Do you ever wish you could be more in tune with other people’s emotions? Do you ever feel like you risk making someone feel guilty about their feelings no matter how hard you try? Are you ever scared you might invalidate someone else’s feelings?
One integral part of having healthy relationships is forming an emotional connection. It would help if you related to people, understood them, and were empathetic. But sometimes, it’s impossible to be aware of the best way to comfort someone. Sometimes you have so much on your mind that the last thing you want to do is act like a therapist.
Because of how crazy your own life can be, you often risk brushing over other people’s emotions. The risk of getting into a situation where you invalidate others’ opinions is very high. Most people invalidate others’ feelings by mistake. Some do it because they are malicious. No matter the intent, here are five things that will invalidate someone’s feelings.
What Is Emotional Invalidation?
Emotional invalidation is the act of dismissing or rejecting someone’s thoughts and feelings. It’s a process through which someone feels like what they do, who they are, and what they experience is unimportant. When this type of behavior directs towards you, it leaves a mark.
Emotional validation is what makes people feel safe in a relationship. It is also vital in facilitating communication between people. When someone feels like their emotions are validated, like they are seen and heard, they will let their walls down. This creates a deeper connection between individuals. Emotional validation is one of the most important things a parent can do to raise a child properly.
In most cases, people invalidate others’ feelings unintentionally. They do it because they’re not listening or are preoccupied with their issues. Often, people invalidate others’ emotions because they can’t process what the other is feeling. But sometimes, people use emotional invalidation as a manipulation tactic. They might do it to gaslight you or to make you question your feelings and sanity.
Regardless of how kind or malicious your intent is, here are five things that will invalidate someone’s feelings and how to avoid them.
5 Things That Will Invalidate Someone’s Feelings
1. Trying To Downplay An Occurrence
If you’re in a situation when you’re trying to comfort someone, it might seem like a good idea to downplay the events. It seems normal to make the other person believe that what they’ve gone through isn’t that bad. But this attitude is very unhealthy.
If someone is confiding in you, they want you to be understanding. They don’t want you to minimize their pain. This attitude marginalizes someone’s pain and forces toxic positivity on them. Often this happens because people are uncomfortable talking about feelings, especially negative ones. It’s hard to sit in front of someone and have them talk about their hardships. That’s why people sometimes ignore others’ feelings. They believe they’ll go away.
If you’ve ever said things like “it could be worse,” you weren’t helping anyone. You were downplaying what they’ve been through. In most cases, statements like this cause negative feelings to amplify. When someone’s hurt, isolated, or rejected, the last thing they want to hear is that they should be thankful something worse didn’t happen.
Instead of minimizing and ignoring others’ emotions, you should understand that all pain should be addressed accordingly. Just because it could have been worse doesn’t mean the person you’re talking to isn’t hurt. Try to be understanding and listen. What matters is how that person feels, not how you think they should feel. Just because that situation doesn’t seem wrong to you, it doesn’t mean that it’s not bad for them.
2. Being Flippant Can Invalidate Feelings
Sometimes people ask for your help in the most inopportune of moments. No matter how hard you want to help someone, you have your stuff to deal with. If someone complains to you about their issues when dealing with difficult things of your own, you’ll naturally become dismissive. You might start having a flippant attitude towards that person.
While this attitude might seem justified, this invalidates other people’s emotions. No matter what you’re dealing with, that’s no excuse for a flippant attitude. It’s much better to tell people that you can’t help them at that time instead of helping them half-heartedly. Being dismissive of people’s emotions makes them feel emotionally suppressed and brushed aside. If you act like this towards someone, you risk antagonizing them. They might distance themselves from you and close themselves off.
It might seem easiest to tell someone to “just get over it,” you should always try to show kindness. Try to be empathetic and understand that people who reach out to you need your help. If you can’t offer them that support, the least you could do is not make them feel wrong about how they think.
3. Not Paying Attention To Others
It can be hard to read people sometimes. But, even if the people around you don’t tell you they’re hurting, that doesn’t mean they’re not battling something. One of the worst ways you can invalidate others’ feelings is by not paying attention to them.
When someone is close to you, they expect you to be able to tell when they’re feeling down. And when you can’t do that, they feel hurt and betrayed. Even though it’s not your responsibility to figure out every little thing that makes someone hurt, you should still pay attention to signs. When someone’s feeling down, many cues can let you know somethings off with someone.
When you ignore people, you make them feel like they’re not vital to you. It makes them think that they’re not important enough to you for you to notice they’re going through something. Sometimes not paying attention to others doesn’t even mean ignoring them. It means that you give unsolicited advice, or you accidentally say hurtful things.
You might not want to invalidate someone’s feelings in this way. But it can still happen very often because of low EQ or because you’re distracted. You should always make an effort to ask the people around you how they are. Try to watch them and look for any cues that might tell you they’re not OK. And, if you want to say something, make sure you won’t be insensitive.
4. Blaming Others Can Invalidate Feelings
When someone confides in you, you might be inclined to try teaching them a lesson. This often happens because you want them to know how to avoid getting in that situation again. But, more often than not, scolding someone makes them feel guilty for no reason.
When you see that someone is hurt, your first instinct might be to find a solution as quickly as possible. Because of this, you might start talking and talking without listening to what the other person has to say. While this attitude comes from concern, it can quickly turn into a lecture.
And, when people are lectured, they quickly get defensive. You might unintentionally corner them and make them feel like they have to defend their actions. It can seem like you’re blaming them.
If someone is a victim in a situation, you never want to make them feel like they brought that upon themselves. But by scolding and blaming them, that’s just what you’ll do. You never want to come off as preachy or judgmental. It would be best if you listened to what the other has to say before you start lecturing them. Try to offer empathy and understand where they’re coming from. Otherwise, you will close up the person hearing what you have to say.
5. Making Comparisons
When trying to console someone, it can seem beneficial to respond to their emotions by sharing your feelings. Taking an abstract concept such as feelings and comparing them to a concrete experience might seem like a good idea. In theory, it should make it more approachable and easier to deal with. But comparisons are just another way of invalidating what other people feel.
Comparisons are bad because they focus on that person’s feelings and move them to something else. You even risk making the conversation all about yourself. When dealing with a hurting person, switching the focus from them and their issues will make them feel unimportant. A statement as innocent as “something like that also happened to me” can make them feel ignored. It’s like their problem is not important enough to you by itself. It has to be associated with something from your life.
At least comparing their situation with something that happened to you comes from a place of kindness. But you can make worse comparisons than that. Saying something like “others have it much worse” will minimize what they go through. Such comparisons invalidate their feelings even more. No matter how much worse you think it could get, you should always focus on their problem if you want to help them. Try to be empathetic and understanding because all issues are important, no matter how big or small they are.
Final Thoughts On Some Things That Will Invalidate Someone’s Feelings
Invalidating other people’s feelings is potentially the worst thing you can do in a relationship. No matter if they’re friends, family, partners, or any other people, everyone deserves to be heard when they’re hurting. But it can be hard to understand precisely when and how you invalidate others’ feelings.
When trying to comfort people, you can sometimes try toxic techniques. You might think that trying to downplay and ignore a situation will make it go away. Or you might try lecturing and scolding people to make sure they don’t get in bad situations again. You might even try to compare their situation to things you’ve been through to show them how to get out of it.
Or maybe you’re just busy, and you don’t have time to pay attention to how other people are, so you start being dismissive and flippant. But all of these things make others feel ignored, blamed, and invalidates their feelings. Instead, you should always listen and try to be as empathetic as you can.