I am so excited to write about Validation. I am passionate about validation and want to teach it from the rooftops. I believe it is a basic human need. We all need to be validated. We can validate those around us as well as ourselves. The information in this post came from Michael S. Sorensen’s book “I Hear You” I highly recommend it.
Validation is the quickest, simplest and most powerful way to improve a relationship. Any relationship. Romantic or platonic. With children, siblings, parents, friends, co-workers or your spouse. And most importantly the relationship with yourself. Validation is key!
Here are some things that validation helps with:
Calms (and sometimes even eliminate) the concerns, fears, or uncertainties of others. This is especially helpful if your significant other is upset, if you’re dealing with irate customers or coworkers, or if you’re trying to reason with young children.
Adds a boost to others’ excitement and happiness. This is an obvious gift to the other person, but studies have also shown that validating the positive experiences of others can drastically improve connection and satisfaction in a relationship.
Provides support and encouragement to others, even when you don’t know how to fix the problem. There is great confidence in knowing you can help someone in any situation, regardless of your own experience or expertise.
More easily show love, understanding, and compassion in your intimate relationships. Research (and common sense) show that this skill is critical to lasting, happy relationships.
Help others feel safe and comfortable confiding in you. This promotes deeper, more meaningful connection and increases others’ affinity toward you.
Avoid or quickly resolve arguments. Instead of butting heads and going in circles, you’ll save time, frustration, and headache by knowing how to calm the other party and make your point heard.
Give advice that sticks. When you understand and validate others, they become significantly more open to your advice, feedback, and/or assurance.
Improves your negotiations. Whether in business or any other area of life, validation helps you disarm your counterpart and more quickly reach a deal that you both feel great about.
The change when you are validated is almost tangible. It’s amazing the shift that takes place mentally and emotionally when we are validated. Here are 4 steps to validate.
Validate the Emotion
Offer Advice or Encouragement (if appropriate)
Validate the Emotion Again
Step 1: Listen Empathically
Give your full attention. If you’re distracted, let the other person know and ask to talk at a later time. When you are available to talk, close your laptop, turn off the TV, and keep your attention on the conversation at hand.
This situation comes up with my kids a lot. I will be in the middle of a young women’s meeting or cooking dinner and instead of just blowing them off I let them know that I want to listen to them but I’m busy and we can talk later. The key is not forgetting later!
Invite them to open up. If you suspect someone wants to talk about something but isn’t comfortable initiating the conversation, try asking a simple question like, “You seem upset. What’s up?” “Oh man that would be so hard. Want to talk about it?”
Be observant. As much as 70 percent of our communication is nonverbal. Pay close attention to the other person’s tone of voice and body language to better understand them.
Match their energy. If the other person is happy or excited, then smile, laugh, and share in the thrill. If they are discouraged or sad, then be respectful and speak in a softer, more compassionate manner.
Offer micro validation. Offer short comments such as “no way!”, “Seriously?”, or “I’d feel that way too” to help the other person feel comfortable sharing. This lets them know that you are listening, withholding judgment, and seeing things from their perspective.
Don’t try to fix it. Refrain from offering advice, feedback, or assurance until step 3. Avoid comments such as “at least . . . ”, “you should . . . ”, or “that’s not true.”
In a situation where a friend (or daughter) tells you that she’s fat it’s tempting to say “That’s not true!” and dismiss the conversation because you don’t want her to entertain that thought. But you didn’t uncover why they think they are fat and you didn’t change their mind with that one statement. The truth is they are going to keep thinking they are fat after you claim “that’s not true” and what’s worse is they won’t view you as someone they can open up to. What would be better is to let them know you heard them and then ask questions to get to know what is making them feel that way. From there you can validate.
Step 2: Validate the Emotion
Validate their emotion. Once there’s a pause in the conversation or the other person is done sharing, validate them more fully. This is best done by 1) acknowledging the emotions they’ve expressed, and 2) offering justification for feeling those emotions.
Validate, even if you disagree. Not only is it possible to validate someone you disagree with, it’s advantageous to do so. When you validate the other person, they become significantly more likely to listen to a differing opinion or advice. Once you show that you truly hear them, they will be much more likely to hear you.
