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What Is Emotional Validation?

Emotional validation is a buzzword currently being used so I thought I’d investigate what it actually means. A definition is the process of understanding and expressing acceptance of another person’s emotions, it’s the opposite of Toxic positivity, which can sometimes invalidate peoples feelings.

Validating an emotion doesn't mean that you agree with the other person or that you think their emotional response is reasonable. It means that you show that you understand what they are feeling and empathise with their feelings.

Signs of Emotional Validation

An emotionally validated person feels heard and accepted. A person who feels that their emotions are heard and valid, are more likely to have a solid sense of identity and worth, they can also potentially manage their emotions more effectively. Emotional validation can help us to find self-compassion and can also help us to avoid shame for our feelings, which helps build our self-confidence. We feel that our feelings and we matter.

Emotional validation can come from outside influences or from ourselves by recognising and accepting our feelings, owing our feelings.

How to Practice Emotional Validation

Emotional validation needs work on ourselves. Improving it can help our relationships with others and help you validate your own thoughts and feelings. So how can we validate emotions?

Identify and Acknowledge the Emotion

Acknowledge the emotion that the person is having or if that isn’t being communicated, ask the person how they are feeling and try to dig a bit deeper with feelings. For example, you may know that your partner is upset by their actions but try asking them why they are upset and why they are feeling like this.

Acknowledge the Source of the Emotion

The next step is to identify the situation or cue that triggered the emotion by finding out what made them feel like that. It might be hard for them to let you know what triggered their feelings of anger or upset but just give them time to express themselves and see what unfolds. Hopefully with time and empathy, they can begin to express how they feel to you.

Validate the Emotion

Validation is the key part of this process, this shows you’ve really heard someone. It doesn’t mean you 100% agree, but it shows you’ve listened and understood. For example, if your partner or friend is angry that you’re late, it may seem to you that their anger seems unwarranted or disproportionate to you if for example being late wasn’t a direct result of your actions. However, you can still validate their feelings, however, by communicating that you accept what they are feeling, even if you don’t follow their reasoning.

You might say, "I know you are feeling angry because I was 15 minutes late meeting up. It was not my intention to anger you; there was an accident on my way over. But I can see that waiting for me made you upset." You don't need to apologize for your behaviour, if you don’t feel you did anything wrong. You might actually defuse the situation simply by acknowledging the person's feelings. Examples of validating statements could be "I can see how you would feel that way." or "I'm here for you."

Invalidating statements could be "What's the big deal?” or "Don't be such a wimp."

Things to consider

Here are a few other ways to help people feel comfortable and accepted when they're sharing emotions:

  • Consider your body language: Keepyour posture open and comfortable and avoid crossing your arms

  • Express empathy: Even if the emotion isn't something you understand, show that you care about their feelings

  • Ask questions:Follow up by asking questions to clarify what the person means. This shows that you are listening and trying to understand.

  • Avoid blaming: Focus on showing support. Don't lay blame on either external sources or the person.

Impact of Emotional Validation

When you emotionally validate someone, you:

  • Communicate acceptance and care

  • Strengthen the relationship and build stronger bonds

  • People feel more valued

  • Foster better emotional regulation

Tips for Being Emotionally Validating

You don't have to accept being treated poorly in relationships. If your loved one is behaving inappropriately or angrily, removing yourself from the situation is your best option. Tell them that you want to talk with them, but you might find that hard until they can communicate with you calmly.

Keep in mind that validating emotions can help diffuse a situation, but it won't make the emotion go away or instantly help the person feel better.

If you find that a person close to you, is experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition, encourage them to reach out for professional help.

Consequences of Emotional Invalidation

Some of the damaging psychological, behavioural, and emotional effects of invalidation include:

  • Problems with a person's sense of identity: Emotional invalidation can undermine a person's sense of self. When people feel that their personality characteristics, thoughts, and behaviours are not accepted, they may develop low self-esteem

  • Difficulty managing emotions: Invalidation tells people that what they are feeling or the way that they are expressing those feelings is wrong. It can lead people to feel that they cannot trust their emotions, which can make it hard to regulate those feelings.

  • Poor mental health: Emotional invalidation may also contribute to mental health conditions including depression and anxiety. Invalidation can make people feel that their thoughts and feelings don't matter to others and that doesn’t make any of us feel good about ourselves.

It's not our job to make angry feelings disappear for others but we can be supportive and empathic, whilst acknowledging and validating that persons feelings, which in turn helps that person to feel validated and acknowledged. If we all tried to do this a bit more, just imagine how much happier we could all be x

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