Often times when a person is emotionally dysregulated, they are looking for validation rather than problem solving or advice. Once the person feels validated, they eventually return to wise mind and can work on solving their own problems, or can appropriately ask for help. Therefore, if you want to validate the person experiencing dysregulation, do not focus on the situation that occurred, rather focus on how the person feels about that situation.
To validate the other person’s feeling’s it is important NOT to:
- Make it about you: “I hated when that happened to me.”
- Try to one-up the person: “You think that’s bad? Well…”
- Tell them how they should feel: “You should feel lucky, or blessed…”
- Try to give them advice or to solve their problem
- Make judgmental statements: “That was the wrong thing to do…”
- Make “character” statements: “You’re too sensitive. You’re being dramatic. You’re overreacting”
- Use reason or the facts to talk the person out of their emotions.
- Use “always”, “ever” and “never” statements: “You always act like this…Why can’t you ever…?”
- Call names or label the person: “You are crazy, you are a baby.”
- Advise to ignore the situation: “Just ignore him, her, it”
Instead, try some of the validating statement listed below:
- How frustrating!
- Darn! I know how much that meant to you.
- Here is what I am hearing you say (summarize what the other person has told you).
- I can see that you are (sad, scared, angry, etc.)
- I can see you are doing your best and are working hard.
- Yeah, I can totally see how that would make you feel really (sad, scared, angry, etc.)
- It makes sense that you would be so upset about that.
- Tell me more (shows interest).
- I can see you are overwhelmed. Can we talk about it?
- I know you’re scared. It’s going to be hard…and I know you will figure it out.
- I don’t have the same beliefs as you but I can see this is important to you.
- Of course….me too! I would have felt the same way.
- You may be right!
- What a tough spot.
- Your suffering is my suffering (because I love you).
Remember, its much more natural to validate someone when you can (at least partially!) understand why they are feeling (sad, scared, angry, etc.). So, try to ask the other person questions about their emotions so you can understand them a little better. Often times, once you can truly understand how the person became so dysregualted, validation becomes more intuitive and natural.
Here are some probing questions:
- Can I ask some questions?
- Is this a good time to talk?
- Tell me more.
- Help me to understand.
- Wait. So what you’re saying is…
- Are you safe?
- I think that… Does that make sense? Or not?
- I’m not sure I understood what went on. Would you help me to “get it”?
- Can you give me a stress #? 1= I’m OK, 10= I’m downing!
- How were you feeling before this situation occurred? Were you hungry, tired, anxious?
- How can I help you out of this pain?
- Is there anything I can do to help you?
You can also validate others through your behaviors. Giving them your full attention, leaning in as they are speaking, and offering a hug or a smile are just some of the ways body language can be used to validate the other person.
Remember, learning to validate someone else, and ourselves, is a process. No one can get it right all of the time.