Validation: When (and When Not) to Validate Others

Your point is valid. My point is valid. All our points are valid.

Is that validation? Is that all it is?

Or is there more to it than that?

Well, there's more to everything, so there's certainly more to validation.

Join me on this magic validation carpet ride as we discuss the good (and bad) of validating someone.

What it Means to Validate Someone

Say your friend is upset about something. He says, "Man, I really don't like her. She's an idiot."

What do you say in response?

Choose wisely. You could say, "Oh, shut up. You know you're just complaining."

Or you could say, "Yeah she can sometimes be frustrating."

Which one of these two responses do you think will get a better reaction from your friend? If you said the second one, you'd be right 99 times out of 100.

But why?

Because you're validating your friend's experience. It doesn't mean you agree with it. It doesn't have to feel wonderful when you say it. But it's a surefire way to get on the same page with your friend BEFORE you say or do anything else.

You see, validation is a tonic. It can help soothe any emotion before you go in for excavation. Don't take a hammer to solve something  when a feather would do the trick.

But is validation always good?

When Validation Isn't Appropriate

There are times when validation is not appropriate. In fact, there are times when it can do harm. If someone is in immediate danger, you do NOT want to validate the situation. You want to get help instead.

Here's an example. If someone is clearly outraged, yelling and moving aggressively, it's not time to validate that and cheer the person on. Doing that will only provoke the situation and probably lead to disaster.

OK. That's an extreme example. Consider this next. What if someone has intense anxiety and is constantly checking with you to approve their actions? Although you might feel it's helpful to constantly reassure them, this is actually preventing the person from getting the help they need. Eventually they will need to figure out a way to deal with their anxiety.

There are no perfect rules for this.

It's going to take time to learn when to validate and when not to validate.

The most important thing you can do is think about the validation process in general--and the important role you play in it.