What if I told you I had a certain type of skill in my tool belt that could enhance your relationships with others. Would you be willing to shift your old behavior to a new tactic of relating? Join me in learning what it takes to be a better friend.
I call this skill the “Magic Love Language.”
When done correctly it can help another person feel understood, loved, and significant. After all, isn’t that we all want?
Let’s face it; holidays can add a ton of stress for everyone. Relationships sometimes take a big hit during this time of year. Wouldn’t you like to minimize the arguments, get along better with everyone, and help those that are hurting feel loved and accepted?
When you love someone who struggles with their emotions or is highly sensitive, it may be extra difficult for them during the holidays. You want to help, but your words never quite bring a calm over their distress. Using this “magical love language” may fill the gap and help minimize some of the difficulty.
This skill is called validation. However, in our family validation is known as a language.
It may sound simple, and right off the bat, you are saying, “oh I do that.” But wait a minute read on just a little further. Like me, you may be surprised at what a little tune-up on this skill might bring. You may end up being a better friend, parent, spouse, or communicator. You will bring more peace into your life during the holidays and all year long.
Validation was first introduced to me as a language my loved one desperately needed. I thought, “No problem, I got this.” After all, I felt I was pretty good at it.
BUT then it became quite apparent I tend only to validate when someone else’s feelings or thoughts make sense to me.
Aha – Anybody like me?
When Feelings Don’t Line Up
When the other person feelings don’t line up with what we think they should be experiencing we many times fail to validate. This failure results in a significant disconnect in the relationship.
It wasn’t unusual to find me trying to convince others to see things my way. It seemed logical if the other people could get the facts right, surely they would change their feelings and thoughts.
My method of doing this was a bit annoying. I would over explain things to my teenage daughter about a million different ways in hopes she would see it “MY WAY.” The results were always the same we would go back and forth, tears and screams until I got a nod which meant, “I will give in, so I don’t have to listen to you anymore.” Neither one of us ever felt heard or loved.
A conversation might look like this –
“You can’t be cold; it’s 75 degrees in here.” “That’s absurd.” “Go look at the thermostat.” As if looking at the thermostat would somehow make the cold feeling go away.
Why not offer a blanket instead?
Or what about when someone says, “You never do anything for me, you must not care” Oh boy, this is where we want to list off the last 100 things we have done. However, this approach never quite reaches the other person’s heart or gets to the underlying issue. Isn’t it more important to uncover why they don’t feel loved.? After all, don’t we all want to know the other person cares about us?
It is so easy to dig our heels in and get stuck on being right.
Validating Isn’t About Being Right or Wrong
When we search and acknowledge the truth in what another person is feeling, thinking, or wanting – they feel validated and loved. Don’t we want the people we care about to feel this way?
But before I go sounding like an expert let me tell you I struggled BIG time to learn this skill. It wasn’t until I desperately needed to validate my own feelings did I finally get it.
The Struggle Was Real
One year I found myself working hard to become the parent my children with a mental illness needed. But I couldn’t grasp how to validate feelings that I thought someone shouldn’t have.
Frustrated and Ready to Give Up
So one night after a frustrating day of me being unable to connect with someone I loved. I collapsed into bed from exhaustion feeling like a failure.
Then Something Unexpected Happened……
All of the sudden I found myself running for my life. My heart beat so fast I thought it would jump out of my chest. I kept running and running and trying to find my voice but the scream wouldn’t come out.
As the distance shortened between us, I recognized him. It was a man who had once been like a father to me. Would he hurt me? Would he catch me?
Abruptly, I awakened in a pool of sweat, my body shaking down to the core. I was scared out of my mind and trying to convince myself it was just a dream.
Fear Set In
But the nightmare made no sense. This man had died years before and couldn’t possibly hurt me.
I couldn’t understand why this reoccurring dream was coming now, after all of these years. As I pressed on to get ready, I couldn’t shake the overwhelming feelings and remembering back to the night it all happened.
The Feelings Wouldn’t Stop
My hands shook, tears welled in my eyes as I tried to move on with my day. I began to rationalize and say to myself, “Maree it is absurd for you to feel this way.” “You should not have these feelings; He can’t hurt you.”
But it didn’t help ease the pain or the fear.
Then all of a sudden it was as if a light bulb went on. It didn’t matter if my feelings were “right” or made sense. The point was I was feeling the fear, and I desperately needed to validate my self to ease the distress.
The last thing I needed was me or anyone else telling me the feelings were not rational.
Of course, it makes sense my bad dream brought back the old feelings of a frightening experience when he did hurt someone I love. As I began validating myself the distress went away and then I could see the picture more clearly.
I finally understood the value of validation.
What Validation Means
Validation is not about being right or wrong. It isn’t’ about what we should or shouldn’t feel. It is about meeting yourself or someone else right where they are.
In a simplified version, it is a way to say, “Hey, I see you, and you matter.” “What you feel, think, or experience is important to me.” “I am paying attention.” “I will be a safe person to share with.”
What Might You Validate?
Validate anything someone is thinking feeling or wanting. Find the little bit of truth in what another person is saying and confirm it.
How to Validate
1. It will require you to listen with all your heart and mind. Ask yourself, “What feelings are being displayed or expressed?”
2. Try to see things from the other person’s vantage point, not yours.
3. Remember this is someone you care about, and they are worth loving. Let love be your motivator.
4. Take a non-judgmental stance. Acknowledge someone else’s feelings without deeming them right or wrong.
5. Be fully present with your words and with your actions.
“We can’t underestimate the value of validation.” Marsha Linehan
- It is a powerful way to connect with other people.
- One feels as though they belong when supported.
- Trust will build in the relationship.
- It shows you care.
- Escalation of bad vibes will most likely decrease.
- Both parties will benefit.
- We all have a deep need to be heard and understood. It feels good.
Jesus is our Example
Jesus was fantastic at validating others. When Lazarus died Mary arrived and stated the obvious, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” She then began weeping.
Jesus was moved by the grief his friends were experiencing. He understood and felt their pain even though he knew Lazarus would be raised from the dead. He loved them deeply.
By weeping, Jesus validated their emotions. He put himself in their shoes. Click here to read the entire story in John 11: 1-43.
Will you be the hands and feet of Jesus this holiday season to those around you?
Validation Can Bridge the Gap
Many times people don’t feel safe or cared for even though they are. Validation can help bridge that gap. By using this skill often you will find it turns into a smooth, natural response. Start small.
Is validation difficult? Sometimes. Impossible? Not at all. Let love be your motivator
As you become a better friend, your relationship will deepen, and everyone will benefit. But don’t take my word for it. Give it a whirl this week and practice the skill with those you love.
Will you choose to be a better friend?
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