Monday Mitzvahs: Validation – It’s Not Just for Parking

My two favorite words are: listening and validation.  And still a couple times recently, I have found myself biting my tongue to keep from giving advice.  It was well-intended.  I just wanted to help.  But in both situations I realized that if the roles were reversed, I would be looking for validation not advice.

RFID Validation Stand by Steven Vance CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Flickr
RFID Validation Stand by Steven Vance CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Flickr

For example, a friend of mine told me about a memory that had surfaced of a time when she had been betrayed by someone close to her.   My first instinct was to make excuses for the person that hurt her.  Somehow I thought that would make her feel better.  Then I remembered that my husband had recently made the same mistake.  He tried to make me feel better by making excuses for someone that had hurt me.  I appreciated that he was trying, but it made me feel even more frustrated. What I really wanted was for him to say, “What you are feeling is understandable.”

Another incident that really brought this home for me was in therapy.  This week my therapist was “off”.  I don’t know what happened but it felt like he was on auto-pilot mode (yes we discussed it).  By auto-pilot mode I mean that I felt he was giving me less validation and more advice.  He didn’t actually give me advice, I just felt the questions were leading that way and I didn’t like it.  I felt let down.

The experience with my therapist helped me understand something else about validation.  It’s more than saying, “what you are feeling is okay.”  By validating someone, and not giving advice, you are saying, “I have confidence  in you to find the answers you seek.”   That feels empowering.

I think that being told that your feelings are understandable, and feeling someone’s confidence in you (feeling empowered) are especially important for survivors of abuse, because those are some of the very things that are taken from us by the abuse.  When we are abused, the messages are clear, “Your feelings don’t matter,”  and “There is nothing you can do about this.  You are powerless.”

So next time someone shares a problem with you, consider validation instead of advice.  It maybe  the best gift you can offer them, especially if that person is a survivor.

NJ - USA by Anna Strumillo CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 Fotopedia
Doesn’t this little girl look empowered?
NJ – USA by Anna Strumillo CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 Fotopedia


Monday Mitzvahs were inspired by Linda Cohen’s book 1000 Mitzvahs.


  1. Great post. Know there are times where I end up giving some sort of reasoning for another persons abusive behaviour, too.
    You`re right, being listened to and having experiences validated is often what we need most.

    🙂 Love your Monday Mitzvahs

  2. You have connected the dots of empathy and empowerment (through the act of validating) with a thick, fresh, bright felt-tip marker, Leslie. I hope a dozen people read this and realize what a gift validation, when appropriate, is.

  3. I was reading a book about organizations and the reason why so little is accomplished in meetings is because the individuals engage in too much “advocacy” and not enough “inquiry”. We do not use time to understand enough because we’ve got to get our idea out there.

    p.s. My most recent topic of study is trying to figure out the relationship between shame and selfishness (my natural man). hmmm

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