I think a lot about the concept of validation; and its antithesis, invalidation. In psychological terms, validation incorporates the experience that our thoughts, feelings, perspectives and intentions are understood, accepted and respected by significant others. Conversely, invalidation incorporates the experience that our thoughts, feelings, perspectives and intentions are not understood, accepted and respected by significant others. People who predominantly experience validation of their thoughts, feelings, perspectives and intentions form the belief that they themselves are acceptable; that is, valid. I am often likening validation to an inoculation against depression. Those who do not experience validation on a regular and consistent basis form the belief that they are unacceptable; that is, invalid. Invalidation has a destructive effect on the mental health and wellbeing of people of all ages; particularly children, where the destructive effects of invalidation can be lifelong.
Validation and invalidation are reciprocal processes. We are all more positively disposed towards the thoughts, feelings, perspectives and intentions of those whom we experience as being understanding, accepting and respecting of our own. Conversely, we are less well disposed towards those whom we experience as not understanding, accepting and respecting us. We are less likely to share with these people or listen to their stories. They, in turn, are less likely to listen to us and share with us. Invalidation ends meaningful communication and destroys relationships.
Central to validation is the experience of being heard. We are more likely to be heard when those from whom we are seeking understanding, acceptance and respect have the experience that we have heard them. This is the truth of the old adage “in order to be heard we first need to listen”.
For our own sakes and the sake of all we come into contact with, we need to get better at listening, understanding, accepting and respecting. Only then can we expect to be heard. Only then can we experience validation and its benefits.