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The Importance of Emotional Validation


Emotional validation involves understanding and showing acceptance for another person's feelings or emotional experiences. When people receive this type of validation, they feel that their emotions are not only seen and heard by others but that these feelings are also understood by another person.

When a person feels that their thoughts, feelings, and emotions are not being heard and/or understood, they may be left feeling isolated and unsupported. Validating an emotion or feeling does not mean that you agree with the other person or that you think their emotional response is warranted. Rather, you are communicating to them that you understand what they are feeling without trying to talk them out of the feeling or make them feel ashamed of themselves for having the feeling.

Why is Emotional Validation So Important?

Emotional invalidation can have many negative consequences in terms of over-all mental well-being It can influence things like a person's sense of identity, contribute to a person having difficulty managing emotions, may cause a person to feel like their behaviours and feelings are not accepted, and may contribute to low self-esteem.

Emotional validation plays a number of important roles in communication and relationships:

  • Communicating acceptance: When you validate someone's emotions, you are showing that you care about, and accept them for who they are and for what they are feeling.
  • Strengthening relationships: People who show each other acceptance are able to feel more connected and build stronger relationships.
  • Showing value to others: When you validate someone's emotions, you are showing them that they are important to you and that you care about them.
  • Better emotional guidelines: When people feel that others hear and understand them, it can help lessen the intensity of strong emotions. This can be important when it comes to strong negative or distressing feelings by helping the person feel less alone and that they are understood in this negative space that they are in.

How to Validate Someone's Feelings:

1. Listening and Responding - Validation starts with basic listening. Give verbal responses to show that you're listening - It's important to only give brief verbal responses, so say things like, "Okay", "Uh-huh", and "I see" while the person is talking so they feel heard.

2. Use body language to show that you're listening - Look at them, and turn your head or entire body towards them while they speak. You may want to stop whatever else you are doing. Show them that you are attentive, present, and engaged.

  • If you are doing something else while you listen (e.g., folding laundry or cooking), then look periodically at the person and use other cues to show you're paying attention. Making eye contact is a great way to do this.
  • If your body language is affected by a disability, you can still show that you are listening. Try accommodating your needs (e.g., fidgeting with one hand while looking at their chin) or explaining outright that your body language is different, but you are still listening.

3. Stay present - The most basic form of validation is to stay with them, even when their feelings are difficult or unpleasant. Put aside your own discomfort and focus entirely on being there for them. Here are some ways to show you are listening:

  • Holding their hand
  • Looking directly at them
  • Sitting with them or rubbing their back
  • Saying "I'm here"

4. Match general mood and energy level - If someone is excited, let yourself get happy or excited too. If they're sad, be sympathetic. If they're nervous, be comforting and understanding. Mirroring their energy level, and responding to their mood, helps them feel understood. For example, if your best friend is very excited about his first date with someone new, he might appreciate you getting excited with him or showing happiness. On the other hand, if he's tentative about it, then you getting too excited might make him feel smothered. It's important to get a good read on how energetic or enthusiastic a person is.

If you are looking to validate someone in your life, try one of these statements or questions:

  • Thank you for sharing…
  • I believe in 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.
  • You are having a sad/tough/yucky day.
  • Thank you for being wonderfully you.
  • What happened? (Avoid asking, “What is wrong?”)
  • It makes sense that you feel…
  • I want to hear about your morning/afternoon/day.
  • I’ve noticed that you…
  • I wonder if you…
  • What do you need from me right now?
  • What you are thinking/feeling is normal.
  • How can I help?
  • I value your ability to…
  • I believe we can figure this out together.
  • I’m proud of you.
  • Your emotions make sense.


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