In this new article you’ll learn how to how to validate someone’s feelings.
To validate feelings means to accept and acknowledge someone’s emotions as valid. In any good relationship, it is crucial to validate someone’s feelings when they are upset. Begin by actively listening and responding in a simple and clear way.
Additionally, try to understand and relate to their feelings as much as possible. Keep in mind, even if you don’t agree with someone’s emotions or decisions, it is still important to acknowledge that their feelings are real and valid.
1. Provide verbal feedback while the other person is speaking.
This is the first step in validating someone’s feelings. Simple phrases like “I understand,” “Got it,” and “I hear you” can demonstrate to the person that you are attentively listening to them. This helps them feel heard and validated.
2. Use nonverbal cues to communicate that you’re actively listening to someone.
This can include making eye contact, facing towards the person, and stopping any other activities you may be doing. This will show them that you are present, engaged and giving them your full attention.
Even if you are busy with something else, you can still show that you’re listening by occasionally looking at them and using other cues such as nodding or making small sounds of agreement. If you have a disability that affects your body language, it’s important to find alternative ways to convey that you’re listening, such as fidgeting with one hand or verbally expressing that you’re paying attention.
3. Be present and engaged when someone is expressing their feelings, even if it’s difficult or uncomfortable for you.
Putting aside your own emotions and focusing on being there for them is a key aspect of validating their feelings. Some ways to show that you’re listening and being present include holding their hand, making eye contact, sitting with them or giving them a comforting touch, and saying “I’m here” to show that you are available to support them.
4. Match the energy and mood of the person you’re talking to.
If someone is excited, try to mirror that excitement. If they’re sad, show empathy. If they’re nervous, be understanding and comforting. This helps them feel understood and validated.
For example, if your best friend is very excited about their first date, they might appreciate you getting excited with them, but if they’re hesitant, getting too excited may make them feel overwhelmed. It’s crucial to take note of the person’s energy level and respond accordingly.
5. When someone has finished expressing their feelings, it is helpful to ask clarifying questions to further understand their thoughts and emotions.
This allows the person to elaborate and delve deeper into their feelings, which makes them feel heard and understood. Examples of clarifying questions could be “Can you tell me more about that?” or “How did you feel about that situation?”
Asking such questions shows that you’re truly interested in understanding their perspective and validating their feelings.
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6. One way to validate someone’s feelings is to repeat their words back to them after they have finished expressing their thoughts and emotions.
This can help them feel heard and understood. Repeating back what they said may sound strange, but it helps to clarify and confirm the point they were trying to make.
Some examples of how to repeat back their words are: “So you’re saying that you’re feeling frustrated because you didn’t get enough notice from the teacher?” or “I understand that you’re really excited about this news”, “It sounds like it was difficult for you” or “So, you felt hurt because my brother was making fun of your accent, and I didn’t intervene, is that correct?”
7. When someone is sharing their thoughts and feelings, it’s important to listen more than you talk.
Even if you have helpful insights to offer, it’s crucial to hold back and let the person speak without interrupting or interjecting (1). Avoid giving advice at this stage as it may make the person feel like you’re not acknowledging their feelings.
Instead, focus on actively listening and being present for them. They may come to their own understanding of the situation just from you being there and listening attentively.
8. Once someone has shared their thoughts and feelings, it can be helpful to try and understand them better by encouraging them to elaborate on their emotions.
For example, you could say something like “It sounds like you’re feeling hurt, can you tell me more about that?” This shows the person that their feelings are important to you and that you’re trying to understand them.
If you’re correct in your guess, they’ll likely elaborate on their feelings and provide more information, if you’re wrong, they’ll correct you and give you a better understanding of how they truly feel. This process allows the person to elaborate and process their thoughts more effectively.
9. One way to help someone feel validated is to share a similar experience you’ve had.
If possible, relate a situation that you have gone through that is similar to what the person is experiencing. Then, talk about how you felt and how their feelings are understandable. This can help the person feel understood and validated.
For instance, if a friend didn’t get invited to his sister’s vacation, you could say something like, “I understand how you feel, being left out is never easy. I have a similar experience, my brother and cousin go on a camping trip every year and I’m never included. It makes me feel sad and disappointed. I understand why you would feel upset about not being invited to your sister’s trip, it’s not fun to feel left out.”
10. If you haven’t had a similar experience, you can still help validate the person’s feelings by normalizing their reaction.
You can say something like “I believe many people in your situation would have the same feelings” this implies that their emotions are reasonable and that they have the right to feel the way they do.
