Validation is one of the most critical aspects of casual and complex communication in a partnership. It communicates understanding, acceptance, respect, and genuine care for your partner’s thoughts and feelings.
But if you don’t know how to validate your partner correctly, it’s tough to know how to start! If you do it incorrectly, you could drive them away instead of closer to you. Don’t fret, though – we’re here to help! Here’s how to validate your partner’s feelings in five easy steps.
1. Step 1: Listen Well
To acknowledge emotions and validate them, you have to be listening well. No one is going to feel validated if you’re barely paying attention. Stronger relationships can emerge when both parties are willing to take the time to listen to the other truly. If you want to validate your partner’s feelings, start by listening well. You can do this by:
· Giving Full Attention To Them
Turn off your devices, put aside anything and everything else, and focus on your partner 100%. That’s how you listen well! If you’re currently unable to provide full attention to a partner, tell them that and ask if you can speak later. Express that you want to fully devote yourself to listening and explain that this is the reason for the rain check. You can also indicate presence by holding their hand, rubbing their back, or performing another form of appropriate physical contact.
· Using Micro Validation
To validate a partner, you start from the very beginning. When you listen, please encourage them to continue with micro validation. This involves using small, appropriate phrases and words of acknowledgment to show you’re following what they’re saying. It also gives them the sense that you’re really, genuinely listening. They’ll start to feel validated already!
· Matching Their Energy
When your partner approaches you, start by trying to match their energy. This will help validate them before they’ve even gotten to the heart of the matter. If they seem to be a little sad, be sympathetic and gentle. If they seem excited, happily and curiously match their hype. If they’re nervous, be comforting and welcoming. Try to adapt your energy as you go and avoid making assumptions about the energy they want from you. It’s important to match and mirror, not make your own thing!
· Turn To Face Them
Use your body language to show your partner that you’re listening. Turn your whole body or head towards them and make comfortable levels of eye contact. If you happen to be doing something else during this time (with your partner’s statement of comfort with that), this is extra important. Turn to look at them often, give attention cues, and do even more micro validation.
· Paying Attention To Nonverbal Communication
Research shows that 70% of human communication occurs nonverbally. That’s why listening to your partner’s feelings can involve observing their body language and taking note of their tone and expressions. This will allow you to understand them on a fuller scale.
· Do Not Interrupt Or Interject
The goal for this first step is to listen. Do not ask your questions yet until there is a natural lull or your partner is waiting for a response from you! This is the time to focus on listening and understanding, not on what you’ll say next.
2. Step 2: Clarify and Ensure Your Understanding
You’ll want to ensure correct understanding to validate your partner’s emotions. This will give them the chance to elaborate, correct a miscommunication, or at least feel understood by you. You can do this by:
· Asking Questions To Clarify
Encourage your partner to elaborate on their feelings by asking clarifying questions. You validate them by showing that you’re interested and are listening. It also gives you the chance to ensure that you have things right. You can also initiate further discussion with these questions. Your partner will feel more encouraged to open up.
· Identifying The Emotion and Acknowledging It
Being able to state the emotion that your partner experiences show you’re not shying away from identifying it. You can ask for their confirmation of the feeling or repeat their prior statement of the emotion. This works even before a partner has begun talking to you. If you notice your partner’s strong emotions, commenting on them with kindness can be a helpful start for a conversation that will validate them. For example, saying, “You seem nervous. Is that what you’re feeling?” can kick things off nicely, clarifying their feelings and your openness for discussion.
· Mirroring Their Statements
Mirroring is a common sign of empathy, according to studies. The process involves repeating your partner’s words back to them in your own words. This allows you to validate them by clearly conveying your understanding of their words. They’ll feel heard and understood. It can feel a little weird when you first try it, but mirroring is a big deal for validation and reinforcement of that validation!
3. Step 3: Fully Acknowledge and Validate The Feeling
When your partner has expressed themselves, and the conversation has come to a pause, you can validate them. Fully acknowledging and expressing your understanding of their emotions and experiences is crucial at this point. Your partner came to you for support, and you can validate their feelings by doing the following:
· Normalizing Their Feelings And Reactions
“Normalizing” in this context means assuring your partner that their behavior or emotions aren’t “crazy.” You want to make it clear that they’re valid in your eyes and that you think there is some justification for their actions or emotions. This can help a partner who may be afraid of overreacting or being “weird.”
· Admitting It If You Can’t Relate
It’s strange, but sometimes a great way to validate a partner is by admitting when you can’t relate to them. Saying that you can’t imagine how hard something is can be super validating for them. It’s you using your empathy to show that you’re there for them even if you can’t fully understand their exact predicament. It sets the tone for future discussions by offering your capacity to walk a mile in their shoes.
· Genuinely Walking A Mile
Since we mentioned walking in their shoes, it’s worth noting that you have to actually, genuinely do that! This means acknowledging your partner’s personal history and experiences contributing to their feelings and actions. Reflect on the experiences shaping their emotions and validate and normalize how they’re linked.
· Not Letting Disagreement Drag You Down
Even if you disagree with your partner, you should seek to validate them! Express your understanding of their feelings, and they’ll become more open to you. After all, part of loving your partner is hearing out their different and unique perspectives! Plus, the created openness may present opportunities for you to offer a differing view in the future, but don’t do that unprompted! You shouldn’t lie that you agree when you don’t, of course. But acknowledge truths, assure and comfort them, and stick to validation first.
· Communicating Acceptance
When you validate someone, you show them that you accept their thoughts and emotions. You don’t need to relate or agree to abide. That acceptance is part and parcel of having a partner! It’s also important when your partner expresses their emotions regarding you and an action you performed. Instead of reacting with a defense, make it clear that you accept and understand their perspective before stating yours. This leads to healthier discussion and conflict management.
4. Step 4: Offer Help, Feedback, Or Encouragement, If Applicable
Your partner will not always want their encouragement, help, feedback, or advice. Remember, you shouldn’t be giving unsolicited advice to anyone, much less your partner! But sometimes, they will want that help.
If you don’t have feedback or advice, you can communicate this to your partner and focus on encouragement. But there are times when you will have something you can offer. In those situations, it’s essential to continue the validation while providing this assistance. Here’s how to do so: