“I understand why you feel that way” can be one of the most comforting things someone could tell you.  If you’re in emotional distress, being validated can really soften the blow of anger or fear.  Research has shown that validating someone’s feelings in such a way that you accept their negative emotional state without trying to make them feel differently helps create a more comforting environment.  It also creates less psychological “reactance” (resistance).

This may seem obvious to some, but I believe many people do not understand this.  Think back to a time when you’ve felt very angry.  For me, my anger is often at its worst when someone tells me I shouldn’t be mad about something.  That just catalyzes things for me and takes them to a new level of awful.  Using a simple line of understanding (“it makes sense that you’re angry about this”) could be very helpful in such a situation.  To quote an author from The Journal of Positive Psychology, “validation communicates that another’s experiences make sense and are understood, while invalidation dismisses the validity of an individual’s experience.”  (Bergland, 2020).

Validation is a skill that everyone could use.  As a counselor, I use validation often.  Yet salespersons, teachers, and anyone else in the service of helping industries could stand to practice this skill.  Our current political climate seems to paint a picture of overarching social divisiveness.  I’m always looking for little ways to bring people together.  The trick of validation is to actually try to understand why someone is feeling the way that they feel.  So the unexpected benefit of practicing validation is  developing empathy for others.  Everybody could use a bit more empathy, at times.  If you think this idea feels a little overwhelming, I could understand why you might feel that way.  It only gets easier. 

Bergland, C. (2020, December 31). Want To Make Someone Feel Better? Validate Their Feelings. Psychology Today.

  • Russ Rhodes


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