The Power of Feeling Understood
We’ve all been there. Having a disagreement or argument with our partner and afterward wondering, “Why couldn’t she see where I was coming from?” or “Why couldn’t he agree that how I felt makes sense?”. These questions indicate our natural desire for validation.
Validation is recognizing or accepting that someone’s emotions, thoughts, or opinions have worth. In other words, being validated gives us a sense of being seen, heard, and understood.
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Validation is essential to have in all relationships, and in romantic relationships, it can make a tremendous difference when it comes to communication in a relationship. Couples will naturally disagree and or argue. One partner validating the other is one way to ease tension, build trust, and support getting to a solution in the smoothest way possible.
What Does Validation Look Like?
Validation is not simply agreeing with whatever your partner says. Many people think it is just agreeing with the other person and often share that feels like giving away your power or losing your voice (especially if you know they are wrong!). Most of us come into conversations in the defensive, but that stance takes away our power to see the other person’s point of view, and that point of view is where resolutions lie. Without question coming off defensive and listening can feel unnatural and almost painful at first, but eventually, you’ll see the benefits and get why it’s worth it.
Validation may look or sound like this, “I can see why this upset you” or “It makes sense why you felt that way. I see your point of view [reflect back what you think that is] and ask, do I have that right?”.
To be clear, validation is not just saying repeating back the words; it should include some of these critical components:
- Empathy – Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and imagine how you would feel if you had their experience. You can emotionally stay connected to your partner even through conflict with empathy. It also helps you respond with sincerity as you authentically acknowledge your partner’s perspective.
- Acceptance – Who doesn’t want to feel accepted? Acceptance from a partner means that they accept you for who you are and the feelings and perspectives that come with you even if they disagree with it at that moment. Acceptance also means being okay with having differing opinions. Not every disagreement will end with a complete agreement in the end.
Validation is powerful because it allows for understanding even in the face of disagreements.
- Active Listening & Understanding – You have to pay attention without your phone in your hand, emails at the desk, or concern for the kids. Being attentive to your partner’s ideas and feelings is a great way to validate. Actively listening to your partner means removing all distractions and focusing entirely on the conversation to develop understanding. This includes asking clarifying questions and summarizing/reflecting on what your partner says.
Related blog: How to practice being aware of your emotions
Why Does Validation Work?
We all want to be understood and not get into conflict. Everyone wants to feel heard instead of ignored, minimized, or dismissed. So keep that in mind when you get into your next conversation.
Validation allows people to feel heard, so they don’t have to cling so tightly to their position. It is that simple, and it’s one of the reasons why so many conflicts go on so long and escalate to ridiculous proportions- we didn’t acknowledge the other person’s concerns.
Using the components of validation can help you better acknowledge your partner and help you move through conflict. Honestly, it’s a skill that can help in multiple settings, including at work, as parents, and even with your friends. It’s not always easy to remain in control of our feelings, but it gets better with practice.
If you feel like you and your partner would benefit from more practice, join our free upcoming communication workshop on 4.11.22 at 6PM EST by registering here.
Remember, validation does not mean that you agree with everything your partner says; validation is about making sure your partner does not feel alone in their experience.
Alyssa Heavens is an associate at Kensho Psychotherapy Services specializing in Marriage and Family Counseling. Piece edited by Supervisor and Mental Health Consultant, Amanda Fludd, LCSW-R