How to Be a Better Friend

December 4, 2018

JWould 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. 

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.

Why Validate

“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.  

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. 

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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Intentional Christmas Love

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How it Works

On Tuesday evenings in December, please meet us over on Facebook or Instagram at 6 pm MST for a post about “Intentional Christmas Love.” Each week we will have a new challenge where we can encourage each other to slow down and love those around us.

We look forward to hearing how you intentionally love others throughout your week. 


To find a roundup of our favorite books, posts, and gifts during the holidays click here.


 

 

Embracing Faith & Mental Illness from a Caregiver's Perspective
Embracing Faith and Mental Illness from a Caregiver’s Perspective is a closed Facebook community for those who love someone with a mental illness. Click the picture to request joining.

To find a few of my favorite places where I might be sharing this post, click here.


 

24 Comments

  1. Reply

    Wise Hearted

    Hey, I see you, and you matter.” This is a great post, one to put into practice. I know how badly I just want to be heard at times. I don’t want counsel, I don’t want to be coach, or told what to do, I just want to be listen to. We do a ton of listening in our minister as Member Care Reps for our mission so we have learned so much about listening. I think because of what we do some think we don’t need to be listened to. It’s hard to find someone who will hear my heart and know exactly what or if to say anything back. Most of us, me included want to give our own experiences when we listen as if that is the answer to that persons issue. It takes courage to listen and not try to fix others. Only Jesus can fix but we can listen with His help. Again good post.

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      I love what you said, “It takes courage to listen and not try to fix others.” I especially find it difficult with family members. Thank you for adding your wise words. I would love to know more about your ministry. Blessings, Maree

  2. Reply

    Anita Ojeda

    This is beautiful advice, Maree Dee! I’ve never thought about validation this way before. I, too, struggle with people that I think are whiney…but I need to learn to validate them instead of feeling hostile. Thank you.

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Anita, Thank you! Try it; it works magic. I hope you have a blessed weekend. Maree

  3. Reply

    Rachel

    These are some wise, wise words, my friend! Validating one another’s feelings can go a LONG way toward bridging the communication gap, in our friendships. And yet I admit, I’m not very good at it. Lord help me!
    Thank you for giving me a swift kick in the butt! I need to lay down my pride and embrace the humility found within these words today..
    Bless you!

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Rachel, Even though I hit the publish button, I still need help in this area. It is not always easy to do but so worthwhile. Maree

  4. Reply

    Lisa notes...

    Oh, wow. This is a powerful message, Maree! Validation is such a gift to give, and such a gift to receive. I definitely am aware when I do NOT get validation, as much as I appreciate when I do get it. May I be more aware this week to validate others’ feelings, whether or not I agree. Thanks.

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Yes, Lisa, you are so right it is a gift worth giving and receiving. Maree

  5. Reply

    messymarriage

    It truly is amazing how validating someone can calm the very concerns they hope we will hear and see, Maree. I know this communication technique and the value it brings, but struggle in moments of conflict to always use it. It’s always so tempting to defend or resolve the problem instead of just being with someone in their struggle. I love that you used the story about Jesus weeping. He certainly knew how to validate, didn’t He?! Thanks for this! I’ll be pinning!

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Oh, you are not alone it is hard to remember in moments of struggle to validate. Yes, Jesus was an amazing validator in so many ways. Hope you are having a great week. Maree

  6. Reply

    April Nelson

    What I do for my job is all about validating a person’s feelings. I don’t really have as much option to not validate as I work for a crisis chat line. This got me thinking how I need to handle my family members with the same amount of validation….awesome, thanks for getting me to ponder thoughts!!

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      April, I know exactly what you mean. When it comes to my husband, I seem to forget about validation. I know it is great in all relationships. Thank you for working for working for a crises chat line. It warms my heart to hear about people willing to help others. Maree

  7. Reply

    Boma

    Thanks for sharing, Maree. This is a skill that could truly improve relationships. Blessings to you!

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Boma, Yes, it has been a great skill for all of my relationships when I use it. Maree

  8. Reply

    Emily J. M.

    I also struggle with validating something I find it difficult to relate to – this is such a good reminder 🙂

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Hi Emily – I am so glad you found this a good reminder. It is hard when we can’t relate, but I try to make it a journey to seek the truth in what another is saying. The problem is I have to slow down to do this and not react but respond. Maree

  9. Reply

    Helena Bergen

    Thanks for your post, Maree. Three of my children struggle with differing levels of anxiety and this is so helpful.

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Helena, I too have three members of my family who struggle with anxiety. Validation has been a lifesaver. I don’t always use it but when I do it makes a difference. Maree

  10. Reply

    karentfriday

    What new and fresh insight! I love the powerful thought that validation is meeting the person right where they are. And, yes, Jesus modeled validation to us over and over in His ministry on earth.

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Amen! Jesus is such a great example. Maree

  11. Reply

    Laura at Cheered On Mom

    Maree, I love this post so much. I, too, try to convince others to see it my way too often. What a powerful story about learning to be a better friend, mom, and wife. Thanks so, so much for sharing this!

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Thank you for stopping and by and leaving such an encouraging word. It was good to hear I am not the only one who tries to convince others to see things my way. I think it is the accountant in me where 1 + 1 does equal 2. Life is not that simple! Maree

  12. Reply

    Turquoise Journal

    I have a feeling that on that frustrating night when you collapsed into bed, you whispered your frustrations to God. Maybe asked him for help. That terrifying dream was just what you needed though, to be able to better understand and have more empathy for your child struggling with what seems irrational. I have anxiety and panic attacks and people often don’t understand. Some days I don’t understand. But it doesn’t make it less real. Thank you for encouraging others to validate rather than mock, or brush off. A wonderful post, I’m sharing on Pinterest. Visiting from Purposeful Faith Link Up.

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Thank you for your post. I have no doubt it was God pointing me in the right direction. He knew what it would take for me to open my eyes. I am sorry you suffer from panic and anxiety. I don’t, but my loved ones do, and I have watched them suffer. It isn’t fun and then when others add to it with their lack of understanding it makes things harder. I may not understand what it feels like, but I try to offer acceptance, understanding, and validation. I don’t always get it right, but I keep trying. Blessings, Maree

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