You might like to think that you’re a secure, self-supporting individual. But to be human is to need validation sometimes. Here are two simple, yet often overlooked ways to validate the people you care about.
As social creatures, we need companionship. But beyond that, we need to be seen, heard, and understood. It’s comforting to share our stories with each other, such as events from our day or something we’re worried about. It’s especially important during the current coronavirus crisis to be able to share our fears, sorrows, and concerns with each other. Hearing others and being heard help regulate our nervous system.
If we have a partner or friend who is a good listener, we can consider ourselves fortunate. But how often do we express our appreciation for those who take the time to listen to us empathically, even if they don’t do so perfectly?
Thanks for Listening
Our friends may feel more motivated to extend an empathic ear if they know we appreciate it. They may be more inclined to welcome future conversations, if they trust that we don’t take their friendship and willingness to listen for granted.
Upon sharing something important to us, we might notice a sense of relief in our body. We might feel a little lighter as we feel less burdened. There is something about being heard that helps us release worry and stress — and helps us feel less alone and more connected.
As we notice some welcome shift inside us as a result of being heard, it may not occur to us to offer a simple “thanks for listening” or “I appreciate you hearing me.” Yet such words of appreciation can feel very validating for the person who has extended their caring attention toward us.
If our friend asks later how we’re doing around something troubling that we talked about, it wouldn’t hurt to validate that they remembered through a simple “thanks for asking.” Offering a simple, sincere acknowledgement of a friend’s interest, attentiveness, and caring goes a long way toward nurturing the relationship.
You Were Right
I recently had a disagreement with a friend about something, and it turned out that he was right. In the past, I might have felt too ashamed to admit that I was wrong. But perhaps my sense of self-worth has finally become strong enough to acknowledge when I’m wrong about something! It doesn’t have to be such a big deal. None of us are perfect.
Many of us grew being shamed and criticized, when we didn’t have the right answer in class or didn’t live up to others’s expectations. We gained acceptance and respect by being right about things — and felt embarrassed to make a mistake. Perfectionism is often byproduct of our shame. If we don’t make mistakes — or become adept at hiding our flaws through the art of denial and distraction (mastered by many politicians!) — then we protect ourselves from looking bad.
We may not like to admit it, but we may still carry a shame wound from all the times we were told we were wrong or bad. Our ego may be more fragile than we like to think. Hearing that we were right about something might help us shed a small portion of the shame we still carry inside us.
Doesn’t it feel good when someone says “You were right!” We might think we should be beyond needing such validation, but why not enjoy the inner smile that comes when we receive such an affirmation? And offering others the inexpensive gift of telling them they were right (upon further reflection or as events unfolded) about their viewpoint or prediction might bring a smile of appreciation to their face.
There are innumerable ways to express our validation, support, and appreciation of others, such as through kind words, a warm hug, or a kind smile. Perhaps we enjoyed a conversation or some activity with a friend. Or we delighted in enjoying a meal that our partner prepared for us. Finding words and a tone of voice that conveys our appreciation can go a long way toward nurturing our important relationships.
One way to receive more validation is to give it to others. Especially during the current coronavirus pandemic, we could all use a little more validation and appreciation from each other.