Re-posted from Cleveland Center for Eating Disorders (CCED) blog archives. CCED and The Emily Program partnered in 2014.
By Samantha Mishne, LISW, LICDC
Recently a client kept telling me how invalidating I was. Instead of getting defensive and saying all the things I was thinking in my head which I knew were not validating, I took a validation course. Recently when I was taking an online training the facilitator and a colleague both commented on how validating I was. I share this because it just goes to show when you take in feedback you can teach an old dog new tricks. Given this feedback, I am going to stop invalidating myself and start validating myself by telling people, “I am validating.” Remember you can validate others and yourself.
Why did I need to take in this feedback and learn to become more validating? I wish I could tell you it was because I wanted to be more adherent to dialectical behavioral therapy which is about pushing for change and validation, however it was more self-serving. As I say to the young people I work with: “validation makes people want to do things for you.” Yes, it also shows that you understand, are listening, and want to tend to the relationship. Once I realized that to validate someone does not mean you agree with them, it became easy to validate. Remember you can only validate the valid.
How do you validate someone? You make eye contact, stay focused and show that you are actively listening which is hard, you may need to put down your electronic devices in order to do this. Next be mindful of your verbal and nonverbal reactions, which for me is my tone. Try and identify how the other person is feeling and name that feeling. Yes, you might be wrong, but at least they will know you are trying to help them express their feelings. Try and find the kernel of truth in what the other person is saying. Lastly, respond in a way that shows you are taking them seriously. We validate ourselves the same way-observe how we are feeling, reflect those feelings back, and look for how those feelings make sense. Remember validation also increases people’s willingness. Whenever a client validates me, I feel my motivation increasing; I am more attentive and in turn more validating.