Sometimes all someone really needs is our understanding. In fact, we often underestimate how important that can be... When we validate someone we are communicating to them our understanding of how the situation is real and important from their perspective, and we do so without judgments and with compassion. This is not always easy to do, especially when we have strong emotional involvement with the situation and do not agree with the behaviour, AND yet, in those moments, working hard at seeing the situation from the other person's perspective, without necessarily agreeing, can make all the difference.
The following short videos are dramatizations whose intent is to show the effect of validation and invalidation during our interaction with others. Every scenario has two scenes: the "misunderstood" scene showing many examples of invalidation, and a "validated" scene showing many examples of validation. When you watch these clips try to focus on noticing those statements and their effect on the other person. All scenarios include some problem solving techniques - e.g. friend trying to convince the other to talk further or do some activity that could be distracting, or mother suggesting solutions directly or indirectly to help daughter. Notice how validation opens the door to problem solving.
Misunderstood Friend - "Not making the cut"
In this validation role play scene Alden asks Ethan about his basketball tryout. Ethan did not make the cut and is very upset about it. However, things don't end up well. What happened?!? Notice any invalidations.
Notice how Alden quickly tries to tell Ethan that not making the team is "not a big deal". Although that might be true from Alden's perspective, as the scene progresses it becomes clear that to Ethan this is a big deal. Thinking from Alden's perspective, he is trying to help Ethan, however he does so by trivializing the situation. When Ethan doesn't feel like Alden understands him he becomes frustrated and upset and, understandably, gets mad at Alden. It is also understandable that from Alden's perspective he feels attacked by his friend and leaves.
Alden and Ethan become polarized about the situation, with one being mad about not feeling understood and the other one being mad about his friend not accepting his well intentioned help. Whose perspective is valid? they both are! Each perspective contains a kernel of truth.
Validated Friend - "Not making the cut"
In this validation role play scene Alden asks Ethan about his basketball tryout. Ethan did not make the cut and is very upset about it. Alden does a good job letting Ethan know how tough this must be for him. In the end Alden shows his support by letting Ethan know that he can talk to him anytime and that they will need to hangout over the weekend as Ethan will need some distractions.
Notice how Alden is able to express how tough this is for Ethan. There's even a glimpse of problem solving by Ethan himself when he says: "I mean there's always next year..", This may be possible because he is not so spent on trying to make his friend understand him, how often are we able to begin solving problem for ourselves when we feel support from others? "acceptance (being validated) can lead to change"
Although it's understood that Alden cannot "fix" the issue he shows support by letting Ethan know that he can talk to him anytime and that they will need to hangout over the weekend as Ethan will need some distractions. Ethan glances at Alden in the end as to say: "Thanks, buddy".
Misunderstood Friend - "Breakup with boyfriend"
In this validation role play scene Melissa finds out from Rebecca that her boyfriend broke up with her. However, things don't end up well. What happened?!? Notice any invalidations.
Clearly Melissa did not like Rebecca's boyfriend. From that perspective it is understandable that Melissa tries to convince Rebecca to "forget about him". However, Rebecca is hurt by the situation and is not looking for that kind of advice, at least not at this time. In fact, Rebecca is so emotional and hurt that she interprets Melissa's advice as an attack against her which gets her even more emotional and upset - this is also understandable, from Rebecca's perspective. If Melissa's goal was to support Rebecca during a difficult time, Melissa's strategy during this scene, upon first learning about the breakup and given Rebecca's state, was not effective at meeting that goal - because Rebecca did not feel understood.
Notice when Melissa tells Rebecca that she should find someone else, that her boyfriend did not treat her well. Her intensity is evident and from her perspective she is trying to be helpful, yet Rebecca quickly reacts very negatively to her advice "you are just jealous.." which causes Melissa to storm out. Timing may be everything in this scenario and for now Rebecca just needs support and understanding. This is not to say, in time, it could be important for Rebecca to understand whether or not her boyfriend was giving her the attention she was looking for.
Validated Friend - "Breakup with boyfriend"
In this validation role play scene Melissa finds out from Rebecca that her boyfriend broke up with her. Melissa is very supportive and understanding of Rebecca.
