What to do instead of trying to cheer people up(DW#739)

Yesterday, we discussed how trying to get people to look on the bright side rarely works to cheer them up.

So what should we do instead?

Try validation.

Very briefly, human beings desire to connect. We communicate because we crave connection. And that connection comes from being heard, understood, and appreciated.

Validation is the art of communicating the understanding and appreciation of another human being. The message of validation is: you matter to me. You make sense. You are important.

Validation is one of the most important relationship skills and one that few of us are naturally proficient at. We need to be intentional in developing it. This is the hard work of being in relationship but the rewards in terms of connection and intimacy are SO worth it.

Effective validation has two main components:

 1.    It identifies a specific emotion
2.    It offers justification for feeling that emotion – this is what communicates understanding

For example: Your spouse says:

"I have had such a hard day. My boss keeps changing plans for our project and doesn’t seem to listen to—or care at all about—what the rest of us want to do. It’s driving me crazy!"

It can be so tempting to jump in with advice or reassurance at this point, right?

Just take a breath and hang on.

Try this instead: "Seriously? Uff that would drive me crazy too! How frustrating that must be!"

Notice how this response

1) identifies a specific emotion (feeling crazy), and
2) offers justification for feeling that emotion (you would feel the same way, it makes sense that they feel like this)

By demonstrating that you hear and understand where they are coming from rather than jumping in with helpful advice, you demonstrate respect and appreciation in a way that will instantly strengthen your emotional connection and intimacy. You are on the same side and playing on the same team.

So, over the next few days, try it out. Anytime anyone around you shares a thought or a feeling, there is an opportunity to validate.

Play with this and practice!

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