Validation: How to Make Someone Feel Valued and Understood
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Validation: How to Make Someone Feel Valued and Understood

Lots of people need to be valued and understood. That’s why validating one’s feelings and thoughts play important role in effective communication and counseling. Validation involves understanding and recognizing a person’s emotions and ideas. It could make the other person feel that he or she is understood and could bring the conversation with another individual to a deeper level. Dr. M. Linehan as cited by K. Hall had enumerated 6 levels of validation that can be used to make anyone feel recognized and accepted. The following are practical ways on how to make others feel valued and understood.

Level 1: BEING MINDFUL. To make someone feel valued and understood, be an attentive listener. Validating one’s feelings and thoughts means listening attentively to another person and setting aside anything that could distract one’s own concentration is helpful. Through this, one might feel respected as well as understood. It can also be applied to one’s own self by means of acknowledging and not denying whatever feeling or idea that comes in. Attentive listening while conversing with another is healthier and more helpful than being preoccupied with things unrelated to the topic at hand. This technique can be done to anyone of any age.

LEVEL 2: REFLECTION. Validating one’s feelings and thoughts involves truly understanding a person or one’s self without criticism. It is done through summarizing or paraphrasing one’s feelings or thoughts in an objective and non-judgmental manner. It is effectively done through accepting what and how one feels at the moment on certain issue without hesitation. This too, is an effective way to make someone feel valued and understood.   

LEVEL 3: MINDREADING. This has nothing to do with telepathy. Validating one’s feelings and thoughts includes an actual interpretation of possible thoughts and emotions of another individual by means of paying attention to behavior, facial expression and tone of voice. For example, when a man claims that he is happy or excited but his voice tone, facial and body reaction are not parallel with his statement, it might be helpful to let him know that his genuine feelings are recognized. If done sincerely, this could break the walls or defenses, making him or her feel valued. This might also lead to a smoother flow of conversation and interaction, to make someone feel valued and understood.

LEVEL 4: CONSIDERING BIOLOGY AND HISTORY. When appropriate and needed, understanding why one behaves in certain ways by looking at one’s past experiences and biological issues helps to better understand a person, making him or her feel more accepted and valued. For example, when a woman mistrusts and hates men in authority, it can be helpful to let her know that she is understood in terms of her personal history, past experiences or encounters. Just be sure that the sources of information are real, factual events. On the other hand, when a man is irritable due to stress, alcohol or any medical condition, it is a plus factor to communicate to him that he is understood in terms of his biological condition. This prospers the other person’s sense of being valued and understood.

LEVEL 5: NORMALIZING.  In validating one’s feelings and thoughts, when needed or appropriate, one’s behavior or emotional reaction is seen as normal and universal. By this, alienation towards one’s own self is avoided and sense of being accepted, valued and understood is highlighted.

LEVEL 6: SYMPATHIZING. When validating one’s feelings and thoughts, putting all the earlier five levels into practice, is sometimes more difficult than just plain understanding. In this level, deepest understanding is given to a point that someone shares another person’s experience, and views both their experiences as equal. It usually happens when a person had already undergone what the other one is experiencing, and would be reacting as the other one does.

It is important to remember that the above-mentioned strategies which are organized in increasing levels must be used with care. Choosing the most appropriate level is better than carelessly applying all the techniques in just one encounter. In validating one's feelings and thoughts, it would be much easier to make someone feel valued and understood.

Resources: Hall, K. 2012. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/pieces-mind/201204/understanding-validation-way-communicate-acceptance

© April 2012 Lorizza Mae C. Posadas

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