Last week I wrote a post about conflict patterns that seems to have stirred things up for some of you. Particularly when I talked about validation's role in resolving conflicts. I wanted to write a little more this week to help you understand and implement validation effectively in your conflict cycles.
Validation is not the same as agreement. We can validate each other's perspective or experience and still disagree.
You like anchovies on pizza and I do not is a great simple example. If I won't validate your pizza preference I might ask you to explain why you like anchovies, or make fun of other people who like that topping, or belittle you for having that preference. I can tell you how unreasonable it is or how I've never met anyone who really liked anchovies.
Of course, none of that will help us order an actual pizza or feel close. Simply stating a perspective without judgmental language or interpretation can be validating. "You prefer anchovies and I prefer cheese." Is a simple way of validating their perspective.
Although you're unlikely to take pizza choice personally, it's easy to see how we can disagree, acknowledge each other's perspective as valid at the same time.
There are a number of ways we can validate a perspective. Knowing these can give you options when you're feeling stuck in a conflict and want to find a way back to being connected.
Understanding your partner's emotions is critical to connection and longevity in relationships. It's also the foundation of empathy, without which relationships cannot survive. Here are a few examples of validating emotions:
- "You feel sad when we talk about this."
- "I think what you're saying is, you're overwhelmed or worried about this. Is that right?"
- "So you're confused by this too."
- "Are you saying you're frustrated by ____?"
Everyone has opinions, and everyone is entitled to them. But hen they become controversial in relationships it can be a real challenge to sort through and maintain connection. Here are a few ways to validate their beliefs (even if you disagree):
- "You absolutely have a right to your opinion."
- "I know you have a different way of doing this."
- "You've clearly got a solid opinion about this."
- "I hear you've been thinking about this for a while."
Knowing your partner's wants or desires helps them feel heard and understood in conflict. It also helps you support them in getting needs met or soothing when they're disappointed. You might say something like:
- "You really want to go on that vacation."
- "I know having quiet time together really matters to you."
- "I hear you that you want more help around the house."
- "Having more sex is important to connection for you."
All too often we overlook the specific actions and behaviors our partners take. When we miss these they can feel unacknowledged and underappreciated and it can lead us to grow resentful. Start taking note of specific actions to validate their experience. Here are some options:
- "I saw you reading. What's that book about?"
- "You said your back hurt earlier. How are you feeling now?"
- "Thanks for bringing this up."
- "I so appreciate you folding the laundry with me."
It can be super challenging to focus on our partner's pain or suffering (especially when we might have caused some of it). Most of us work hard to avoid suffering and want to fix it right away. However, by acknowledging the pain we can be vulnerable and deepen trust in the relationship. Here are some examples for you to try:
- "I can see you're hurting."
- "I know this week has been really stressful."
- "Honey, I'm sorry you're in pain."
- "This has been so hard on you."
CHANGE YOUR COMMUNICATION PATTERNS
Are you inspired to change the way you communicate in conflicts? Three ways to change your relationship to conflict for good:
Lots of the information in this article draws from a great book on relationships. Its a super quick read and a really easy listen to audiobook. Get your copy of High Conflict Couple here (its' great even if you're not necessarily "high conflict").
Download my Fight Better Guide for Couples. Totally free. Get it in my Relationship Resource Library right here.
Call me for a free consult. Sometimes it helps to talk it through with a neutral third party to make changes that last. I'll happily share resources or support you as a coach. Let's talk.
Gina Senarighi has been supporting loving couples and healthy teams for nearly twenty years. As a former couples therapist turned retreat coach, workshop facilitator, and author she's transformed partnerships, leaders and communication strategy all over the world.
Her uniquely non-judgmental, inclusive approach to couples work puts even the most concerned participants at ease. She's not your average sit-and-nod supporter- she'll hold hope even when it's hard and always help you grow.