Studies have shown that people don’t move on until they feel heard. If a person doesn’t feel heard they won’t move on and hear a different opinion because they are stuck on the fact that no one heard theirs. Think about it. Have you ever seen this happen in an argument?
Not sure what the other person is feeling? Ask. A simple question such as “How are you feeling about all this?” or “I imagine you’re pretty upset?” is often enough to get the clarity you need to validate.
If you can relate, consider letting them know. Use phrases such as “I can relate” or “I had a similar experience” instead of “I know exactly how you feel.” Be sure to turn the focus back to them after sharing your experience.
If you can’t relate, let them know. Acknowledging that you haven’t been in someone else’s shoes and don’t know exactly how they feel can be incredibly validating.
Tell the truth. Resist the urge to lie to make someone feel better. Instead, acknowledge the truth, validate their emotions, then provide comfort and assurance in step 3.
Step 3: Offer Advice or Encouragement (if Appropriate)
Offering feedback or advice is entirely optional. Perhaps someone has shared an exciting or proud moment, or perhaps you simply have no advice to give. Validation is healing in and of itself. It is not always necessary or appropriate to give advice.
Avoid giving unsolicited feedback. Just because someone is sharing a difficult experience doesn’t mean they are looking for advice. Determine whether they are open to receiving feedback by either 1) asking what they are expecting from you (e.g., “How can I help?”), or 2) asking permission to give advice (e.g., “I have a few thoughts on the matter. May I share?”).
If you do give feedback, lead with a validating statement. Even though you just offered validation in step 2, prefacing your feedback with one more validating statement will reiterate the fact that you’ve heard them and are connected with their experience.
Use “and” instead of “but.” Doing so will help you avoid inadvertently negating your validation, comments, etc.
Listen to the difference: “The sleep deprivation that comes with a new baby is hard, but you will get through it.” vs. “The sleep deprivation that comes with a new baby is so hard and I know that you will get through it.”
Avoid Absolutes. When giving difficult feedback, replace absolute terms such as “always” and “never” with softer (and often more accurate) alternatives such as “often” or “rarely.” If you do choose to use an absolute term, lead with “I think,” “I feel,” etc. instead of “you.”
Step 4: Validate Again
Re-validate the emotion. Whether you’ve given advice in step 3 or not, work in one final bit of validation at the end of the conversation. Doing so reiterates the fact that you hear and understand the other person and ends the conversation on a positive, emotionally uplifting note.
Validate the vulnerability. Sharing personal thoughts, experiences, or emotions can be difficult, uncomfortable, and even scary. If someone opens up to you, thank them for it and validate the fact that doing so can be quite difficult.
In certain situations, steps 1 and 2 (Listening Empathically and Validating the Emotion) may be enough. At other times, you may go through the whole set multiple times. Every situation will be different. You’ll know what feels natural and genuine in the moment and, with practice, you’ll find that validation becomes second nature.
A huge part of Self-Compassion is validating yourself. Not only do you see yourself in a clear light but you are able to validate yourself. In my self compassion workbook you go through the process of uncovering the reason you are critical of yourself and you learn how to soften that inner voice. On day 6 in particular you learn to reframe and validate.
I hope you pay attention to the validation that happens or doesn’t happen around you. I hope you are able to validate yourself and those around you. I promise it will change your relationship with yourself and all your other relationships.
Check out Michael S. Sorensen’s book, blog and podcast for great information on validation. Michaelssorensen.com
I am excited for you to read Kara’s story. Kara has overcome some serious health issues and has applied self-compassion during the process. Kara is someone who serves constantly on top of her already very busy life. She’s never too busy to help someone in need. I love that about her. She has a platform and podcast that is called Today I am Enough. I highly recommend it.
