You want to talk about f-f-f-feelings?
Yes, I live in a household full of males, and that’s often the refrain I hear when I want to have a “deeper conversation.” But the truth is, even women don’t often know how to talk about feelings—or more specifically, how to validate them.
So today I want to talk about one of the best ways to encourage someone—through the validation of feelings.
I have to say that validation is a fine art that should be practiced often and with great precision, because it is like a warm embrace to a frozen heart. But first, we must understand the steps to take in our efforts to meet this important human need.
Step One: Understand the magnitude of someone’s spoken feelings
When people disclose personal feelings, realize there are invisible questions that every person thinks:
- Are my feelings okay?
- Do you understand them?
- Do you care about them?
- Do you accept them? (And remember, accepting someone’s feelings is not the same as agreeing with them)
So, be sure to communicate a welcoming attitude to your friend from the outset.
Step Two: Acknowledge their feelings
This can be done by simply reflecting back what you’ve just heard the person say. For example: “It sounds like this is a very frustrating (hurtful, confusing, fearful, etc.) experience for you.”
Third Step: Seek Clarification
Most of the time, we don’t understand all the emotions that are brimming under the surface for our friends. It’s easy to skim over this and try to shift the focus back to ourselves, where we feel more comfortable. Resist this tendency and ask for more details about how the person feels. So the next step connects the words in step two with step three . . .
“It sounds like this is a very frustrating (hurtful, confusing, fearful, etc.) experience for you. Is that what you’re feeling right now?”
Remember, don’t rush this part or move on until you’ve gained an assurance that you’ve clearly heard and understood the other person’s feelings.
Fourth Step: Show Empathy
Hopefully, once you’ve fully explored all that your friend is feeling, you will catch a glimpse into the pain or confusion that is your friend’s feeling(s). So at that point, communicate how your friend’s feeling(s) has emotionally moved you.
For example: “It breaks my heart to see you in this pain. Please know that I want to be a safe place for you as you go through this time.”
If you practice this simple method of validation, I can guarantee that you’ll have given your friend an invaluable gift. Emotional validation is the soft and comforting embrace we all want and need when life gets hard. Try it today!
“Like free radicals, feelings wander around the conversation looking for some acknowledgement to hook onto. They won’t be happy until they get it, and nothing else will do.” –Henry Cloud and John Townsend