Some examples of normalizing statements are: “It’s understandable to be nervous about getting a flu shot, it’s not a pleasant experience for anyone.” “It’s normal to feel scared about asking for a promotion, it can be intimidating for anyone.” “It’s okay if you don’t feel like going out today, it’s understandable given the circumstances.”
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11. Another way to validate someone’s feelings is by acknowledging how their personal history may be influencing their emotions.
This is particularly helpful if someone feels like their reactions are irrational or unreasonable. Even if their reaction may seem excessive, it’s important to remind them that their feelings are valid.
Some examples of acknowledging personal history are: “Given your past experiences with Amy, I completely understand why you want to take a break from dating, that must have been hard.” “I can see how the last roller coaster ride might have made you hesitant about this one. Do you want to try the merry-go-round instead?” “Given your past experience of getting bit by a dog, I can understand why you’re nervous around your neighbor’s new dog.”
12. Never try to correct or change someone’s thoughts or feelings, particularly when they are upset.
Even if you think their thoughts or feelings are irrational, trying to talk them out of it can come across as invalidating their emotions.
For example, instead of saying “That’s not worth getting angry about” which implies that the person’s feelings are not valid, you could say something like “I can understand why that would make you angry” or “You seem really upset.”
Remember, validating someone’s feelings doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, it just means acknowledging and accepting them.
13. When someone shares a problem with you, often they just want to be heard.
Before offering unsolicited advice like “just ignore them” or “look on the bright side,” take a moment to truly listen to what they are saying. Try to empathize with their feelings and let them process their emotions.
If you want to help, start by actively listening and giving them the space to express themselves. Once they have had a chance to process their feelings, you can ask if they would like advice or if there’s anything you can do to help.
If you’re unsure, it’s always a good idea to ask “Are you coming to me for advice or would you just like to vent?” This will give them the opportunity to clarify what they need from you.
14. Choose the most appropriate form of validation.
If you’re unable to empathize personally with the person, don’t try to make comparisons (2), instead, offer more general forms of validation. Also, it’s important to not minimize the uniqueness of what the person is going through.
For example, if a friend is telling you about his suspected ADHD, don’t say “everyone gets disorganized sometimes” or if someone is talking about a mean boyfriend, don’t say “all guys can be insensitive.” If they feel their experience is unique, respect that feeling.
Additionally, it’s important to not pretend to know what something is like if you haven’t experienced it yourself. For example, if a friend is going through a divorce and you haven’t been divorced before, don’t try to empathize directly by bringing up a breakup you had, instead, validate using more general terms such as “It’s completely understandable that you feel that way, Divorce is really tough on most people.”
15. It’s essential to avoid blaming someone for their feelings, particularly when they are upset.
Blaming someone for their emotions can come across as invalidating them.
Some examples of responses that should be avoided are: “You’re just complaining, it won’t change anything, be strong and deal with it.” “You’re making a big deal out of nothing.” “So you chose to be mad at your best friend, How’s that working for you?” “Maybe he wouldn’t have treated you that way if you hadn’t worn such a short skirt.”
These responses are dismissive and place blame on the person for their feelings, it’s important to avoid them and instead validate the person’s emotions without placing blame.
16. Not to try and “hoover” someone’s feelings, which means trying to pretend that negative feelings don’t exist by brushing them off.
Some examples of hoovering are: “Oh, it’s not that bad.” “It’s not a big deal.” “Let’s focus on the positive.” “Everything will work out in the end, don’t worry.” “Just be strong.” “Try to see the bright side.”
These phrases are dismissive and trivialize the person’s feelings, instead of validating them, it’s important to acknowledge and accept their feelings without trying to hoover them away.
17. When someone is upset, it’s natural to want to make them feel better, but sometimes trying to fix their feelings can be counterproductive.
It can make them feel like their feelings are not valid, and that they should be over it by now. Instead, try to listen to the whole story and validate their feelings along the way. If they are open to your help, you can ask how you can help or offer to brainstorm solutions.
When brainstorming, it’s important to be mindful of not telling them what to do, instead, you can express your own perspective and give them the freedom to decide what works for them.
For example, instead of saying “You should let go of him,” try saying “Personally, I try to let go of people who don’t want to be in my life, and focus on those who matter.” This allows them to make their own decision on how to proceed, instead of feeling pressured to do it your way.
I want to thank you for taking the time to read my article about how to validate someone’s feelings. I sincerely hope its contents have been a good help to you.