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
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.
Fit is different than skinny. Fit is an ability. Skinny is an appearance. I’ve always dreamed of being skinny. Growing up I was sure that if I became skinny I would have more friends and my life would be better. When I became an adult I found working out to be fun. I enjoyed the endorphins that came when I would sweat. I fell in love with running in particular. I found that I had a strong body. I’ve often teased that I have a horse for a body because it’s so healthy and strong. It took me a long time to realize my body was one of my talents. I can’t sing or do anything musical but physically I’ve got it. For so long I overlooked that fact because I had my eye on skinny. In my pursuit of skinny, I kept failing. I could lose weight but it wasn’t sustainable. As soon as I would loosen up on my diet I would make it back to the weight my body was comfortable at. I spent so much time wishing my body looked different when really I should have been celebrating what it was capable of.
Just last week when I was hiking the Tetons I found myself looking at pictures thinking “how can my body be this big? I eat healthy and I am in fabulous shape. I workout 6 days a week and feel great, why doesn’t my body look great?” (Some lessons you have to learn over and over again!🤦) The truth of the matter was that I was out having an adventure of a lifetime and Satan was sowing thoughts of doubt in my mind. Why was I spending energy on what my body looked like instead of using that energy to climb the mountains that were in front of me? I stopped myself, gave myself some self-compassion, and started noticing all of my body’s capabilities. My body was allowing me to hike 40 miles in the Tetons. It never failed me. In fact, I came home without sore muscles and went right back to my exercise routine when I got home. I love my body. It allows me to live the life I want. I never have to turn things down because my body can’t keep up. It’s a talent that I recognize and spend time improving. My body is a gift that has nothing to do with what it looks like. I’m fit, not skinny and I’ve learned the difference. Skinny isn’t the goal anymore.
If you like slot canyons you need to plan a trip to Grand Staircase National Monument. Peek-a-boo and Spooky canyons are spectacular. The route for those two canyons is 6.3 miles round-trip. While you are there I also recommend visiting Devil’s Garden, the Betty Caves and Lower Calf Creek Falls. There is so much to do in Escalante. You will love it!
The trail for Peek-a-boo and Spooky canyons has been recently renovated. The road to the trailhead is very accessible, brand new bathrooms have been installed, and the trail is groomed and marked with small hoodoos showing the way.
Before you go I have a few recommendations:
Check the weather before you plan. Slot canyons can be deadly in flash flood circumstances.
Pack enough water.
Plan your route before you go. Download maps on your phone because you won’t get internet in the canyons. I suggest using the AllTrails app. You can follow me on Alltrails and see the hikes I’ve done along with my reviews.
There are only two places that require significant scrambling. Both are doable without ropes or technical gear. One is the entrance to Peek-a-boo (pictured above), the other spot is in Spooky canyon.
Peek-a-boo is breathtakingly beautiful. The rock formations and unique nature of the canyon make it memorable. Spooky canyon is narrow the majority of the canyon. I had to take off my pack for a large part of it. It’s thrilling to squeeze though and see the curves of the walls.
Overall, I can’t say enough about how beautiful and fascinating these canyons are. The trail to enter the canyons has been well groomed and marked making the canyons very accessible. These canyons can bring so much joy and wonder to you but please be responsible when hiking. Know the weather, pack enough water and be smart.
Ever since GOTG was created I have heard hundreds of women’s stories. My heart has grown as I have listened to women’s struggles and triumphs. I have discovered that women want to share. For so long we (women) have put our best foot forward and only showed the parts of ourselves that we think people want to see. This is exhausting. I’ve learned that one of our deepest desires as human beings is to be seen. We want someone to see all of us and love us regardless. We want someone to see how far we’ve come and how hard we have fought to be who we are. We want someone to see ALL of us, our strengths and our weaknesses and love us. We don’t want to hide parts of us.
As I have heard countless stories I felt strongly that others needed to hear them as well. We need to connect with each other through our humanity. I haven’t met a woman I didn’t love after hearing her story. I want you to hear each other’s stories and connect. Every Monday I plan to share another woman’s story. I hope you read the stories and see the connection you have with other women. See your shared humanity. See your similarities. See the courage. See the strength. See yourself in each story.
In this very unique circumstance where social distancing is required, I find myself longing for human connection outside of my family. Last year, my most profound experience with this type of connection occurred while I attended a self-compassion and yoga retreat put on by Get Out There Girl.
Looking back, it’s pretty easy to see there was a void in my life at the time. That void was the exact reason I started following Get Out There Girl in the first place; I watched Brittany post about these retreats and I knew I needed that in my life. Still, it took me some time to take the leap of faith required to sign up. As I sit down to write this post, the warm feelings from the retreat come back to me and I wonder how to paint an accurate picture of that precious experience.
It took a lot of bravery for me to book that trip. All the reasons I needed to go brought up all my fears about actually going. It all came down to friendship and connection…it was frightening to admit how much I needed to make some new friends. I didn’t sign up with a friend. What if everyone else brought a friend and I was left out? What if they didn’t like me? What if I didn’t fit in? Where had my self-confidence gone?
The more I asked myself these questions the more I knew I needed to go. My doubts and fears were worth pushing through. Then a new retreat was announced with the theme of yoga and self-compassion, two things I desperately needed more of in my life. I booked the trip which was the best thing I ever could have done for myself.
Lots of opportunities to test my self-compassion came with our first activity. A hike. The fast pace of the other women surprised me and before long all of the other women were so far ahead of me, I couldn’t see anyone.
