Validation: A Great Way to Head Off Conflict and Preserve Your Relationships

This week, the topic of validation has come up a lot in my client sessions both in business and in personal contexts. Validation is an essential communication and relationship skill since it is one of the best ways around to avoid conflict.

Validation looks like this.  Suppose you and your partner (be it a business or a romantic partner) are talking about a sensitive issue.  The two of you do not necessarily agree.  Yet, rather than fan the flames, you can open the other person up to further discussion by validating his feelings:

“Well, based on your situation, no wonder you feel that way.  I would like to share my viewpoint.  Let’s brainstorm together on what we can do about this.”

By validating someone, you recognize the worthiness or legitimacy of that person’s feelings and let her know that she has a right to feel that way. It is not a judgment on whether you agree or whether someone is right or wrong; rather, it shows that you understand that person’s situation.

Validation is a great way to head off conflict because the speaker feels that you care and that you acknowledge his perspective. He is much more likely to engage in a dialogue if you validate his feelings and his position rather than upping the ante by throwing back accusations.

Some people resist the notion of validation because they think that it is an apology and they feel entitled to their feelings and their point of view.  Yes you are entitled to your feelings and there is no need to apologize for feeling a particular way. However, if you value the relationship, you have an interest in exploring solutions.  And validation can help you to do just that by diffusing the time bomb.  Because how can you argue with someone who acknowledges your feelings?

Here are three example of validation that came up in my coaching sessions this week.

In one instance, a lawyer was able to avoid an argument with his client when the lawyer validated the client’s feelings of frustration with the progress of a deal. They were then ready to discuss options on what to do in order to have the deal proceed more smoothly.

Another client of mine who runs her own business and is is very organized deals with musicians who shy away from conflict.  My organized client used validation when she told this musician:

“It makes sense that you don’t want to talk about this because inevitably, you get pushback from the rest of your ensemble members.  So let’s brainstorm and see how we can solve the problem together.”

Yet a third client was able to head off an argument in his personal relationship by validating his partner for having difficulties with logistics and inviting the two of them to discuss the big picture before getting bogged down in details.

So the next time you find yourself in a tricky conversation with someone who seems upset and is ready to blow up or blow you off, stop and remember the skill of validation.  It will lead you to a much more productive conversation and help you to preserve a valuable relationship, as well as get to a much more satisfying result.