The Gift of Validation

Acknowledging others is a gift that can be freely given. This generosity may be a natural way of being for you or it might be something that needs to be learned. But no matter who you are, or what your position might be, you may very well go home at the end of the day feeling unappreciated. It’s a sad day when you find your self  only hoping that what you’ve offered is acceptable. We take validation for granted when it comes easily, but when it’s scarce, we might feel despondent, scared or even isolated.

Giving a kind word, a thank you or an acknowledgment of a job well done can change someone’s mood, their self esteem and in turn improve the impact they have on others. Are you willing to reach outside yourself and validate someone today?

After talking for a little while, a client recently said, “This is exactly what I’ve needed, someone to listen and tell me that what I’m feeling makes sense.”

This is about the kindness of a listening ear and the practice of active listening; offering a “Yes, of course, mm hmm, wow, really,” in addition to sincerely and authentically asking pointed question to fill in the blanks and clarify what someone is saying, can be a healing balm in someone’s life.

When I have issues I want to talk about, I know who will give me the gift of that openhearted listening with gentle, searching questions, and that’s what helps me to see things more clearly. There are also those who interrupt with stories of their own similar experiences, or even those of their neighbor’s distant relative, but I understand that they are only trying to help in comparing their story with mine. I try to breathe and accept and forgive.

In my own therapy practice, my intention is to be fully present, listen thoughtfully, read between the lines, hear what’s not being said, then ask questions that hopefully cause introspection and increase self awareness. If I can help tilt someone’s head a few degrees to one side or the other (metaphorically of course,) the cool breeze of understanding can flow into the brain and open the mind to new perceptions.

Can you be fully present, listen with the purpose of really hearing and help someone else feel understood? It sounds simple, but the positive influence can be profound. If someone has an opinion different from yours you can just tell your self that it is only an opinion. We won’t always agree with everyone, but we can acknowledge that what is felt is valid for that person.

A few years ago my Daughter made me a beautiful plaque that hangs in my therapy room; I glance at it daily and I am reminded of its wisdom. It says, “To Listen is to Love,” and it’s so true. How we reach out to connect with others, even to those we feel we have nothing in common by giving a smile, a nod or a thoughtful word keeps us in synch with each other’s humanity. Whether you believe in the Golden Rule, Karma or simply “What you give is what you get,” the gift of validation can go a long way.

At the end of your day, consider that divine equation and ask your self, have you been the generous giver or did you hold back, rationalizing why you’ve stayed in your safe shell. The choice is always yours.

Amy Martin