’t say arguing, but they were say, oh, no, you shouldn’t worry about that. That’s not a big deal, you know. And they were trying to convince him basically to believe what they believed. Which I will least would hate that hate being in that situation. I don’t like any of us like feeling like someone’s trying to convince us or trying to force us to see their side of their point of view. But this individual who wrote in said that he observed the discussion at a distance for the first little bit, and he saw this kid just go deeper and deeper into himself and feeling more and more frustrated and less and less heard by these other kids.

[00:30:29] And he said that he thought back to the validation principle. And he stepped into the conversation and he looked at this. Kenny said, hey, for the record, I totally appreciate where you’re coming from. It makes total sense why you’re doubting this, why you’re worried about this or, you know, whatever. Whatever the issue was, it makes total sense to me. And he said the other kids looked at it kind of dumbfounded, like, why are you why are you backing him up? But all he all he all he was saying was, hey, I I hear you. I get you. And I respect your viewpoint. You know, you have the right to believe whatever you want to believe.

And he said it was so crazy to see how this kid responded. He just said, thank you. You know, and he started talking and and suddenly everybody had a much better understanding of where this kid was coming from. And they were more willing to listen to him now. And this this kid here wrote in, said it was really cool because we we bonded in that moment and we have started to build a fantastic friendship just based off of that very simple interaction of validating him in a moment where he was very invalidated.

Validate the Positive Experiences as Well

And for a third example, we’ll spend a little bit and talk about a positive experience. So I spoke at a corporation. It was a manager’s training retreat a few months ago and I received a number of very positive emails from attendees after the fact, which of course, made my day. You know, it’s so it’s always vulnerable getting up there and teaching people and speaking to people. One e-mail in particular, though, was especially impactful, and it was because he validated what I was feeling.

[00:32:00] He I think, assumed and rightly so that it was a bit vulnerable and that it was nice it would be nice to get some positive feedback. And so he said, hey, fantastic job on that. But then he said, you have a really great way with words, know you’re quite good at presenting. And you’re and I’m sure you spent a ton of time preparing for this. That piece right there, that was the justification piece of the validation was basically saying not only, hey, you know, you should feel proud of that. That was fantastic. But you’ve really put a lot of work into that. And I recognize that that was powerful, which is funny, because I didn’t really realize it until I read it. But I thought, oh, that feels good to feel recognized not only for the content, but for how much work went into preparing that because he was right. I mean, anytime I speak, I really tailor my message to the audience and I do put a lot of effort into it. And so to have somebody recognize that, to validate that that pride that I feel when something goes well, but to recognize that it came as a result of a lot of hard work, that’s very powerful and that was very connecting. And it really, really made my day. It made my whole week to receive that e-mail.

Why Would I Validate if I Disagree?

OK, I’m going to pause right here now and address a question that I’m sure at least one of you has thought of throughout the course of this throughout the course of this episode. And that’s: “But what if I don’t agree with the other person?”

[00:33:22] I’m not about to validate somebody. If whatever they’re thinking is just totally off base. That would be counterproductive. Right. Not necessarily. In fact, validation is your best friend. When you disagree with somebody, I have a couple of more link the experiences on my book and in my blog where I talk about instances where people disagreed or where I disagreed with them. And I was able to use validation to expertly navigate that and to help them hear my side of the story. I’m not going to go into those again today for sake of time, but I will share this. A recent email from a reader this woman shared with me that she always had a fantastic relationship with her mom growing up, and that even still as an adult, she would call at least once a week, I believe, and they would talk for at least an hour. And that, you know, they would talk about each other’s lives and everything that was going on. And it was wonderful.

Well, a year or so ago, her mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia and she said that when she went her mom would have these episodes. It just really broke down their relationship because now when she called, she didn’t ask at all about her daughter’s life. It was just a constant barrage of conspiracy theories or different thoughts or concerns that she had that this woman did not want to reinforce because there were inaccurate. They were they were totally false. They were crazy, if you want to use that word. And so she would try to Perry she would try to push them away and say, man, that’s not true, mom. You know, this, that and the quality of their conversation has just plummeted. And she wrote me and said, you know what, after I listened to your book, I realized that I could still validate my mom, even though I didn’t agree with what she was feeling or with with what she was sharing with me. She said the next phone call we had, I tried it. I just validated my wall.

[00:35:09] I you know, she didn’t share the specifics of the conversation with me, but I could imagine. You know, it’s something conspiracy theory, let’s just say. And she says, OK, mom, like, I can appreciate that. What would be terrifying thinking that, you know, if so-and-so and the government’s doing this or this or that, that that would be terrifying. And then she said something crazy happened.

[00:35:29] The relief was audible in my mom’s voice. And then she asked me about my day.

[00:35:37] She said this was the first time that her mom had asked about her and almost a year and they had a great conversation. She said. She said it was almost like the old times when we used to talk and I actually feel like I’m regaining that relationship that I had with my mother.

[00:35:54] How cool is that? How powerful is that?