Even if Melissa did not like Rebecca's boyfriend, it is effective for Melissa to put that aside and express to her friend how difficult this is for her..
Notice that Rebecca feels understood and is open to Melissa's "problem solving" advice.
Misunderstood Daughter - "Ditched at a party"
In this validation role play scene Susan, after being ditched at a party by her best friend, talks to her mom about it. However, things don't end up well. What happened?!? Notice any invalidations.
Daughter is upset and deep down ultimately feels sadness about the event, which is understandable. She is looking for understanding from her mother.
Mother acts distracted, reading paper and not focusing on daughter. This is often perceived as invalidating to the other person as it sends the message that their interaction is not important, that other things have higher priority in that moment. Unfortunately, this type of invalidation happens all too often, for a number of reasons, one of them may be simply habit - so even though it could be understandable it is also true that we can do better by paying attention. If we are not paying attention, that's OK, just notice it and focus back on paying attention.
Mother appears to have heard similar events before, likely feels upset, frustrated and sad about the event - her own emotions are high. In a nutshell there are many possible reasons why the emotions of the mother in this situation could also be understandable. However, in this situation for the mother to be effective, even if her emotions are understandable, it would be helpful to validate the daughter's emotions, as they are also understandable. Could the daughter also be more validating of her mother's emotions? absolutely, there's always room to be more validating from all sides. The key is not to focus on who is right and who is wrong, but rather on what is effective and to express to the best of our abilities the kernel of truth in the other's person position, without judgements, undoing opinions from facts.
Daughter tries hard to make her mother understand the situation to no avail. She does not feel understood, which leads to escalation and completely ignoring the mother's advice. When emotions are high and you don't feel understood it is very difficult to listen and follow any advice.
Invalidating statements are often met with invalidating responses. There is a transactional model that occurs during our interations with others therefore how we respond to someone will influence the type of response we receive back from them and viceversa. The good news is that any participant in the interaction can change their type of response (e.g. by validating) and this can lead to better outcomes.
Notice how invalidation causes both mother and daughter to become "stuck", polarized and feel attacked during the exchange: e.g. daughter: "You don't understand", mother: "I understand perfectly". It's important to notice when we become polarized to give us a chance to see what is valid on the other person's perspective and to validate it and ultimately work on a solution that weaves both perspectives as one.
Validated Daughter - "Ditched at a party"
In this validation role play scene Susan, after being ditched at a party by her best friend, talks to her mom about it. Mother listens to Susan mindfully and validates how she might feel and how the situation must be very difficult for her. Susan feels understood and supported and decides to talk to her friend about what happened.
Daughter is upset and deep down ultimately feels sadness about the event, which is understandable. She is looking for understanding from her mother.
Notice how mother validates her daughter's emotions from the start and notice the calming effect this has on her daughter's emotional level. Also notice how the daughter goes from being very upset to expressing sadness and disappointment. The daughter feels like her mom gets her and is very naturally open to discuss in more detail how the event made her feel.
Mother expresses curiousity about the event "I wonder what made her act that way?". This part is not strictly validation (although it may feel validating "I wish I knew") but is very effective in this case as it starts the process of problem solving.
Mother validates how it's understandable her daughter does not feel like Amanda is her friend anymore AND also states the fact that Amanda's frienship is important to her (based on past experience) - using the word 'AND' gives equal weight to both seemingly contradictory statements. The latter statement encourages problem solving by her daughter who then, from her own initiative, makes a decision to "try to work things out" with Amanda. However notice that the daughter's ability to problem solve is made possible by the fact her emotional state is under control. This makes sense, it's natural to have difficulty thinking rationally when we feel our emotions are out of control.
Misunderstood Friend - "Bad mark in a test"
In this validation role play scene Mary tries to cheer up her friend Susan who just found out she received a bad mark on her test. She tries very hard to get her to come out to the movies with her but she does not succeed in the end. What happened?!?. Notice any invalidations.