One evening in 2016 I was lying in bed with my husband talking about how I just felt like I was falling short in every single aspect of my life. I was frustrated, tired, and beating myself up over all of it. Then, a thought came – you are not alone in these feelings. I knew deep inside that so many other women struggled to feel like they were measuring up to their own standards. I felt compelled to do something about it. At the beginning of 2017 I launched the first episode of the Today I am Enough Podcast. I was excited. I was going to be sharing stories of women who had stories of struggle and of enduring and finding themselves. I loved it. I loved talking to women from so many backgrounds and experiences. As time progressed, I felt a disconnect with my own story. What was my story? After about a year, I became overwhelmed with my own life and the podcast trickled into the background of my life. I’m a mom of 6 kids, who are 7 years apart, and like all moms, they keep me busy. I could feel myself slipping. I did not know my own worth deep down. I knew I needed to do some work on myself in order to really propel my work with Today I am Enough forward. In December of 2018 I was diagnosed with a VERY low thyroid after some unexplained weight gain, excessive tiredness, hair loss, and anxiety. Six months later I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s autoimmune disease. I really struggled to love myself. My body was broken. It wasn’t working the way it was meant to work. I couldn’t do things I loved doing. I couldn’t eat what I wanted to eat if I wanted to help bring this disease into remission. I was so mad at my body for breaking down on me. I have been blessed to know Brittany for a while as a neighbor and friend. She came out with her Self-Compassion workbook and I knew I needed to get my hands on it. I was so grateful for it! Brittany’s workbook really helped me understand how I was thinking about my new found body. It helped me really work through my thoughts and feelings of what was happening to me and what had happened and how I could still find joy moving forward. Learning to change my thought patterns from Brittany’s book was the beginning of my life changing and starting anew! I started to realize the power behind my own thoughts. You can either wallow and allow yourselves to really go places in our heads that you shouldn’t, or you can offer love and compassion to yourselves in a way that only you can do for yourselves! Learning to forgive myself, and learning to redirect my thoughts, to thoughts that weren’t hurting me, but were lifting me, was incredibly powerful. In January of 2021 I was able to relaunch my podcast. I have a renewed mission to help women, as Brittany helped me. Learning that you are enough and have worth is essential. It is always within you. It never leaves. Your worth is a part of you. Each day looks different, but the effort you can put forth today may look different than the effort you put forward tomorrow – but both are enough! You don’t have to be busy and doing things all the time to be enough.Learning to forgive yourself is life changing. When you can learn to forgive yourself life opens up possibilities that were unimaginable before. When you forgive, you start to accept yourselves for who you are without the need for change or judgement. Learning to speak kindly to the women looking in the mirror is going to give you confidence and love for others. She is so important! Be kind to her. Stop saying things to her that you’d never want anyone else to ever hear. She’s worth taking care of, I promise! She’s incredible. She’s enoug
I am so grateful for each woman who shares her story with us. There is power in connection and vulnerability. Melissa is an amazing woman who I love being around. She radiates a love for life that is contagious. You can feel her strength and her resilience when you are around her. When you read her story you will see that life hasn’t turned out the way she planned but she has embraced it and made it wonderful. I just love her attitude and her strength! Thank you for sharing and being a wonderful example to all of us Melissa.
When I was a teenager I imagined a yellow brick road to eternal bliss upon which I would perfectly make everyone in my circles happy and proud of me. I would have a joyful marriage with adventures my husband would plan for us, a handful of kids and I would be totally appreciated as a stay-at-home mom. Today I am 46 years old with 5 awesome kids. I’ve been divorced twice and have needed YEARS of therapy to recover from two deeply damaging marriages (and divorces) and very low self-esteem. At times I felt hopeless, weak and all I could do was cry and wish for someone to come save me.
I have had to redefine my hopes and dreams and take charge of them myself. Amazing therapists and my own determination have guided me to develop the strength to trust myself, learn my own value, and feel empowered to create my own happiness. It has been so hard and has not come naturally to me! I now work full time, run my own household, and recognize that I no longer need or want someone to save me. I have learned how to save myself!
I didn’t use to practice the art of being kind to myself. Did you know perfection is impossible? It has taken time to gently understand that I am just doing the best I can in each deficient moment and with each mistake. Instead of criticizing myself, I have worked to view each fall as a teaching moment and learn from it. I needed to accept my imperfections and love myself exactly as I am. This has been crucial! Without even realizing it, I’m also teaching my kids about self-care by showing them what that looks like when I handle my mistakes with grace and take time for myself to go on adventures for personal fulfillment.