[00:35:58] You don’t have to agree with the other person is saying. And if you can get around that and if you can at least appreciate where they’re coming from, you know, you’re not saying I agree with everything you’re saying. All you’re saying is I can appreciate why you’re feeling the way you are. I understand where you’re coming from. And the reality of any situation is. People actually respond quite rationally, given their circumstances, given their background. So, you know, if if you have all these crazy thoughts going through your mind, of course you’re gonna be upset. If if I’m talking to a co-worker, this is one of those experiences that I mentioned in my book. And he only has a portion of the full story. Well, of course he’s gonna be worried that this project is just going to fail. So you do not have to to agree with people to validate them. And when you disagree, all the more reason to validate. Because it will help you have a more respectful conversation. Human to human, rather than just butting heads and trying to each get your point pushed through. Now, the last point that I want to kind of double back on here is one final question. And that’s well. Is this something I just use when people are angry or sad?

Validation in Parent/Child Relationships

Now, I mentioned already that this can be useful in positive situations.

[00:37:16] I want to drive that point home with a story that was quite impactful for me again early on to my understanding of validation. It was actually while I was writing my book, I went to a local restaurant and I was after work, had been a long day. I ordered my meal. That was a fast food restaurant. So I just had to wait a few minutes to get it. And so I went and I sat down at a table and I started people watching. And I saw a little boy couldn’t have been older than 5 years old, and his father sitting across from each other at a little booth. And the little boy was playing with a like a puzzle of sorts that he got in his kids meal. And the father was sitting just scrolling through his phone, reading something online. And I watched this interaction here intently because the kid was so focused on this little puzzle and he started moving pieces and trying to figure it out. And after a couple of minutes, really only a minute or so, he clicked the last piece into place and his eyes just lit up like wide eyed. He’s looking at it. I did it. Oh, my gosh. I can’t believe it. And he holds it up to his dad. He’s his dad. Look.

[00:38:20] And his dad looks up from his phone. And says call. And then just goes right back down, scrolling through his phone. And in that moment, I was riveted on this little boy. And he was still holding the puzzle up in front of his dad, clearly hoping for something more. And then after a moment, just took it back down to his lap and continued playing with it. That was hard for me to see. Because what was it that that little boy was wanting in that moment? Well, at this stage, I think, you know, it was validation. He wanted his dad to look at it and say, wow, good work.

[00:39:07] Those puzzles are hard. The little boy was so proud of himself, so excited. He wanted to feel that same excitement from his father. He wanted to feel like his dad was proud, that he recognized the amazing accomplishment of his little five-year-old. And yet in that moment, for whatever reason, you know, I’m careful to not judge the father, because who knows what was going on in his life. But the principal nevertheless remains the same. It only takes a few seconds at most a few minutes when you’re talking with somebody. To validate the positive, to show them you appreciate them, to show that you care and that you’re excited for them. That’s what that little boy wanted. And at the end of the day, that’s what we all want. We all want to feel heard and understood. We all want to feel like people appreciate us. And validation is one of the primary ways we convey that. Again, helping people feel heard and understood. Showing that we care, showing that we’re connecting with them. We all crave it regardless of race, background, gender. You know, we all are human and we all want to feel like we belong. Validation is powerful.

Learn to Validate Yourself

[00:40:19] The last thing I’ll say on the topic is this.

[00:40:22] I’m not suggesting that you require validation from everyone around you to tell you that you’re good enough for that you’re pretty enough or that whatever. It’s that emotional connection. And yet we can’t solely rely on others. And so, yes, you can and ought to learn to validate yourself. If we go back to the very beginning where we talked about emotions that we were told that they are good or bad, well, oftentimes we are our own worst critic. You know, if we’re if we’re scared about something and then we immediately, our inner voice says, don’t be scared, that’s stupid. You know, if you’re a man or sometimes even a woman and you want to cry about something. That little voices don’t cry. Come on, be man.

[00:41:02] If we’re angry about something again, we say don’t be angry. That’s bad. Don’t do that.

[00:41:07] Not helpful. Right. And then going green. I think we know that by now you can validate yourself. And just again, it sounds so funny. Put yourself in your own shoes. Can I even say that? It’s weird. But oftentimes we have to stop and look back and say, of course, I’m upset for X, Y and Z reasons that makes total sense.

[00:41:26] And you allow yourself that space, you allow yourself permission to feel how you’re feeling the next time you do it. It’s freeing. It’s powerful. And I go back to my episode from last week where we talked about personal responsibility and how we take we are responsible for our own happiness. Well, validation certainly helps with that. Or we say, you know what starts with me? I need to allow myself to feel certain things, to be proud, to be excited, to be scared, to be angry, to beat, to feel hurt. We have to allow ourselves to feel the whole gamut of human emotion, because that is what allows us to live the most open, connected and free life.

The Wrap-Up

So I want to wrap this up here with an action, an invitation, the next time someone’s share something with you and it will happen today unless you’re listening to this at like 11:30 at night. The next time someone share something with you, hold off on the advice.

[00:42:23] Hold off on the assurance and instead validate them and see what happens. That’s going to do it for today’s episode.

[00:42:33] I appreciate you tuning in. And again, I hope that you’re finding value in this if you are. I invite you to please leave a positive rating on your podcast store of Choice i-Tunes Stitcher, What have you, as that helps other people find the podcast and hopefully learn and put into practice these principles. So thank you again for listening. And I look forward to chatting next week.

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2 thoughts on “E3: Validation: The Most Powerful Relationship Skill You Were Never Taught”

  1. Thank you for explaining what validation is. My wife and I are currently separated and she would always tell me I discredited her feeling or her feelings didn’t matter. I wish I would of had this information six months ago it would of helped me out tremendously. Thanks again!!

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