How Validation Radically Improves Personal and Professional Relationships

Have you ever had a conversation with someone where you felt as though you were not being heard or that your perspective was not being treated as valid? How did that make you feel? Chances are you were not getting any validation, and you are not alone in having had that experience. Pretty much everyone feels that way at some point or another. But what exactly is validation and how does it improve interpersonal relationships? Validation is simply the feeling that comes from within or from another person whenever your thoughts, feelings, opinions and perspective are treated as genuine and valid. Pop culture and the media often display the hope of validation as a weakness. However, the need to be seen and treated as valid is a completely natural human desire. Professionally speaking, validation is a powerful and positive tool for interpersonal relationships, business and professional life coaching. Read on to learn how you can use active listening, radical genuineness and the six levels of validation to improve your relationships.

Breaking Down the Six Levels of Validation 


Here is a quick breakdown of the six practical levels of validation identified by Dr. Marsha Linehan. Although her insights come from psychology, the six levels of validation can be used by anyone in a variety or personal and professional contexts to improve relationships and clarify communication. You can even try out these techniques with your friends and family at home. 


1. Show Interest and Be Present 

  1. The most basic and fundamental type of validation does not even need to include words. All you need to do here is try active listening, being attentive and using body language to convey your interest. That could mean gently nodding your head as you listen to the other person or maintaining eye contact while you process the information that is being shared. Even implementing these small tips alone will make a world of difference for your relationships. Active listening is so fundamental that it is considered a foundational skill covered in many life coach certification training programs.

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2. Make an Accurate Reflection 

  1. Confirm your own understanding by repeating back what you are hearing from the person. You could use simple phrases to make sure that you are understanding them correctly, so the other person feels heard and validated. Try saying, "what I am hearing from you is that..." or "it sounds like you are saying..." 


3. Acknowledge and Interpret Subtext 

  1. What is not being said? Try your best to interpret their behaviour and make an educated guess as to how they may be feeling or thinking. The most important thing here is that you confirm with the other person whether or not you are on the right track, and take their lead as much as possible. Within a professional coaching setting, this type of validation could take the form of powerful questioning to evoke awareness. A trained life coach may be able to interpret or intuit things that the client cannot articulate or see for themselves, which could lead to exciting realizations and potential growth. 


4. Contextualize Their Experience 

  1. Sometimes our reactions or feelings in the moment have more to do with whatever we have gone through in the past. The fourth level of validation is all about reflecting on past experiences which may or may not be influencing how the other person is feeling right now. 


5. Recognize and Normalize Their Reaction 

  1. The fifth level of validation involves communicating with the other person to help them see that their emotions and perspective are normal and reasonable. You could start by acknowledging that anyone could feel how they are feeling right now and they do not need to feel any shame or weirdness about that. 


6. Practice Radical Genuineness 

  1. Radical genuineness is perhaps the most enjoyable and transformative type of validation. It means showing genuine respect and care, trying your absolute best to see the other person as they are. 



Putting Insight into Practice 


Do any of these techniques sound familiar to you? Maybe you already have someone in your life who is an expert at validation. See what you can learn from this person and have fun trying out these recommendations for yourself. If you want to really push yourself and become an absolute expert in validation, life coach certification training and ongoing continuing education could be an ideal fit. You will quickly find that the proper education coupled with radical genuineness can empower you to validate others and help people live their best lives. 


Written by CJ McGillivray

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