The great philosopher Goethe once wrote, "Treat people as if they were who they ought to be, and you may contribute to their becoming all they are capable of being." Validation is the opposite of criticism. In practicing validation, you trust a person's innate wisdom. You accept that they know best, at least for a time, even if you are skeptical or downright disbelieving. The most important part of validation is listening.
Person to Person
Validate another person while sharing an activity, a meal or any conversation. Your attention is very important. How you listen is much more important than what you say. To validate, occasionally offer a word of acknowledgement. Don't pretend to agree with things if they are not true. But you can always show a sincere interest. Open your mind and close your mouth. If possible, sit silently with the person and meditate on him, until you see what is good inside.
Validation by Appreciation
Giving attention is the best way to give validation. Sometimes that is done privately and sometimes in groups. Give a child a certificate for honors or attendance in front of an audience and applause. Send notes of thanks or appreciation on behalf of a group or person to person. Tell a person what a good job you think he did on a project. Nominate someone for an award. Express appreciation during meetings. Celebrate as a family.
Validation in Traditional Groups
Things said in front of others may be more impactful than things said in private. Build or rebuild a person's self-esteem by praise and acceptance. Proceed gently. Encourage people in meetings or who work together to add a building block where one is needed. This will strengthen the team. It won't work without trust and honesty. Model thoughtfulness for the group. When you are focused on problem-solving, you may be focused on the negative. Validation requires attending to what is positive.
Validation in Process Groups
Grow the most and help others grow in a process group. This may be hard to find. It is not a group with an agenda. Sit quietly together in a few minutes of meditation to become present. Let people take turns speaking about and "working" on what is important to them. Listen. Hold space for the person. Let him cry or be angry. "What you feel, you can heal." Going public with deep issues and still being accepted is the ultimate validation.
Elders and Children
Apply the above in business or in personal relationships. Seek it for yourself. You can also practice validation in your family, especially in parenting. There is always a good intention behind an action, even if the action is bad; find that intention or need. Validation can even be applied with Alzheimer's patients. If verbal skills are lost, validate with your body. Maintain eye contact if possible, bring your face close, display patience, mirror positions and actions. Then another being knows he is important.
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