Many times miscommunications are caused not by a lack of caring, but by a lack of understanding or acceptance. It’s very hard to always accept someone else’s opinion, especially when it isn’t the same as yours. The idea that you have to agree with someone in order to get along with them is a common misconception borne of miscommunications and the idea of empathy.
Once you learn how to empathize and accept people for who they are, life becomes much less complicated. Learning how to empathize isn’t always an easy task though because people confuse it with sympathy. Empathy is something completely different and it begins with listening. However, the listening portion may be futile if you don’t understand what people are saying or fail to validate their feelings and right to express those feelings and thoughts.
Validation is the whole point of communication. Think of it. We all want to know that we have the right to feel the way we do even if our opinion differs from that of the listener. Validation is at the heart of respect and understanding.
To validate someone’s feelings, you need to genuinely listen to what they are saying, especially if they are upset. In reality, you don’t absolutely have to agree with anyone’s opinion, but you do need to let them know that their opinion and feelings are respected. You can be sure to validate the feelings of your loved one by using the tips below.
Make eye contact. When you make eye contact with the person you are communicating with, they know they have your attention. Without that, the rest of the communication process is futile.
Be a part of the conversation. Listening is more than just avoiding interruption. It’s about hearing what the person has to say and contemplating it from their point of view if possible. Encourage them to talk and avoid asserting your opinion at least until they are done expressing themselves. Keep in mind that a good listener isn’t thinking about what they are going to say next. Rather, they are paying attention to what is being said right now.
Admit that they have a right to how they feel. This is validation. It doesn’t matter if the person you are listening to has the completely wrong idea or opposite opinion from you. They are still entitled to have their own feelings. To understand this, consider that as much as anyone can try to look through someone else’s eyes, it’s impossible to do that 100%. Therefore, there are elements that you may not be aware of and they may not know how to share those with you. Regardless of difference in opinion, validation is about feelings. The fact is that everyone is entitled to their own feelings and the people who care about them will validate that entitlement.
To validate those feelings in a firm manner, try using some of the words below in your sentences.
understand, empathize, yes, appreciate, explain
For example, you might say something like “I understand that you are hurting and I appreciate the depth of that pain. Yes, it’s your pain and you own it. I can empathize with part of that based on my own experience but I think I could better understand what you are saying if you could explain to me exactly what happened”.
Validation is one of the most important parts of communication. It tells the person that you accept that they have a right to feel the way they do. Keep this in mind the next time a loved one is overly emotional about something you don’t understand. You don’t really have to understand the event as long as you can validate their feelings about the event.