Effective Communication

The goal of reflective listening is to:
1. To facilitate the expression of someone else's feelings.
2. To enhance a speaker's problem-solving ability by helping them move through "stuck" feelings; and
3. To generate a feeling of warmth and understanding between listener and speaker.
The technique of reflective listening includes the ability of the listener to identify the primary feelings the
speaker is having, and then reflect back that understanding in a tone that demonstrates empathy. For
Wife: If that neighbor parks in my space again I'm going to let all the air out of his tires!
Husband: Sounds like you're angry that he keeps taking your spot.
Wife: You bet I am. I've told him not to ten times! But I don't want to get him mad at us because I know
what a jerk he can be.
Husband: You're afraid of what else he might do.
Validation is a relatively simple concept to understand but can sometimes be difficult to put into practice.
There are many benefits that occur when an individual feels validated, and the results are well-worth the
Validation means to recognize, and express understanding and acceptance of another person's internal
experience, whatever that might be. Validation does not mean you agree or approve. Validation builds
relationships, eases upset, and decreases the possibility of hurt feelings when communicating. Knowing
that you are understood and that your emotions and thoughts are accepted by others is powerful, and
human beings have a need to belong and feel accepted.
Validation helps the person know they are on the right track. Feedback from others indicating that what
you are experiencing is normal or makes sense lets you know that you thinking and feeling in
understandable ways. Your feelings and internal experience does not have to be the same as someone
else’s, but just knowing if your experience is understandable, or not, is often helpful.
Validation helps regulate emotions. Feeling heard and understood is a powerful experience and one that
seems to have a calming effect on people. This is likely because when we don’t feel understood, we tend
to feel alone, or have thoughts that we do not fit in. When we feel loved and accepted, which is a basic
need, we feel soothed.
Validation helps build identity. Validation is like a reflection of yourself and your thoughts by another
person. Your values and patterns and choices are highlighted and that helps people see their own
personality characteristics more clearly.
Validation builds relationships. Feeling accepted and understood can both build and strengthen a
relationship. When someone feels that they are understood, it brings about a sense closeness, and that
someone truly “gets” them. There is also research that has shown that a release of chemicals in the body
is triggered when people are validated, and are related to feelings of connectedness.
Validation builds understanding and effective communication. Because individuals pay attention to
different aspects and remember important details differently, two individuals can experience the same
event quite differently, and have very different perspectives about it. Validation is a way of understanding
another person’s point of view.
Validation shows the other person that they are important. Validation communicates to the other
person that they are important to you and you care about their thoughts, feelings, and experiences,
regardless of whether the person being validated is a child, your spouse, a parent, a friend, a neighbour, or
an employee. Validation also shows the other person that you are there for them.
Validation helps us persevere. Change can be difficult, and having someone acknowledge this helps
people keep working toward their goal. It seems to help replenish willpower.
Can All Feelings Be Validated?
There is a logic to every feeling we have. The source of each feeling, however, is partly due to present
circumstances and partly due to our past. To varying degrees, all feelings are influenced by both. Events in
the present can trigger old feelings that a person may not be conscious of. When someone is not aware
that their past feelings have been aroused, they may be especially confused by the intensity of their
emotional response. This confusion will lead them to seek validation.
It is hard to figure out, for any given feeling, what percentage of that feeling is due to the present, and
what percentage is fueled by the past. Usually the present holds an understandable trigger, and past
experiences account for the intensity of a given feeling.
It is usually not helpful for listeners, however, to offer their assessment of the relative influences of past
and present. This is too often perceived as a way of implying that the speaker’s level of feeling is
Avoid non-validating responses
Really listen to the speaker. When listening to a person's troubles, the first instinct is to respond with your
advice, opinions or relevant stories in order to help. However, what most people really want is to just be
heard and understood.
•Listening does not mean be stonily silent. Saying things like, "uh-huh", "what did he say about that?" and
"that's terrible!" show you are listening and facilitate talking.
•After the person finishes, that is the time to ask if and how you can help.
•If unsure whether the person needs advice or support, ask. Unsolicited help is rarely listened to, but if the
person says they would like to hear what you have to say, that is typically listened to.
•"I had something like that happen to me. Would you like to hear about that?"
•"I have some ideas that might help you. Do you want to hear about it?"
Recognize that validation does not require lying or agreement.
You can recognize that someone's feelings are valid without liking what they're doing.
Don't try to fix their feelings.
Sometimes people try to make their loved ones stop hurting simply because they don't want them to be
upset. While well-intended, it usually doesn't help them feel better long-term, and they may feel like it is
their fault for still being unhappy after your efforts.[2] •If you want to help, try listening to the whole story
and validating their feelings along the way. Then ask how you can help or offer to brainstorm solutions.
3. Don't try to "hoover" their feelings.
Hoovering means vacuuming up any unpleasant feelings and pretending they aren't there, and gives the
person the sense that they are being “blown off”. For example:
•"Oh, it's not so bad."
•"It's not a big deal."
•"Let's stay positive."
•"Just toughen up."
•"Look on the bright side."
Avoid judging or blaming the other person for their emotions.
Treating people badly for feeling bad is an easy way to get them to stop trusting or talking to you. If you
catch yourself doing this, stop yourself and apologize, then focus on having empathy for the other person.
Try to avoid saying things like:
•"Whining about the situation isn't going to make it any better. Man up and deal with it."
•"You're overreacting”, “We all know you’re a drama queen, you’re probably making things worse”.
•"Well, maybe he wouldn't have treated you that way if you hadn't been wearing such a short skirt."
•"Quit bellyaching -- it's not a big deal"
“I messages” are statements that begin with your own opinions or feelings. These messages are
particularly important when you are unhappy with someone. When sharing your feelings with another
person, if you avoid blaming, which tends to make a person feel defensive, you will increase the
probability that that person will listen to what you have to say, as well the probability that they will act on
your message or request. This skill is called using “I” Messages (also called “I” Statements).
The “I” Message formula:
Practice using the formula until it becomes more natural to you, then put statements in your own words.
“I feel............ (upset, disappointed, unfairly treated, frustrated...)
when you………. (what the other person does that bothers you)
because………... (give your reasons)
What I want you to do is....... ~OR~
Next time, I would appreciate it if…………. (how/what you would like the other person to do
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