But I was in nature and it was beautiful. I wasn’t going to waste this opportunity by getting upset, so I didn’t. Even though I felt like I might die walking straight up the side of a mountain all alone, and although I wished I was a faster hiker, I just kept telling myself I would get there, and it was okay.
Before too long the steep hill flattened and I was able to walk on a flat path, much more comfortable than the initial ascent. Then someone noticed that I had a slower pace and she came back for me. Due to my strong desire to stay positive, I hadn’t been upset at being last, and yet this small act of kindness was not lost on me.
As I knew we would, we finally arrived at the top of the mountain and rejoiced in the beautiful view. Twice I had abandoned my comfort zone. First in booking the retreat, and second in walking up the steep hill, yet only through putting myself through that discomfort was I able to enjoy the astounding view with the other women.
We treasured our moments there on the top of the mountain. No one seemed in too big of a hurry to head back down. We took lots of pictures, introduced ourselves, told stories, laughed and joked and lingered and I rekindled my friendship with Brittany. Some had come in groups and some had come alone, but we were all there for important reasons. To get away from the regular pressures of life, to be outside in nature, to learn, to connect with other women, to feel a part of something. To have fun…a concept increasingly foreign in my day to day life.
We enjoyed a relaxing walk back to our cars, drove to the campground, ate dinner prepared by a real-life chef, and practiced yoga together. The enchanting location overcame us with its beauty and charm. We slept in tents that had been set up before our arrival. The next morning, we rejoined the yoga circle and listened to the rain pick up, nervous that the intensity of the rain would increase and cut our yoga short.
Not only did it cut out second yoga session short, but it proceeded to pound down on us. We huddled under canopies and enjoyed our lunches while the rain came down. We chatted, we sang, we laughed, we ate, we bonded.
Next, when the rain had finally settled down, we went to an art class where we painted a picture. I remember thinking that I wouldn’t paint the picture with everyone else. I didn’t want to go to the effort, and I didn’t think I would be able to make my picture look good enough, but I talked myself out of bowing out, and I did just fine. When I got home from the retreat, I put the picture up in my family room where it still sits on my mantle, to remind me that I am a person. Part of, yet separate from my family and my role in my family.
A self-compassionate workshop, was followed by our final yoga circle, the most powerful one. Then we ate one more gourmet meal and our adventure was complete.
I left the retreat feeling like my old self, more confident that I could talk to and make friends with people without so much fear of not being accepted. Inherently, people are kind. Women need each other, and when put in a situation where they have the chance, they will draw close to one another. I am a wife, and I am a mother, and I am a daughter, the caretaker of my aging mother, but I am also more than all of that. I am me. And now and then I need a chance to just be me. This Get Out There Girl retreat gave me a profound opportunity to do just that.
Six and half years ago I moved from Virginia to Utah. It was winter and I was 8 months pregnant with baby #3. I had my baby and fell into postpartum depression. I felt alone. I didn’t have a support system or any friends. After struggling for several months my husband urged me to go see a counselor. I started seeing a woman named Joan Landes and she was absolutely wonderful. She validated me, listened to me, and gave me the necessary tools to fight my depression. One of the things I remember the most was her advice about making new friends. Real, genuine friends.
She advised me to try, what I termed, a friend test. She recommended I share something small and vulnerable about myself and see how my new friend responds. Does she move on and talk about herself? Does she change the subject? Or, does she listen and respond to my vulnerability with her own?
I am aware there are no perfect friends and even great friends may respond poorly sometimes. However, this test is a great indicator of whether or not you have a friend that you can be real, raw and open with.
Here is an example.
I am at Beth’s house for an arranged playdate. Our kids are playing outside and the opportunity to share something small and vulnerable comes up during our conversation. I mention the fact that when I moved to a new state, I did not have a support system after having a baby and I felt very alone. That’s it, I don’t go into details about my depression or how it wreaked havoc on my life. I keep it simple, short and just vulnerable enough to open the door.
Possible reaction #1:
Beth’s body language tenses up a little bit. She mentions how messy her kids are and picks up a few toys before changing the subject. I opened the vulnerability door and she didn’t walk in. I don’t give up on her as a friend, I just know that she might not be the friend that I can really open up with. She might be the friend I take shopping or workout with and she might be the friend who makes me laugh the hardest. The point is, she could become a great friend. However, if every time I try to share something vulnerable with her she closes off and changes the subject, that is my que. It obviously makes her uncomfortable and I won’t continue going there with her. Not only to protect myself, but also out of respect for her.
Possible reaction #2:
On the flip side, if Beth responds to my small and vulnerable info with a listening ear and follow up questions, then I know it doesn’t make her uncomfortable. The chances are high that she will open up and share her story with me as well. I’ve found a friend I don’t need to hide the real me from. I can be real, open and vulnerable. I opened the door and she walked in.
Try the friend test. Share something small and vulnerable with a friend and pay attention to how they respond.
I also encourage you to examine yourself and see what type of friend you are. How do you respond to a friend when they are vulnerable with you? Does it make you uncomfortable? Do you change the subject or do you listen intently and see the opportunity to connect in a deeper way? Are you a friend that someone can be open and vulnerable with?
I personally don’t stop being friends with someone if they fail the vulnerability test. I just know that they are not the person I’m going to call when I’m struggling and need a listening ear. It’s that simple. I try really hard to be the friend that people can call and open up to. When someone needs a shoulder to cry on, an ear to rant to, or a friend to validate them, I hope they call me or knock on my door. I hope they know I’m here for them because I’ve shown up in the past when they issued their own friend test.