Notice how Mary trivializes from the start the importance of Susan's experience: "it's just a mark". It becomes clear as the scene goes on that to Susan the mark is very important and she tries desperately to communicate this to Mary. However Mary is focused on problem solving: trying to get Susan to go out. Mary is not able to put herself in Susan's shoes and accept that, to Susan, this is a difficult experience, even if it would not be a difficult experience for Mary. It's important when we validate another person to base it on our best understanding of THE OTHER person's perspective, keeping in mind that it might not be the same as our own perspective. To do this we must pay attention to what we know about the other person and the intensity of their reactions, if we are not sure we can be curious and ask for confirmation. e.g. "wow - you look really upset. This mark is really important to you, right?".
Clearly Mary is trying to be helpful and supportive; she asks Mary not once but twice to go out. And perhaps a little distraction could be the best action to take for Susan, but she does not follow the advice from Mary because she is too upset and feels that Mary does not understand her, In frustration, Susan finally yells at her, so, from Mary's perspective, it's understandable that she storms off at the end.
Validated Friend - "Bad mark in a test"
In this validation role play scene Mary tries to cheer up her friend Susan who just found out she received a bad mark on her test. Mary really listens to Susan and validates how difficult the experience must be to her. Susan feels understood and accepts Mary's suggestion to go to the movies with her.
Unlike the previous scene Mary clearly validates from the start the importance of Susan's experience: "That's awful, I know how much you love Math, You must be feeling really disappointed". Notice how, after Mary's first response, Susan does not raise the intensity of her response unlike in the previous scene.
Notice how when Mary asks Susan to go out she gives her "freedom to choose" by saying "I completely understand if you don't feel up to it". This helps reinforce that Mary understands how difficult the situation is for Susan. Feeling understood, Susan accepts the invitation from Mary which includes continuing their discussion "on the way to the movies".
- We are all doing the best we can and we can all do better...
- Let's remove stigma from mental illness and Borderline Personality Disorder...
- We are all in this together, you are not alone...
- Validation before problem solving...
- Emotion Regulation Disorder is the new name for Borderline Personality Disorder...
- Let's teach DBT skills in schools...
- Let's intervene, let's intervene early...
- Show me compassion and empathy first, don't just tell me how to change
- Let go of judgments and believe in me so that I can believe in myself
- Accept me so that I can better accept myself
- We are all doing the best we can and we can all do better next time
- Take care of yourself then you can attend to others
- Be mindful - Observe, describe, participate effectively
- Observe your own emotions rise and that of others, pause then engage effectively
- Strive to be wise, not just rational or emotional
- Change what you can, accept what you cannot
- Validation is not agreement
- Validate, Validate Validate
- Be supportive, let go of judgements
- We can't control having strong emotions but we can change how we respond to them
- Hope is everything and is always there even when I cannot see it
- BPD is more common than Schyzophrenia and Bipolar Disorder combined 6%
- The suicide rate of BPD victims is 400 times that of general population
- BPD is the third leading killer of young women between the ages of 15-24
- 1 of 5 seek help, 4 of 5 benefit from treatment
- 4,000 young people die by suicide per year in Canada
- I am not the disorder. I am a person/li>
- Stop the Stigma - by Speaking Up
- Living with BPD is like not having an emotional skin
- Genetic vulnerabilities and invalidating environment could lead to BPD
- Mindfulness is not what you think
- Mindfulness is being present moment to moment
- Mindfulness is just observing, paying attention to non-judgement
- Patience, trust, non-striving and acceptance
- Mindfulness does not come by itself..it takes practice
- Let your breath be your anchor to observe thoughts as they arise
- Observe thoughts as they come and go like waves on the ocean
- Pay attention to what you are actually paying attention to
- What we frequently think we become
- Turning my auto-pilot off
- Only that day dawns to which we are awake - Thoreau Walden
- It is a radical act of love to just just down and be quiet for a time by YOURSELF
- You are HERE!
- Make each moment count!
- I am a valuable part of all that EXISTS
- I am Love. ALL is Love
- The practice of mindfulness is not to follow your heart but to train your heart
- It's OK, let it be
- Smile at thoughts, they are empty. The only power thoughts have is the power you give them
- The benefit will come to your life with consistent mindfulness practice everyday
- Whatever you do to make it mindful!
- Kindness is pure wisdom
- Mindfulness is free or craving, want or hate
- Be gentle to yourself as well as others
- When you feel connected to someone that connection gives you purpose
- Practice kindness whenever possible. It's always possible - Dalai Lama