Does it upset you when you’re with someone who is sad, ashamed, embarrassed or jealous? How do you respond when someone says, “I just don’t think she is as great as people say”? You know the person is jealous–but how do you respond?

How do you respond when someone is really sad? How do you handle the discomfort of their feelings?

It seems that most of us want to fix or cheer up or help someone who is experiencing difficult emotions. Yet most of us also know that’s not really the best response. Saying, “It will pass,” or “Don’t worry about it,” is not helpful.

Validation is a skill-full response to emotions of others. It’s not easy to validate difficult emotions, but that’s often the response that is most helpful to the other person. “I can see how sad you are feeling,” or, “Of course you are sad! I would be too,” are possibilities. Don’t say it if it’s not true though!

One level of validation is recognizing the emotions of others. You don’t have to agree with those emotions to recognize them. Saying, “I hear how upset you are about her getting that promotion,” doesn’t say you agree.

During this time of stress and uncertainty, there will be many different opinions and ideas. Fear and uncertainty, especially over a period of time, adds to the difficulty of regulating emotions. You may find you are more reactive. Expressing a difference of opinion is best done when you are calm and in wise mind. Instead of reacting, you can validate the emotion that the other person is experiencing.

Today, practice validating the emotions of others. You know you’ve succeeded if the other person feels understood. Validation is about understanding the emotional experiences of others. You don’t fix or try to change what they are feeling–you just recognize it.

Live a skill-full life. Karyn Hall, Ph.D., May 5, 2020