Wendy Warner is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in private practice at Trinity Family Counseling Center. In addition to working with couples, children, and individuals, Wendy also enjoys teaching the premarital classes for all couples planning to marry at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Macomb.
Almost everyone has heard of the hit song by Aretha Franklin, R-E-S-P-E-C-T. It definitely makes for a catchier title and tune, but in many ways V-A-L-I-D-A-T-E is the unsung hero of great communication.
Validate is defined as “supporting the truth or value of”. When we share our feelings with a loved one, we long to know they support the truth of our perspective and value our feelings. The art of skilled listening is to be able to reflect back to someone their thoughts and feelings.
When two people argue over differing perspectives, they have a choice in how to proceed. They can dig in and continue to offer every point that supports their position. Or they can choose to truly listen to what the other person is saying and feeling and let them know their position has worth. This doesn’t mean they agree with it; it means they have paused their position long enough to really hear and understand the other person. It means they have not dismissed the other person as unreasonable or invalid.
The next step after you validate your partner’s perspective is to offer empathy. When you can put yourself in their position and attempt to experience their feelings on the matter, you are saying your feelings matter to me. “It sounds like you were hurt by my comments, and I can see how you would feel that way.” This involves choosing to listen and working to convey understanding to another. It can lead to beautiful harmony.