Updated: Mar 28
Our role is very much to listen, to help the person label what they are feeling and clarify their options and, refer on as necessary. A lot of it requires validating how the person is feeling. Usually our referrals are to GP's, Psychologists, Lawyers, Career Specialists, Family Violence Support Services and of course Law Enforcement Agencies as necessary.
With so much talk at the moment about the role of validation I thought it would be useful to share some validation tips for others. We cover these in Emergency Self Care School and go a bit deeper, but for now, here are some suggestions.
Why We So Often Get It Wrong
People love to fix things, problem solve and make sense of. We especially like to do this when a problem isn’t our own but someone else’s. It just seems so easy to see where others are going wrong and we seem to know the exact thing a person could change that would fix all their problems. If they would just listen and just do as we suggest, we know for sure that they would be the happiest, most serene and well-adjusted person ever!
So why is it that people in our life won’t do as we so wisely suggest? The thing is, it’s all about the emotions. The way we feel about a situation is important and when we overlook that, it can be really difficult to solve a problem or deal with any difficult situation.
When we validate emotions, we show others that we accept them and we understand their emotional experience. We get where they are at, we show that the way they are feeling is valid regardless of usefulness or our perceptions of helpfulness.
What Is Emotional Validation
Emotional validation involves understanding and showing acceptance for another person's feelings. 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 accepted.
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, in which another person’s emotional experiences are rejected, ignored, or judged.
Validating an emotion does not mean that you agree with the other person or that you think their emotional response is warranted. Rather, you communicate to them that you understand what they are feeling without trying to talk them out of the feeling or shame them for the feeling.
Why Validation Is Important
Emotional validation plays a number of important roles. Some of the benefits include:
Communicating acceptance: When you validate someone's emotions, you are showing that you care about and accept them for who they are.
Strengthening relationships: People who show each other acceptance are able to feel more connected and build stronger relationships.
Showing value: When you validate someone's emotions, you are showing them that they are important to you.
Better emotional regulation: When people feel that others hear and understand them, it can help lessen the intensity of strong emotions. This can be particularly important when it comes to strong negative or distressing feelings. Some research suggests that offering people emotional validation may help them better regulate their emotions.
Consequences of Emotional Invalidation
Emotional invalidation can have a number of negative consequences in terms of psychological, behavioural, and emotional health. Some of the damaging effects of this invalidation include:
Problems with a person's sense of identity: Emotional invalidation undermines the sense of self. When people feel that their personality characteristics, thoughts, and behaviours are not accepted, they may develop low self-esteem or a poor sense of self.
Difficulty managing emotions: Invalidation tells people that what they are feeling or the way that they are expressing those feelings is wrong. It can lead people to feel that they cannot trust their emotions, which can make it hard to regulate those feelings.
Mental health problems: Emotional invalidation may also contribute to mental health conditions including depression and anxiety. Invalidation can make people feel that their thoughts and feelings don't matter to others. Invalidation, including self-invalidation, can also make it more difficult to recover from mental health disorders.
How To Validate Someone
Validation opens people up and helps them to feel free to communicate with
you. When we validate someone we allow them to safely share their feelings and
thoughts. We are reassuring them that it is ok to have the feelings that they
have. We are demonstrating that we will still accept them after they have
shared their feelings.
We let them know that we respect their perception of things at that moment.
We help them feel heard, acknowledged, understood and accepted.
Basic steps to validation
1. Acknowledging the other persons feelings.
2. Identifying the feelings.
3. Offering to listen.
4. Helping them to label the feelings.
5. Being there for them; remaining present both physically and emotionally.
6. Feeling patient.
7. Feeling accepting and non judgemental.
Validation allows a person to release their feelings in a healthy, safe and
It also helps us to get to know them better. Therefore it helps build bonds of
caring, support, acceptance, understanding and trust.
When a person is feeling down, these bonds are sometimes all that person
needs to begin to feel better and solve their own problems.
We regularly invalidate others because we ourselves have been invalidated, so
it has become habitual.
Below are some of the many ways we are invalidated:
1. We are told we shouldn’t feel that way
2. We are dictated not to feel the way we feel
3. We are told we are too sensitive, too dramatic
4. We are ignored or dismissed
5. We are judged
Examples: Validating Statements
"I can see how you would feel that way."
"That must be really hard."
"I feel the same way."
"I bet you're frustrated."
"I'm here for you."
Examples: Invalidating Statements
"What's the big deal?"
"You should feel lucky."
"You are too sensitive."
"Don't be such a wimp."
"If you hadn't done that it wouldn't have happened."
"I don't want to hear it."
There are also other things that you can do to help people feel comfortable sharing their emotions and more accepted when they do.
Consider your body language: Make sure that your posture is open and comfortable. Turn to the other person and avoid body signals that might convey rejection, such as crossed arms and avoiding eye contact.
Express empathy: Even if the emotion isn't something you necessarily understand, show that you care about what the other person is feeling.
