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Understanding and Practicing Validation

Hello and welcome to this introduction to validation skills as it is taught in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Validation is a crucial skill that fosters connection, empathy, and understanding in relationships. Let's explore the different realms or aspects of validation, along with examples to help you grasp the concept better.

What is Validation

Validation is the act of recognizing and accepting another person's thoughts, feelings, and experiences as valid and understandable. You don't need to agree with the other person to validate them. Validation is putting yourself in their shoes, trying to see things from their perspective, and effectively communicating that you do get them. This is easier said than done, but with practice it can make a big difference in your relationships, like it did for me.

Examples of Non-Validating and Validating Responses:

Mother holding child in her arms

 Non-Validating Response: "You shouldn't feel that way."

 Validating Response: "You are really upset that I said that. I would like to understand better, can we talk about it?"

Non-Validating Response: "You're overreacting."

Validating Response: "I hear how this situation is really affecting you. Given how important this relationship is to you, I understand that you would be this angry."

Non-Validating Response: "I don't think that is what happened."

Validating Response: "I get that you feel that I did not care about you and that that was very hurtful to you, I'm sorry. I did not mean to hurt you and I see my behavior had a big impact on you."

Tip: To practice validation, start by noticing when others validate you. How does it feel and how do you respond when they do.

How to Practice Validation

DBT makes practicing validation skills simple by breaking it into bite size pieces. Here are the six levels of validation to get you started on how to use validation effectively.

Pay Attention:

Validation begins with being present. We need to give others our undivided attention to show that they are important to us.

Example: Drop what you are doing and look at the person. Respond to a text promptly or with more than a quick emoji or reaction. Let them know you are there.

Accurate Reflection:

To be validating you need to let the person know you understand them by summarizing or reflecting back to them what you heard. Try to capture the essence of what they are saying to you.

Example: Statement, "I have so much work to do and no one seems to care."

Validating response, "Sounds like you have a lot on your plate and no one seems to acknowledging how hard you are working."

Articulate the non-verbal:

Validation can go deeper than just listening to the words the other person is saying. By accurately guessing what they might be feeling or experiencing, we show that we truly see them. Remember that you may get it wrong, but it still openness the door for the other person to tell you what is going on.

Example: "That was a big sigh. I guess you are feeling frustrated about what just happened. Do you want to share more?"

Personal History :

When you use personal history or biology, you relate a person's current experience back to something that happened in their past or a personal aspect. If you do this well you are showing that really know them well and understand them deeply.

Example: "I get why this is such a big deal to you. You worked hard on this aspect of yourself, and it did not come easy because of what happened in your past."


Normalizing reassures the the other person that their feelings are part of the shared human experiences.

Example: "It makes total sense that you would feel sad! I can imagine that most people would feel sad if they were in your place."

Radical Genuineness:

Radical Genuineness is about your attitude to the other person. Basically, don't be weird about it! Go about validation in an easy manner, being authentic and straight forward. This will develop with time, because lets face it, if this is new to you you will feel a little robotic and awkward at first.

Tip: Validation takes time to learn and you most likely will feel awkward at first. Many of us grew up in invalidating households and this is not something we learned. Be kind to yourself and start by validating your own experiences.

Understanding the Different Types of Validation

Emotional Validation:

Acknowledging and accepting someone's emotions without judgment.

Example: "I can see that you're feeling really upset right now. After everything that happened it makes sense that you may be feeling this way."

Cognitive Validation

Validating a person's thoughts and perceptions, even when it is different from our own.

Example: "It makes sense that you see it that way. I understand how you are thinking about it."

Behavioral Validation

Recognizing and affirming someone's actions.

Example: "I can see how much you're putting into making positive changes in your life."

Experience Validation

Validating an individual's unique experiences.

Example: "Wow, that must have been really hard when that happened! I would be upset too if that happened to me."

Existence Validation

Acknowledging a person's presence and importance. This is often non-verbal.

Example: By stopping what we are doing, looking at someone when they speak, or returning a smile we are validating their existence. In essence we are saying, "I'm grateful that you are here, sharing your unique self with me."

Tip: It is often easier to validate others in one area rather than another. To start, take a week and observe in which areas and situations you are most likely to validate or invalidate others.

painting of a red heart on a yellow wall

Practice makes perfect!

Like any other skill, validation takes time and practice. I hope you will apply these skills to your life and see the transformative effect it can have on your well-being and relationships.

More resources:


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