Validating feelings is an important skill in having good relationships. This skill is deeper and more advanced than the skill of reflective listening. Reflective listening is used by reflecting back to the other person what you heard him say. And while reflective listening is a very good and necessary skill for good relationships, validating feelings goes a bit deeper. When we can validate feelings we are able to show empathy to the other person. This means that we can “feel” how the other person is feeling and communicate it back to that person. We relate to the person that we understand what he is saying. Validating feelings is being able to sit and listen to the feelings, not fix them, not give advice and not minimize or talk the person out of the feelings. To validate someone means that you reflect back to the person that you heard him say she was feeling sad or lonely AND that you understand why the person might feel the way he feels.
Validation of feelings needs to be talked about because we, as a society, are uncomfortable with intense emotions. Messages are often given to us as children (and by us to our children) that we need to buck up, stop crying and get over it. Often we want the person to feel better so we say things to “talk them out of his feelings”. This may give the unspoken message that the feelings are not okay. But the good news is that you can develop this emotional intelligent skill if you work at it.
When we allow someone to express feelings, we help the person feel heard allowing the expression and release which may help diminish the feelings. When feelings are not validated they actually may become more intense. So listening to someone express feelings can be very helpful without doing anything but just listening, accepting the feelings as they are and letting the other person know that we “hear what he/she is saying” totally and thoroughly. This may allow the person to feel heard, understood, and soften the intensity so the person may then move forward. And for you, it allows you to be there for another person in a way that will be most helpful, takes the pressure off you to solve the problems and brings about more intimacy within the relationship because you were able to “be there” for someone you care about.Tags: allowing another to have their feelings, validating feelings
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
- Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.
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