By using this site, you agree to our updated Privacy Policy. We may use cookies to give you the best experience on our website and show most relevant ads.

4 Steps To Emotional Validation

4 Steps To Emotional Validation

If you follow a bunch of life coaches on Instagram and other social media, you are probably constantly bombarded with posts of the “good vibes only” variety. While these “influencers” mean well, it is extremely annoying. The fact that a lot of my friends are convinced of this adds to the frustration because this mindset can lead to toxic positivity, a belief that you have to maintain your positive way of thinking even in situations where it’s not appropriate. 

Although studies have demonstrated time and time again that the power of positive thinking can change your life, there is a much better approach in the form of emotional validation. 

Migraine Headache Person Face, Nose, Cheek, Skin, Eyebrow, Eyelash, Ear, Neck, Sleeve, Comfort, Gesture

What Is Emotional Validation?

Emotional validation involves recognizing that there are times in our lives when we go through difficulties, and that the negative feelings that these experiences generate are real and often important. In essence, it is the opposite of toxic positivity, which seeks to deny the reality of each individual’s lived experience. Feeling angry or sad is fully appropriate in some situations, but with toxic positivity, these natural emotions are discounted. To be clear, this isn’t to suggest emotional validation encourages or promotes the idea that having constant negative thoughts is healthy. Rather, it takes a compassionate approach. 

When looking through the lens of emotional validation, we begin to understand that when we do experience negative feelings, it is only temporary. The death of a loved one, the disappointment of not getting an A in a class, or getting into a fender bender aren’t occasions where one looks at the bright side of life. We eventually come to terms with the situation and accept it. However, according to this train of thought, there is no time table; we will move on only when we are emotionally ready. 

Someone Comforting Someone, Joint, Lip, Shoulder, Flash photography, Comfort, Happy, Eyelash, Gesture

Practicing Emotional Validation

Toxic positivity hinders us from achieving emotional stability and invalidates the emotions felt by the ones we love. If we are constantly bombarded with the message, “The solution to every problem is to smile and think positively,” it prevents us from confronting the feelings that we have and finding ways to work them out. Fortunately, practicing emotional validation is effective and easy to do. Here are the 4 steps to achieve this.

Sadness, Joint, Shoulder, Arm, Comfort, Shorts, Smile, Standing

Step One: Think Before You Respond

When a friend is going through some hard times, or when you counter terrible news of your own, you might instinctively feel like you need to give an immediate response. We might blurt out comforting expressions like “everything is going to be alright” or “you’ll see that it was for the best.” 

But it is important to be cautious because this might not be what the person needs to hear right now. Instead, a better strategy is to pause for a moment and reflect on the situation before responding. 

The first big step is to recognize that we experience negative emotions and be in tune with our feelings when they happen. When we are able to come to terms with our emotions, we are equipped with the tools to help others. 

Emotional Regulation, Lip, Hand, Eyebrow, Smile, Eyelash, Dress shirt, Ear, Sleeve, Gesture

Step Two: Be Empathetic

Once your friend or loved one shares the negative news, the next step to avoid toxic positivity is to let them know you sympathize with the situation. It could be a simple statement like, “I understand you feel sad.” This demonstrates that you care about them. It is important not to downplay their emotions, especially when everybody has their own way of dealing with the pain. 

Hand, Hand, Human body, Finger, Gesture

Step Three: Show Them Support

Rather than telling them empty words like “cheer up,” or casting aside your negative feelings, tell them something sincere, meaningful and practical. Invite them to express how they feel at that moment and let them know that they are strong and courageous for being able to cope. 

You should never make assumptions about someone else or dictate how they should feel since you risk wading in the waters of toxic positivity. An appropriate response is to ask them questions that allow you to better understand how they’re coping rather than assume you already know. 

Hug, Smile, Flash photography, Happy, Gesture

Step Four: Validate Their Feelings

This final step is exactly what you think: you want to assure the person that everything they are feeling has merit. You can say things like “That is a lot to handle,” “How you feel is totally understandable,” “I feel the same way,” or even “You have my full support.” If there is ever a time when they need to hear these things, it is now. 

If you are the one going through a difficult crisis, remind yourself that you are not expected to simply get over it. You must recognize that you’ll go through a series of emotions and at some point you will overcome it. When you go through a temporary down period, permitting yourself to experience emotions is the path to recovery. 

Sign, Lip, Shoulder, Facial expression, Jheri curl, Human

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, toxic positivity has become prevalent, and you might even know some “You’re taking it way too hard” or “Always look on the bright side of life” folks. If they ever say these invalidating things to you, remind yourself that no matter what they say, your feelings are valid. 

Tags: health, psychology