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How To Validate Someone's Feelings

Have you ever expressed emotion or feeling and felt invalidated? You are not alone. It is a common experience to express oneself and not receive the response you need or want. That response is often just to be heard and validated. It’s important to understand how to validate someone’s feelings to enhance the growth of any relationship.


More often than not, people meet others’ feelings and emotions by dismissing them. Something as innocent as telling someone “it’s not a big deal,” or ‘forget about it and move on,” can actually make it worse (we often discuss this is couples therapy). This post will review validating and invalidating feelings and how you can avoid hurting others with your words and actions. Let's begin.


two people learning How To Validate Someone's Feelings


What is Emotional Invalidation?


Emotional invalidation occurs when someone invalidates, as the name suggests, another person's feelings, by dismissing, minimizing, or, worse yet, denying them.


Invalidation is problematic because it can lead to self-doubt, guilt, and low self-esteem.

When someone tells you or makes you feel your thoughts, feelings or emotions are insignificant, exaggerated, or inappropriate, this can lead to questioning one’s perception of reality.


No one should ever question their emotions or feelings. Feelings are neither right nor wrong, nor good or bad. They are your reality and truth.


Although emotional invalidation often happens unintentionally, the negative impact still exists. You can still hurt others even when your intentions are good, so we must keep an eye on our words and actions.


Examples of invalidating statements


These are some illustrations of phrases that might make others feel unheard:

  • You're overreacting.

  • It's not that big of a deal.

  • Just get over it!

  • There's nothing to be afraid of / anxious about.

  • It could have been worse / Others have it worse.

  • Don't think about it. Move on.


What happens to couples/partners/family members who experience emotional invalidation?


Overall, someone who has been repeatedly invalidated will develop relationship insecurity. People expect their partner, family, or friends to listen and support them when things get difficult. A relationship must be a safe space to express yourself and open up. Invalidating the other person's feelings is the exact opposite.


Also, feeling invalidated or dismissed leads to less openness. To have a secure functioning relationship, those involved must understand why their loved one feels the way they feel, not dismiss it. Invalidated partners can be less communicative, more defensive, and less flexible, which does not cultivate healthy relationships. This is equally as important for artists and creatives.



how to communicate that you understand someones feelings

What is Emotional Validation?


On the contrary, emotional validation means you listen and comprehend what the other person goes through. It doesn't imply that you agree with their actions or responses, but instead, you are coming from a place of empathy.


Think about when children get mad or throw a tantrum. The reasons they get upset may not resonate with you as an adult, but that doesn’t mean their feelings and emotions are wrong. They are experiencing emotional distress that needs to be understood, rather than ignored, dismissed, or minimized. Letting a child know you understand their feelings allows them to better understand and regulate their emotions.


When our feelings are validated, this increases our ability to connect with our emotions and identify what we’re feeling, which in turn, increases our self-awareness and our ability to self-regulate.


Emotional validation means you understand or try to understand why the other person may be mad, upset, fearful, euphoric, sad, anxious, etc. even if their emotional response is not the same as yours would be. By simply stating: "I see where you're coming from" or “This must be really difficult for you,” you help your interlocutor feel at ease and more willing to open up to you. It's how to validate someone's feelings by meeting them where they are.


how to validate a persons feelings


How to Validate Someone's Feelings


Here's a three-step method that will help you validate the other person's feelings and dialogue without resentment:

  1. Acknowledge the other person's feelings and emotions.

  2. Empathize with their experience.

  3. Let them know you are here to provide them support


Validating someone’s feelings decreases the potential for conflict. It decreases or eradicates the other person’s defensive stance. When someone’s defenses are down, arguments are off the table.


Examples of validating statements


  • I see you feel very upset / frightened / scared / etc.

  • Here's what I understand from what you’ve said [...]

  • That must have been so hard for you.

  • I see your effort, and I'm proud of you.

  • I understand why that makes you upset/mad/anxious/etc.


An Example


Pretend your husband, wife or partner wants to go on dinner dates every weekend because romanticism plays an important role in their life. But you see these fancy dinners as unnecessary expenses, as you two are saving for your children's education.


Emotionally invalidating them would involve saying things like: "I can't believe you prefer to spend money on dinner rather than our children," or "Why are you so needy? We don't need dates."


These are examples of responses that could not only hurt your partner’s feelings but lead to an argument. If the act of invalidating feelings occurs frequently, the result is a dysfunctional, unhealthy relationship. This is addressed in couples therapy and LGBTQ online therapy because it's such a common issue.


Instead, you should first validate their feelings. As an example, "I can understand why you want a more romantic time with me." Then express how you feel: "What comes up for me when I think about dates is spending more money and I think about the money we’re trying to save for our children’s education." This leads to mutual understanding. When there is mutual understanding, middle ground solutions are easier to come up with.


As you see, validating feelings and emotions vs. invalidating, only leads to increased understanding, positive solutions, and healthier relationships.


happy couple on bike enjoying each others company and in love

Tips to Help Your Validation Efforts


  1. Listen actively. Don't lose yourself in your own thoughts without listening to what the other person is saying. You want to summarize their words before giving a response, so pay attention and make eye contact.

  2. Eye contact. Looking at the other person in the eye means you're giving them all your attention. They will shut down and stop talking if you seem distracted or uninterested.

  3. Summarize. From time to time, it's crucial to repeat their words. It shows you've been listening and retaining the correct information. "What I understand from what you said is that you are upset with your boss because she didn't promote you after promising it. Is that correct?"

  4. Take your time. Sometimes, people have a hard time opening up or venting. Don't pressure them or finish their sentences. If you get impatient, they will shut down. Silence can be more powerful than words, so pay attention to them to draw insights.

  5. Physical touch. Not everyone enjoys a hug or hand holding when they're emotional. But if your interlocutor does, physical contact can be the final touch to your conversation. Hug the other person if they are comfortable with it to show how much you appreciate them and are there for them.

Learning how to validate someones feelings can enrich your life just as much as it helps the people around you. At the Healing Collective Therapy Group, we offer a number of different programs via Telehealth online therapy sessions. Call us or send us a message for a quick chat and see if we're the right fit for you.

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