Ask questions: Follow up on what the other person has said by asking questions to clarify what they mean. Asking questions shows that you are listening and trying to understand what the other person is saying.
Avoid blaming: Focus on showing support. Don't try to look for external sources to blame for the other person's emotions or blame them for the situation.
Validation Can Be Simple
There are a number of things you can do to validate someone: It can be as simple to show the person that what they are saying matters by:
Pay attention when someone is speaking;
Make eye contact;
Put the phone down;
Turn the TV off;
Pop multitasking to the side and sit and be present with your children;
Nod along and ask questions when your partner tells you about their day;
Also reflect back your understanding of what they’ve said. “It sounds like you’re really angry with your boss.”
Me validate me? Yes indeed, you can (and should!) validate yourself. Taking the time to acknowledge that your feelings are valid and accurately reflect the context and history of a situation is important. You are showing yourself self-compassion and normalising your emotional experience.
Validation is a very important skill in developing and maintaining quality interpersonal relationships and also shows that you care about other people
Things to Remember
Keep in mind that validating someone’s emotions does not mean that you resign yourself to being treated poorly. If someone is behaving inappropriately or aggressively, removing yourself from the situation is your best option.
Tell them that you want to be able to talk with them about the situation, but that you can’t do that productively until they can communicate with you more calmly, so you’ll return later when it seems like the right time.
It is also important to keep in mind that validating someone's emotion usually will not make the emotion go away. It may diffuse the situation, and it will rarely make the situation worse, but that doesn’t mean someone is going to feel better right away.
Encourage people to reach out for professional help if they are struggling with emotional problems or if they are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition.
If you would like WOW to support your team please get in touch.
Kathie Melocco is a multi award winning PR and Marketing practitioner, responsible for some of our most successful social justice campaigns. In 2018 she shifted gear, retrained as a Chaplain and founded WOW Chaplaincy.com and WOWSelfCareSchool.com.
Kathie’s focus interest area is on Moral Injury, Ethical Leadership and Ending Systemic Abuse.
She is the driving force behind the #Start2Care Campaign. which aims to take take a totally 360 view of how behaviours such as workplace bullying, financial abuse, workplace harassment, ethical violations, gender abuse occur in the first place and the impact on mental health. These things can morally injure people and cause immense mental health harm and fracture people's lives.
Moral Injury was originally identified in the armed services and confused with PTSD at the time, Moral Injury is often called a soul injury. It causes our sense of self to be disrupted and sometimes even broken with trauma. Currently international research is being undertaken into this important area by psychiatrists, psychologists, chaplains and more with the aim of identifying a holistic management solution to the problem. The jury is still out.
Early evidence however suggests it is a leadership issue. Simply put, if we fail in our duty of care to protect people when ethically and morally we have a responsibility to do so we cause injury. And it can be enduring.
The current social change sweeping society demanding safety of women in all situations is as a result of the appalling manner in which #brittanyhiggins alleged rape in Parliament House and the inadequate response by those in leadership from the Prime Minister of Australia down is an example of Moral Injury.
Leadership failed to ethically support someone in the most vulnerable of circumstances and the Australian population is reacting to that violation.
Winner: United Nations Award for Communicating Priority Issues. Winner: Healthier Workplace Award ( Mental Health Association Australia & NZ) Winner PRIA Awards: - several Winner Portfolios Independent Woman Of The Year Winner Portfolios Independent Woman Of The Year, Small Business
1800 55 1800 Kids Helpline.
13 11 14 Lifeline 24-hour confidential telephone support service.
1300 78 99 78 Mensline Australia – support for men who are concerned about their own violent behaviour.
1300 659 467 Suicide call back service – free phone counselling.
1300 22 4636 Beyond Blue is a support service for those suffering anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts and offers phone, online chat and email support.
0845 22 55 787 The UK’s National Bullying Helpline provides support for bullying victims and their website also has a wealth of information about bullying in the workplace, at school and online.
0300 123 1100 Helpline for the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS).
0808 800 2222 Helpline for Bullying UK (part of Family Lives) – it provides expert advice on any bulling issues for families.
0800 169 6928 The confidential helpline at Bully Busters is run by specially trained
staff and their website has some great anti-bullying information for kids, parents, carers and professionals.
USA & CANADA
1-800-668-6868 Canada Kids Help Phone
1-877-352-4497 This is Bullying Canada’s toll-free number
1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-273-8255
1-800-442-HOPE School tip line for reporting weapons or homicidal remarks and National Youth Crisis Hotline for crisis intervention
1-800-399-PEER Peer listening line for people under the age of 25.
1-800-784-2433 The National Hopeline connects callers with a 24-hour crisis
centre in their local US area.
1-800-999-999 The Covenant House Nine-Line helps callers with crisis
intervention and angry emotions
0800 54 37 54 Kidsline offers free all-hours support for young people up to 18 years old.
0800 543 354 Lifeline provides 24/7 telephone trained counselling and support, free of charge.
0508 638 723 Netsafe’s toll-free helpline for advice and information on bullying issues.