How does a single mom express her adventurous side? “Mom Fieldtrips” with my incredible kids started out small with local hikes. All we needed were shoes on our feet and a map on my phone. As I have become more courageous, our activities have progressed into weekends out of town camping, spelunking, and strapping on microspikes so we can hike to frozen waterfalls.
Another step in my journey has been slowly testing my courage without my kids. Last fall for the first time I spent a few weekends canyoneering and I even rappelled down a 300 foot drop-off! I am so proud of myself. When I head into the mountains I feel the weight of life on my shoulders. Once I hit the trail those worries disappear because of the beauty surrounding me. I’m the girl who exclaims every 10 feet, “Oh! What a gorgeous view! Look at the river! Can you hear the birds?” Being out in nature is therapy for my soul.
One thing that has been missing for me in these adventures has been connecting with women who are looking for the same thing. Last fall I found Get Out There Girl and a few other female-based hiking groups. In January I was able to go up to Starr Valley, Wyoming on a dogsledding weekend with Brittany and 10 women I had never met before. I was nervous! Would they like me? Would I feel comfortable? Would I like them? I was thrilled to discover that each of these women also came seeking connection. We shared about our relationships and experiences in open ways that allowed us to get to know each other’s hearts and intentions. Brittany taught a workshop on vulnerability that resonated with me. You get what you put into something. If you come into a situation willing to listen and share with open hearts, you’re going to be able to connect with people who are doing the same thing.
Life is happier when I am kind to myself and I make myself a priority. I can’t wait to meet more women who are doing the same and to see where my next adventures will take me!
When I first learned about Self-Compassion I thought it was just making excuses. I hated excuses! I was one that wanted results and wanted accountability when results didn’t happen. I was hard on myself and those around me. I held everyone to a high standard and when I was disappointed I would always think “Well, I better do it myself.” When I fell short I would criticize myself and vow to do better.
Then Self-Compassion entered my life and I gave it a try. I was blown away at how compassion motivated me and put things into perspective for me. It wasn’t making excuses. It was far from it actually. Let me explain.
Self-compassion takes responsibility and requires accountability. You are mindful of your actions and you own up to them. You can accept that your behavior was bad without thinking that you are bad.
Excuses are when we blame another person or a circumstance for our behavior. It’s the opposite of taking accountability for our actions. We feel shame and dismiss our behavior based on our excuse.
Excuses never lead to true change. Excuses lead to a cycle of shame and co-dependency based on outside circumstances.
Self-compassion on the other hand does lead to true change because motivation comes naturally when you are kind and compassionate to yourself. You view yourself as an imperfect human being who makes mistakes and can acknowledge them and also correct them. Self-compassion allows you to be objective and honest with yourself because you know you are good and your worth doesn’t change.
I urge you to try Self-Compassion. Give it a shot. You will immediately reap the benefits of being kind to yourself and so will the people around you.
I met Delee on the Zipline Retreat. It was her birthday and the retreat was her birthday present. Delee radiates confidence and happiness. I love the story that she shares about connecting who she is and what she is passionate about with a mission to make the world a better place. That is true alignment if you ask me.
