Validation is one of the most important ingredients of a good relationship. When we validate, we accept the other person as a different and separate person. We don’t try to convince him that he should think as we think and have the same values we have. We respect his individuality and we celebrate his differences. We give him the right to have his own personality and to be himself.
Validation is very important in different occasions. For example, your partner tells you that she is upset at her boss for having scolded her in front of other employees. Instead of giving her advice or implying that she is at fault, you validate her. You convey to her in your words that in face of the situation, her feelings are valid and her reaction makes sense. It’s normal to feel humiliated and embarrassed when someone scolds you in front of others.
Validating can be very difficult some times. For example, when our partner says something that we disagree, or when he criticizes us. Our normal tendency is to defend ourselves and to say that he is wrong. Seeing the truth in a criticism is very hard indeed.
Wanting to be right is as normal as our survival instinct. When our partner criticizes us we feel like our life is in danger. We think that if we allow him to think that we are bad, he will abandon us. Our instinct is to prove that we are right, and that we are a good person, so he will accept us as we are and will never leave us.
Our normal reaction to criticism is to say that our partner is wrong. We point out her negative assumptions and how she does not make sense. We use our intelligence to turn the truth to our side. We don’t want to give in, because giving in is losing. We want to prove that she is wrong so we win.
Unfortunately, this approach does not work. In terms of relationship winning equals losing. Every time we try to convince that the other person is wrong, he is more critical. The more we try to convince him that we are right and he is wrong, the more he thinks that he is right and we are wrong.
If we want to have a good relationship with our partner, we need to validate him, even when we think he is wrong. We need to find some truth in what he says and show respect to his idea. We need to let our guard down and see the logic behind his criticism.
Although it seems like a paradox, our partner is more willing to accept our point of view when we accept his point of view. If you notice, there is some logic in it. Our partner will not want to accept our opinion if we never accept his. Showing respect to his opinion, will make him more willing to respect ours.
When we see the truth in our partner’s criticism we disarm her. Showing respect to a critical person has a calming effect. The person loses steam. It’s not very exciting to criticize someone who validates us.
The ability to validate is fundamental to a relationship. It’s very difficult that a relationship will endure if one of the partners thinks he is always right and his partner is always wrong. When I help a couple that one of them does not accept the influence of the other, I know they are in trouble.
Validation is the second communication technique I teach couples after empathy. Sometimes one of the partners does not want to validate the other. She becomes upset at me because she thinks she is the victim and the other person is the villain. Her purpose in being in therapy is not changing herself but changing her partner.