NYC Psychotherapist Blog

power by WikipediaMindmap

Monday, October 24, 2022

How to Develop and Use Emotional Validation Skills in Your Relationship

 In my last article, What is Emotional Validation and Why Is It Such a Powerful Relationship Skill?, I defined emotional validation and gave examples of how you can validate your partner's emotions.  I also gave examples of common invalidating responses that  people often make to their partners followed by an example of a validating response for the same scenario.  

In the current article, I'm focusing on the next step, which is how to develop and use these skills (see my article: 10 Relationship Goals to Create a Stronger Relationship).

Developing and Practicing Emotional Validation Skills

A Brief Recap From the Prior Article 
Emotional validation is
  • seeing
  • understanding
  • respecting and 
  • accepting another person's emotional experience--even when you don't agree with what they're saying
In other words, you're validating their emotional experience whether they're sad, angry, confused--not whether they are right or wrong about whatever conclusions they're coming to about the issue.

By validating their emotional response, you're not invalidating their emotions by
  • defending (being defensive)
  • ignoring (pretending not to hear them or walking away)
  • dismissing (minimizing their concerns or telling them you don't want to hear it)
  • rejecting (telling them they don't really feel that way)
  • criticizing (telling them they shouldn't feel that way)
For a more detailed definition and related examples, see the prior article.

Developing and Practicing Emotional Validation Skills
Just like any skill, emotional validation skills require practice.

Developing and Practicing Emotional Validation Skills

Once you have developed emotional validation skills, you can use it in any situation, including with partner, friends, relatives, colleagues as well as with your self, which is called self validation.

If you're accustomed to making invalidating statements, don't expect to develop emotional validating skills over night.  Just like any other skill, you'll need to practice and there will be times when you don't get it right.  If that happens, just acknowledge it and try again.
  • Identify and Acknowledge the Emotion:  Start by finding out from your partner what emotion they're feeling.  Sometimes, this might be obvious because they might have told you, but other times you might not be sure.  If you don't know, asking what they're experiencing shows that you care.  

Validate Your Partner's Emotions

    • For instance, if your partner is angry with you and it's clear that this is the emotion they're feeling, you can say, "I see that you're angry."
    • If you're not sure about the emotion, but you can see they're upset, you can say, "You seem angry" and if your partner is feeling something else ("I'm not angry. I'm hurt"), you can acknowledge that.
  • Find Out What Triggered the Emotion: If it's not obvious or if your partner hasn't already told you the source of the emotion, ask what triggered the emotion.  If your partner is too upset to tell you, ask if it would be better to talk about it when they're calmer or just say that you recognize that something is upsetting them.
    • For instance, if your partner is angry because you forgot to buy milk on the way home, like they asked you to do, validate their anger, "I understand you're angry because you specifically called me this afternoon to remind me to buy milk and I forgot. I can see why this would make you angry."
    • This is not the time to make excuses about why you forgot the milk--unless there was an extenuating circumstance, like you got into a car accident.  But this isn't going to be the case most of the time. 
Examples of Invalidating and Validating Statements
I gave 10 examples of invalidating and validating responses to particular situations in my  last article.  But this is important enough to give a few examples here to clarify what I mean:
  • Invalidating Response: Stop making a mountain out of molehill.
  • Validating Response:    I understand why you feel that way.
  • Invalidating Response: You have it better than most people. Stop complaining.
  • Validating Response:     That sounds really frustrating.
  • Invalidating Response:   I'm not going to listen to this.  
  • Validating Response:      I care about you and your feelings.

When you validate your partner's emotions, you're letting them know that you have heard what they said and you understand their emotions.

Validating Your Partner's Emotions

This will help you to be more empathetic towards your partner, and they can also practice being validating so it will improve your relationship.  

Just saying the right words isn't enough.  You really have to be attuned to your partner's feelings so that you are sincere (a sarcastic response will make matters worse).  

Be aware that aside from being attuned and empathetic, your facial expression and body language says more about what you're really feeling than your words.  
  • A caveat: No one should ever tolerate emotional abuse and certainly not physical abuse. So, if your partner is being abusive, you'll need to set limits around this behavior first.
It's not your responsibility to fix their emotions.  Your only responsibility is to validate their emotions and, if you were at fault, to acknowledge this too.

Validating your partner's emotions can help to defuse an otherwise contentious situation and it can bring you closer together.

Also see my article: What is Self Validation?.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I work with individual adults and people in relationships.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.