I grew up in the Northwest on a small farm with a lot of room to explore. I spent my time playing with my siblings in the woods, working the farm, and chasing my pony who liked to run away down the street. As I became a teenager my friends, job, and appearance became my top priorities. Shopping was my main hobby and I spent almost all my hard-earned income on clothing. My budget changed as I went to cosmetology school, got married, and had four children by the time I was 31. I found myself shopping for clothing regularly, finding deals and discounts, and constantly rotating my wardrobe thinking I was doing some good by donating my clothing to charitable organizations. Then I found Slow Fashion. I stumbled upon a YouTube influencer who challenged my shopping habits and opened my eyes to the global impact of the fast-fashion world. I was shocked! Did you know we own 60% more clothing than our parent’s generation and we keep them half as long? Did you know there is currently enough clothing on our planet to clothe the next 6 generations? Did you know the fashion industry is the most labor-intense industry on the earth, and that most garment workers don’t make a living wage? I started making small changes, then bigger changes and eventually decided to start a business to help other women do the same. I am a wardrobe stylist who encourages my clients to love what they have and shop sustainably. What an adventure it has been! I find myself reconnecting with my childhood self. I have spent more time outdoors, enjoying long walks and hikes. For my birthday I chose an outdoor adventure, instead of shopping. (A zip line retreat with Brittany!) I have made new friends, so many incredible women! I have found my passion: Connecting with women, healing our planet, and making the world a better place for labor workers around the world.
I met Amy several years ago because we were going through a similar trial. She seemed like a super hero to me. She was confident, calm and knowledgeable. She was all of those things because she had chosen to develop those skills. I love that about her. I’m excited for you to read a small part of her story and see the changes that self-compassion made for her.
I used to think that I had to change who I was or what I was working on to match society’s standards or expectations. That who I was wasn’t enough. I always had to do more and be more. And do and be what other people wanted me to do even if it was different than what I wanted.
In high school and college I was an overachiever to the tee. I remember my freshman year in college, I told my mom about all the clubs I was interested in and trying to be a part of plus my school schedule and she said, “You know it’s impossible to be in EVERY club and do EVERY thing while you’re there, right?” (Even though I knew she was right, part of me still thought I could do it.)
I put so much of my identity and worth in my grades, in my piano performance, in how many cool things I was doing, that I experienced burn out ALL the time. And I wouldn’t even let myself go to sleep sometimes. I remember one night my roommates came back at 3 am from seeing a Harry Potter midnight release. I was STILL up perfecting a paper for my Anthropology class. It was already a great paper before, and I would have loved to go to the movie with them. But I operated from the belief that I couldn’t have fun until all my work was done, and I couldn’t be done until it was perfect. So I didn’t go. I was hustling around trying to earn my worth like a chicken running around with it’s head cut off. I get exhausted just thinking about that stage of my life again! So many expectations!
After I got married, my husband and I ended up having some really hard times and things to work through. And that’s when I really started to learn that I couldn’t ACTUALLY do it all. I wasn’t taking care of myself. I wasn’t allowing myself to feel emotions and be where I was at. And the situation we were dealing with was in a lot of ways out of my control. So I couldn’t hustle or manage it to make it better. I had to slow down and start learning how to take care of myself and be where I was at so I could start to heal and love myself as I was instead of as I thought I “should” be.
Along the way I learned something pretty cool about compassion. The word compassion actually means “to suffer with.” And another definition of “suffer” is “to support, to allow.” How often do we do this for ourselves? How often do we operate in a space of self-compassion where we offer support to ourselves and allow ourselves to be where we are at? And then to be able to see and love and celebrate who we are? Not enough in my opinion. We seem to constantly be trying to change ourselves or our situations instead of being where we are at and making decisions grounded in true alignment to our highest self.
As I learned to practice self-compassion, I have experienced the greatest peace and confidence in my life. I have learned to actually look at myself and be with myself in good and bad times. To see MY heart and focus on nourishing it and allowing it to grow instead of looking at the people around me and burying my true self with expectations, comparisons and lies about who I am.
Practicing self-compassion–actually being WITH ourselves without comparing believing we need to change who we are to grow–is powerful. And I believe that’s the most important journey any woman can embark on. It’s not about becoming someone different, it’s about discovering and resting in the strength of who we ALREADY ARE. I believe that a woman who knows who she is and whose she is is the most powerful force for good on this earth! So no matter where you are on this journey, stay on the trail! It will be the best view you’ve ever seen with lots of beauty on the way!
Along with my story, I wanted to share one simple act of compassion that I’ve used in my journey. And you can do it right now. 🙂 Put your hand on your heart. Close your eyes. Take three deep breaths, and say to yourself “I see you and I love you [insert your name].” It’s a simple gesture that can be the next step to resting the strength of who you already are.