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Emotional Validation




Emotional validation is the process of learning about, understanding, and expressing acceptance of another person’s emotional experience. Emotional validation is distinguished from emotional invalidation when a person’s emotional experiences are rejected, ignored, or judged.

Validating an emotion doesn't mean that you agree with the other person or that you think their emotional response is warranted. Rather, you demonstrate that you understand what they are feeling without trying to talk them out of or shame them for it.

Signs of Emotional Validation

An emotionally validated person feels that others not only see and hear their emotions but also accept the existence of those feelings. A person who feels that their emotions are not "wrong" or inappropriate is more apt to have a solid sense of identity and worth and can manage emotions more effectively. Furthermore, emotional validation helps open the door to self-compassion: Feeling that our emotions are valid helps us avoid shame and self-blame, so we can respond to them with confidence.


How to Practice Emotional Validation

Emotional validation is a skill that requires practice. Improving it can bolster your relationships with others and help you validate your own thoughts and feelings. Here are a few key strategies.

Identify and Acknowledge the Emotion

Acknowledge the emotion that the person is having. This can be hard if they have not clearly communicated their feelings, so you might have to ask them, or guess and then ask if you're on target.

For example, imagine that your loved one is behaving angrily toward you. If they have already communicated that they are feeling angry, simply demonstrate that you've heard them: "I understand you are angry." If they haven’t communicated their feelings, you might say, "You seem really angry. Is that what’s going on?"

Impact of Emotional Validation

When you emotionally validate someone, you:

  • Communicate acceptance: You demonstrate that you care about and accept the person for who they are.

  • Strengthen the relationship: People who show each other acceptance feel more connected and build stronger bonds.

  • Show value: The person feels they are important to you.

  • Foster better emotional regulation: Research suggests that offering people emotional validation can help them better regulate their emotions. This can be particularly important with strong negative or distressing feelings.

Tips for Being Emotionally Validating

You don't have to resign yourself to being treated poorly. If your loved one is behaving inappropriately or aggressively, removing yourself from the situation is your best option. Tell them that you want to talk with them, but you can’t do that productively until they can communicate with you calmly, so you’ll return later when it seems like the right time.

Keep in mind that validating your loved one’s emotions can help defuse the situation, but it won't make the emotion go away or instantly help the person feel better. In any case, it probably won't make the situation worse.

If the person is experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition, encourage them to reach out for professional help.

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