DBT Skill: Validation

This month’s highlighted skill is validation, which is imperative to integrate on a regular basis in order to decrease suffering within ourselves, and help others feel seen and heard. The definition of validation is: the recognition or affirmation that a person or their feelings or opinions are valid or worthwhile.” 

Validating others involves the act of perspective taking and putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes. This does not necessarily mean that you have to agree with them. This can include statements such as “I can see this is really hard for you”, or  “It makes sense that you’re feeling sad/frustrated/anxious etc.” This can also include recognizing that behavior is caused by including statements like “I know you’ve been really busy with work/school”, or “I know you’ve been navigating a lot lately.”  When our experience and emotions feel seen and understood by others, it soothes the nervous system, decreases defensiveness, and helps us and others from getting dysregulated and move towards problem solving more effectively. 

Similarly, self validation is equally as important as we often fall into the trap of being more harsh on ourselves than others. When we validate our own experience it results in decreasing suffering, helps increase positive self-talk, promotes dialectical thinking and decreases dysregulation.  

Validation can be expressed in several ways, both with words and actions. Here are six levels of validation that you can practice:

Body Language/Non Verbals: making eye contact, nodding, modulating facial expressions

Paraphrasing/Checking in: reflect back what you understood or heard and ask if you are on the same page, and give the other person the opportunity to correct or confirm. Make sure you are being mindful in the delivery and avoiding an aversive or condescending tone.

Be Mindful of What is Not Being Said: pay attention to the other person’s facial expressions, body language, tone and their history to make hypotheses and then check in with them. We refer to this as “reading minds” in DBT.  ex:“I can imagine having an experience like that could be frustrating, I’m wondering if that resonates with you right now?”  

Be Understanding: help the other person understand that their emotions/thoughts/responses make sense based on their past experience/personal history

Normalize/Acknowledge the Valid: this has to do with humanizing, letting the other person know that many others would respond in a similar way based on the current circumstances 

Showing Equality/Be Genuine: treat the other person as an equal and avoid fragilizing and be yourself

**It can also be really helpful to try to avoid jumping into problem solving right away, even though you may have the noble intention of decreasing others’ suffering. Sometimes one of the most validating things you can do when someone is struggling is ask what would be helpful (venting, hugging, problem solving, or just being near each other).**


Written By: Krystal Lopez, Psy.D

Resources: https://languages.oup.com/google-dictionary-en/ 

Photo Credit: Juan Pablo Rodriguez on Unsplash.com

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