What Do You Say When You Don’t Know What to Say?

A crash course in validation for these pandemic times.

9/17/2020 7:09:00 AM

When a friend confides in you, it's tempting to try to 'fix' their problem. But what they need most may be someone who can listen and validate their difficult emotions. Here's how to do that.

A crash course in validation for these pandemic times.

1. Listen — be curious about what the person is telling you.2. Repeat the feeling or thought that the person is sharing with you. You can say things like:“Sounds like you feel reallyright now.”“You’re frustrated by people telling you how you’re supposed to feel.”

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3. Keep in mind that you don’t need to agree with what the person is saying — you only need to listen for the feeling or thought and repeat it to make sure that you understand and that the person feels heard.For example, instead of saying “Yes, you will never have enough money to move out of your mother’s house," say “You’re feeling hopeless that you may never have enough money to move out of your mother’s house."

4. Keep the focus on the other person. It’s OK (although not necessary) to say that you identify with how the person is feeling, but don’t launch into a long narrative about the time you lost your favorite pair of shoes.5. Try not to offer advice. Although attempting to “fix” the problem may make you feel better, allowing space for the other person to express themselves is likely to make them feel better.

If the person really does seem to be looking for advice or help, you can always ask to clarify. Try “Are you asking for my opinion?” or “Would you like me to help you update your resume?”6. Still don’t give advice. For my husband who just asked: “But when do you get to give advice?” the answer is Never. Nope. Never.

When you listen to someone and validate their experience, you are communicating that you understand and accept them. By holding back your advice, at least in that moment, you are expressingconfidence Read more: Psychology Today »

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