The Power of Receiving and Giving Validation
The gift of listening and showing appreciation.
Posted December 2, 2022 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan
- Many people may not want to admit it, but needing support and mirroring is an important part of being human.
- If one wants to be listened to and cared about, they should do the same for others.
- There are many ways to convey appreciation to others. Doing so builds safe and deeper connections.
We might like to believe we're self-supporting, secure people who don't need validation from others. But being human means needing validation and mirroring from the people we care about—at least some of the time. As social creatures, we are wired for connection; we thrive on supportive companionship. We need to be seen, heard, and understood. Sharing our sorrows and joys—hearing others and being heard—helps regulate our nervous system.
As children, we develop our sense of self from our interactions with caregivers and peers. As we enter adulthood, we continue to need healthy doses of support and validation. If we have a partner or friend who is a good listener, we are fortunate. But how often do we express our appreciation for those who take the time to listen to us empathically, even if they don’t do so perfectly?
Extending Listening and Appreciation
Everyone likes being heard, but how deeply do we listen to others? If we experience a shortage of support and caring, perhaps it’s time to explore how often we extend to others what we’d like to receive. Our friends may feel more inclined to extend an empathic ear if we are willing to do the same with them.
When others do listen to our stories and feelings, how adept are we at conveying that we appreciate this? It might seem trite or silly, but people appreciate being appreciated. They may be more inclined to be there for us if they trust that we don’t take their friendship and support for granted.
We might keep our feelings inside because we’re afraid of being judged or appearing weak. But you’ve probably noticed that when you do take the risk to be vulnerable by sharing something important, you experience a sense of relief in your body. You feel lighter and less burdened. There is something about being heard that enables us to release worry and stress; we feel less alone and more connected.
As we notice a shift inside us as a result of being heard, it may not occur to us to offer a simple “thanks for listening” or “I appreciate you hearing me.” Such simple expressions of appreciation are very validating for the person who has extended their caring attention toward us.
If our friend later inquires about how we’re doing around something we shared, it can be helpful to validate that they remembered through a simple “thanks for asking.” Extending a simple, sincere acknowledgment of a friend’s interest, attentiveness, and caring goes a long way toward nurturing our important relationships.
Acknowledging When We’re Wrong
I recently disagreed with a friend about something; it turned out he was right. In the past when my self-worth was more fragile, I felt too embarrassed to admit I was wrong. But perhaps my sense of self has finally become strong enough to acknowledge when I’m wrong about something. Being wrong is no longer such a big deal. We don't have to be perfect.
If you’re like me, perhaps you were shamed and criticized when you didn’t have the right answer in class or didn’t live up to others’ expectations. Oftentimes, we seek acceptance and respect by being right about things—and feel crippled by shame for even the smallest mistake. Perfectionism is one byproduct of shame. If we don’t make mistakes—or more accurately, if we become adept at hiding them through the art of denial and distraction (mastered by many politicians)—then we protect ourselves from looking bad.
Many of us carry a shame-wound from being inundated with messages that we’re wrong or bad. Hearing that we’re right about something can be a healing corrective that enables us to shed a small portion of the shame we carry.
Doesn’t it feel good when someone says, “You were right!” We might like to think we’re beyond needing such validation, but why not enjoy the inner smile that comes when we receive such a compliment and affirmation? And offering others the free gift of telling them they were right about their viewpoint (upon further reflection or as events unfolded) might bring a smile of appreciation to their face.
There are many creative ways to express our validation, support, and appreciation: a kind word, an engaging smile, a warm hug. Finding words, a tone of voice, or a gesture that conveys appreciation can go a long way toward nurturing our important relationships. And we could all use a little more validation and appreciation in our lives.