How to validate someone's feelings in five steps and what not to do

How to validate someone’s feelings in five steps

The Coaching Institute's Matt Lavars shares his expert rules to making anyone feel seen, heard and loved.

Knowing how to validate someone's feelings in five steps is a pivotal skill to have as a coach.

Here's how to do it and why it's important:

A validation is when you hear someone and they feel heard by you. They feel seen, they feel acknowledged, they feel understood. They feel validated!

Why does this matter? We all have a human emotional need to feel seen and heard, but many of us go through life never feeling this.

If validation is missing from someone's life they won't feel they belong anywhere, and that means another core human need—a sense of belonging—isn't met.

One quote stands out for me when we talk about validation. Robin Williams said it in his 2009 movie The World's Greatest Dad: “I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up alone.

"It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone.”

One great way to help people feel they're not alone and they're loved is to validate them.

I want to share with you exactly how coaches validate their clients so they feel like you see them for who they are at their core.

Here's the rules about knowing how to validate someone's feelings in five steps:

Rule One: When someone shares a problem, do not share a solution 

That's the opposite of what we need when it comes to being validated.So someone's sharing a challenge with you, and you might think, 'I know exactly how to solve that problem' and ask if they've tried such and such.

Stop.

Unless they have asked for a solution, do not share one. They are most likely not looking for a solution—they're looking to be understood.

This is very different. They are looking for an emotional space where they feel it's okay to actually have a problem and maybe not know how to solve it. It's really about them and how they feel as a person.

Rule Two: Don't make it about yourself

This is one of the biggest mistakes people make. They chime in with the sentence opener, 'Me too, this is what I've been through.'

I've done that. I used to think it was a nice thing to do, but what it does is take the spotlight off them and put it on you.

One of the keys of a powerful validation is to make it all about the other person. Don't talk about yourself even if you think your experience is relevant.

Rule Three: Pay attention

Knowing how to validate someone's feelings in five steps means listening deeply.

Pay attention to them.

Don't be distracted. Put your phone away—actually, turn it off. Turn towards the person and make full eye contact.

These are simple things but vital. If you were sharing your own problem with someone and they wouldn't turn off the TV, how would you feel?

Write this somewhere so you remember it: attention is equal to love. How we know we're loved is because we get attention. If you have kids, you know this really well. Kids don't care if you buy them stuff, they care if you give them your time.

Rule Four: Ask questions

Say, 'Tell me more about that. Is it okay if I ask you a question so I can start to understand what's going on."

Simple. Then the last step:

Rule Five: Validations

Say powerful validations:

  • That sounds really challenging.
  • Good on your for coming through to where you are.
  • It's wonderful that you are so committed and taking action in this way.
  • Is there anything else I can do for you?
  • How can I help?
  • I'm here for you.

Many people will go through their entire life without hearing beautiful validations said in this way, from someone who isn't distracted or focussed on something else.

Validation is the pathway into someone's heart and soul. It's how to light them up and let them know they are enough and they are worthy for who they are as a person.

This is how coaches validate clients but you can also use this in relationships and inside the family or the workplace, in any situation where someone is sharing a challenge and your intention is to make the person feel understood, seen and heard.

To hear how to be a strong and effective leader in changing times, join Matt Lavars and TCI on June 13 for our first ever Disruptive Leadership telecast.

Matt Lavars is one of Australia's leading coaches, trainers and speakers, and head facilitator at The Coaching Institute. In between mentoring thousands of coaches and leaders all around Australasia and helping others build incredible culture, Matt is passionate about fitness and music. His healthy office lunches whipped up in five minutes are the stuff of legend.

Matt Lavars
Matt LavarsThe Coaching Institute