Six steps of validation: A key to healthy families

Validation is a type of verbal and nonverbal response, which implies that you think or affirm that the other person is accurately experiencing or perceiving whatever they say they are.

Validation is not stating that you agree with the emotion or behavior that the person is expressing. Rather, it is stating that you understand what they are expressing.

Validation is a key skill for families to learn in order to help decrease emotional reactivity, reduce distress, increase self-esteem, increase communication, and facilitate problem solving. 

Steps in validating:

  1. Look at the person: Open body posture, eye contact, hold the person’s hand, nodding.

  2. Listen with interest and without judgment: Don’t add your own interpretations.

  3. Take a moment before you respond: Our first response is not always the best and will result in the other person disengaging, allow for you and the other to process what is happening. 

  4. Express or reflect the emotion or thought back to them: Some examples, “You are disappointed and frustrated with the grade you got on your exam.” "Since you have had panic attacks on the bus, you're scared to ride one now."

  5. Continue to listen and ask questions without pressing:  Some examples: "What then?” “Tell me more," "Uh-huh."

  6. Problem-solve if the other is asking for assistance or feedback: For example, ask, "Is there anything I can do to help?" “Would you like for me to help you problem solve?”

TIP: When disciplining, use positive statements to help with self-esteem: Positive statements tell a child what to do rather than what not to do. For example: “I can see that you feel bad about getting that poor grade. I have faith in you to learn from this and figure out what you need to do to get the grade you would like. Know that we can sit down and work on a plan regarding homework that we both can live with.”


Like other skills, learning to validate yourself and others takes practice. With your family, practice the steps above. You can work from your current thoughts or feelings, or use a past or hypothetical example.  

Reflection Questions:

When someone validates you, how do you feel?

Why do you think it is important to validate others and ourselves?

Are there times when we should validate people and other times we shouldn’t?


Examples of Invalidating and Validating Responses

Statement / Invalidating response / Validating response

I failed the test. / How do you know? Don’t worry, you always say that. / You are disappointed and frustrated with the grade you got on your exam. Do you want to talk about it? 

No one likes me. / You are so dramatic. You are popular. / You are feeling like you don't have any friends. Do you want to talk more about it?

I don’t want to run for student council. / Good, you don’t have time with all of your activities. / I'm surprised to hear that. Last time we spoke, you seemed really excited. What changed?

My boyfriend/girlfriend dumped me. / I’m calling his mother. His loss. / I'm sorry to hear that, I know you really liked him/her.

I’m too fat for anyone to like me. / If you want, I can help you diet. I was always a heavy kid. / You are feeling unattractive. Do you want to talk about what made you feel that way?

I’m allergic to everything!!! / I am so happy that we finally found out why you’ve been sick. / Wow, that must be terrible! I'm sorry.

I’m not good at basketball. / It’s not a very feminine sport. OR You’ll find a sport you like. /  You don't feel like you're good at basketball. Do you want to talk more about it?

I am not going to church. / If you don’t go, you are grounded. / You're not interested in going to church. Can we talk about what makes you feel like not going?

Everyone will be at this party. I hate you for not letting me go. / You don’t really hate me. I love you. Parties aren’t that fun anyway. / You are frustrated that I won't let you go to the party and it's important that you get a good nights rest before your big game tomorrow.

All my friends have a new dress for the party. I won’t go if you don’t buy me a new dress. / Don’t go then. / I wish I could buy you a new dress, I know you really want one. You can earn some extra allowance by doing more chores around the house and then buy the dress you'd like.

Questions or comments? Drop me a line in the comment section below.

Take care,