As human beings, we all have a need for validation.
What is Validation?
Validation is a critical communication tool; it expresses love and acceptance. It is a powerful way of showing that we care, and that somebody is important to us.
Invalidation on the other hand, is the process of denying, rejecting or dismissing someone’s feelings. According to Hall and Cook, invalidation sends the message that a person’s subjective emotional experience is inaccurate, insignificant, and unacceptable.
Validation provides feedback and acceptance about an individual’s situation and identity, in a non-judgemental way.
For example, when you validate a child, you allow them to see their feelings and thoughts. You have emphasised that you still accept the child after they have shared their feelings. You let them know that you respect their perceptions of the situation at that moment. This allows them to feel heard, acknowledged, understood and accepted.
The founder of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Marsha Linehan, applies validation in a specific method. Linehan believes repeated invalidation from another person’s thoughts and feelings can cause more problems in emotional development than people realise. Simply telling a child that what he feels is “crazy”, could be more damaging to the child than expected. Linehan believes that acceptance is a key tool for communicating with people that their responses make sense, and are understandable within their current life contexts or situation (Linehan, 2017).
Types of Validation
Validation comes in various forms, as follows:
1 – Emotional Validation
- Accepting your emotions without escalating the emotions.
- Being non-judgmental towards your emotions.
- Allowing an individual to express their feelings through listening, clarifying and identifying.
- Allowing your own emotions to have a safe place.
2 – Behavioural Validation
- Communicating with an individual that their behaviours are understandable.
- Describing behaviour without judgement.
- Validation can be nonverbal – a smile. With infants, much of validation is through body motion and touch. Facial expression, posture, hand gestures, tone of voice, gaze and speed of movement can all communicate validation.
3 – Cognitive Validation
- Recognising and identifying the underlying assumptions, beliefs, rules and expectations, articulating them and finding the validity in them.
Validation is integral to our own self-esteem, and helps us to build meaningful relationships with others. Through validation, we feel heard, understood, accepted and appreciated. Knowing this helps us to feel valuable. It makes us feel good – about ourselves, and the person giving us the gift of validation.
As important as validation is, it doesn’t always come easily. It takes effort, and attention. So here are just a few examples of validation statements (Smith, 2020) to consider using, next time you are feeling stuck (whether it be with a partner, a child, or other loved one):
- Thank you for …
- I’m so happy that you’re in my life.
- I believe in you.
- I love it when you …
- We are going to get through this.
- Tell me more about …
- How are you feeling today?
- I’m sorry that I hurt you.
- Help me to understand what you’re thinking.
- What happened? (Avoid asking, “What is wrong?”)
- Our family sticks together.
- It makes sense that you think / feel …
- I want to hear about your morning / afternoon / day.
- I need your help with …
- What you are thinking/feeling is normal.
- How can I help?
- I’m proud of you.
- Will you forgive me for …?
- I love you.
- Can I get your opinion on …?
- You’re right.
Here is a Youtube clip which beautifully captures the essence and the impact of validation:
Author: Vishal Patel, M Social Work, AASW, AMHSW.
Vishal Patel is an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker, with significant experience in working with victims of trauma, abuse and violence. His area of interest includes addressing significant complex and challenging behaviours in children under the age of 12 years. He is able to provide therapy in English, Gujarati, Hindi and Urdu.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3067 9129.
- Hall, K., & Cook, M. (2012). The power of validation: arming your child against bullying, peer pressure, addiction, self-harm and out of control emotions. Oakland, CA: Raincoast Books.
- Linehan, M. (2017). DBT skills Training Manual. Guilford.
- Smith, A. (2020). 37 Validating Statements (A Quick Cheat Sheet for When You Are Stuck) Retrieved 19 April 2021, from https://www.hopeforbpd.com/borderline-personality-disorder-treatment/validating-statementshttps://www.hopeforbpd.com/borderline-personality-disorder-treatment/validating-statements