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  • Writer's pictureNatasha Patiño

Validation: The Secret Ingredient to Communication


Hi everyone, Natasha here again. 


Here goes another blog about communication!!  My last blog focused on what NOT to do with communication, and now my focus will be on what TO do!    I use terms from that previous blog, so it may be helpful to read/reread it to make the most out of this information below.


When it comes to any relationship, communication is the most important factor to help with connection.    With couples, I tell them that no matter how much they love each other, if they do not communicate well, their love soon turns into resentment, frustration, and even hatred.  With couples, it often leads to divorce.  With parents and children that do not communicate well, you see estrangement and separation from one another. 


This blog can help with some tips, but if there are major problems with communication, whether it’s with a couple, siblings, even a parent and a child, it may be a good time to look for therapy to work on building these bridges with one another.    

Step 1:


This is the secret ingredient for healthy communication!  Validation!  This is a game changer, this is the one thing that when I see my clients start doing, their communication with others greatly improves. The Cambridge Dictionary defines validation as this:

“something that is generally or officially accepted as being correct or satisfactory


To better explain it, validation is being okay and respecting what the other person says or feels.  It’s giving them the space to say whatever is on their mind, without:

-        Interrupting them

-        Criticizing them

-        Being dismissive

-        Yelling at them

-        Shutting them down

-        Taking it personal

-        Getting upset/crying

I often use this tool (validation) with my clients.   I don’t say things like “that’s ridiculous” or “why would you do that?”   That’s not helpful at all, it shuts the other person down, and they no longer are able to take in what I have to say. I could be completely right, but I’ve lost my audience, and they no longer are listening.  Instead, I validate them by saying things like “that makes a lot of sense why you got so mad (validation), it’s just when you yelled at them, I don’t think they listened.  Let’s talk about.....” (work on finding solution). 


Validation does NOT mean you necessarily agree with what they are saying, or that you are saying that they are right.  I often have clients that are resistant to validating, and I have to remind them that you’re respecting what the other person is saying only.  Sometimes you may agree, sometimes you may not and that’s okay. 

To help with validating, try to think about what the other person is feeling or worried about, and it can help you.  For example, if they seem stressed you could say “that’s frustrating” or “I know you have a lot on your plate.”   If they seem sad missing a loved one, you can say “I know you miss them a lot” or “it really isn’t the same since they passed away.”  This shows the message that it’s okay how they’re feeling.  Once you say that, you can often give them advice, encourage them to do something, and so forth.  I find that once a person is validated, they often are very open to feedback and help.  Here are some simple examples of validation:

“That makes sense”

“That is a lot”

“I see where you’re coming from”

“I get it”

“That is annoying/frustrating/hard”

“I would be angry/upset too”



Step 2:


Another communication trick that helps with connecting, is to ask a follow-up question AFTER you validate, to help connect with the person and support them.  Your role is not to fix the problem for them, but you can become a supportive person that helps them work through it. 

It’s important to know the difference between close-ended questions versus open-ended.  Close-ended does not help with communication, it kind of stops conversations.  This is where the question you ask can be answered with one or two words.  For example, “how was your day?”  Answer is ‘fine,’ or ‘good.’  Or “did you have fun at the party?”  Answer is ‘yes’ or ‘no.’  Conversation is over.

Open-ended questions make the conversation go longer and you get more details.  It’s where your questions require longer answers.  For example, “what was the best part of your day today at school?”  Or “what all did you do at the birthday party today?”  With the game I mention below, using open-ended questions really helps the conversation go to a deeper level.



A game I often play with clients and their families is the “Ungame.”  You can buy this on amazon for super cheap, and it’s a great conversation starter.  The pack that I have has two stacks, #1 and #2.   The #1 stack has silly questions like, “describe your favorite dessert and tell why you like it.”  Stack #2 has deeper questions like, “what seems to be the biggest problem in your life right now?” 

The way I play this game in the office is I have the family sit in a circle. If you’re doing this at home, you can have snacks and blankets to make it a very relaxed environment.  The first person (reader) chooses a card and answers the question.  The person next to them (responder) asks them one follow-up question about what they said.   Then the reader answers.  Once they’re done, the responder now becomes the reader with the next family member.  This helps practice active listening skills and being supportive.   Plus, it really can be fun!  Below is a transcript of how it may go:



Reader (son): “who is someone you can talk to about your problems and why?”

“Mom, because she always asks me how I’m doing, and I know she will listen to me and won’t judge me.”

Responder (dad):  “what are some things I could do to help you be more comfortable talking to me?”   [note: see how the dad does not get defensive or upset with his son’s response.  It’s just a follow-up question to understand]

Reader (son): “maybe we could spend more time together, like throwing a football around outside.” 

Below I will give a few scenarios, and examples of what NOT to say as well as examples of validation so you can see the differences.



1.       Wife gets home really upset and complains about the same coworker again, that keeps interrupting her work to talk and wife gets behind with work.


How NOT to respond:

“Well, you just need to tell her you’re busy and you need to work” (being a fixer)

“I don’t understand why you let her get to you so much.” (being dismissive)


How TO respond:

“That’s really frustrating (validation), I’m sorry.  Have you thought about what you could say to her, to set some limits (follow-up question)?” 

“Man, that stinks.  I know you hate to get behind with work (validation).  Maybe you could talk to her about how you are getting behind with work, and maybe you can catch up during lunch breaks (suggestions).” 


2.       Your son gets angry that he did not make the soccer team.  Now he does not want to play soccer ever again.  (Tip: If he’s really angry, sometimes it’s best to wait a little while, maybe after dinner to help him be calm enough to talk). 


How NOT to respond:

“Listen, when I was a freshman in high school, I didn’t make the football team and I was upset too (one-upper).  But I didn’t quit, I tried hard and made it the next year.” 

“Why are you so upset?  It’s just soccer, you can try again next year (minimizing).”


How TO respond:

“I am so sorry you didn’t make the team. I know how much it meant to you (validation) and you worked very hard for it.  I know you can do it, why don’t we think about maybe some ways we can help you practice better for next year (suggestion)?”

“Hey bud, I know you’re upset, and I can see why you want to quit (validation).  Let’s just take a few days to let thing settle and we can talk about it again later.”  (this gives the child time to think and be more open to talking)

These tips are very small changes, but very helpful changes.  It may feel weird at times to do this, because it’s not the language we learned.  I encourage you to try it and see how it works.  It’s amazing what really hearing what the other person is saying can help them be more open to what you’re saying. 


Let’s continue to support one another with this journey we call life, to help build strong relationships.

Until next time,


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