I recently learned a new way of communicating.
Let me tell you how I discovered it, and how it affects my relationship.
We’ve got a case of Alzheimer’s in my family.
Unfortunately, the disease has been progressing at a rapid pace, which makes communicating with that person more and more difficult.
There’s no cure – so I made it my mission to connect with that person more than I ever have, as long as I am still able to reach at least on a basic level.
Even if you can’t have a “real” conversation any longer. (Whatever that means, right?)
That’s what brought me to this new style of communication, that I will tell you about in a minute.
After I learned about it, I figured that it might be useful to use this not only when talking to people with dementia, or talking to elderly people.
I thought: Maybe I can use this in my relationship – and maybe you find it useful as well.
It’s called Validation.
You leave all your emotions behind before you start the conversation. You fully concentrate on the person sitting in front of you.
You listen with empathy.
You don’t argue.
You don’t lie to them (not even a “therapeutic lie”). You don’t try to explain to them that they are wrong and you’re right.
You don’t try to prove anything to them.
Because the more you argue, the more your partner will instinctively fight you, trying to convince you that they are right, and you are wrong.
You listen and you rephrase what he’s saying, sometimes as a question, sometimes as a statement.
That’s the key.
You treat the person and their opinions with genuine respect as a legitimate expression of their feelings, rather than dismissing or marginalizing them.
It doesn’t mean that you have to agree with everything that he is saying. But you keep your disagreement and your (“logical”) arguments to yourself.
In that second, all that you are doing is letting your partner feel that his feelings, his emotions are valid.
His emotions and feelings are validated – that’s why it’s called “Validation” after all.
I wrote down this key sentence:
Feelings that are expressed and validated with empathy are relieved.
That’s all that matters.
I highly recommend watching this great 10 minute TEDx talk by Naomi Feil, the creator of Validation Theory: