Validating feelings for ourselves and others is extremely important for mental health and emotional stability. Validating feelings does not mean we agree with the reasoning or feel the same way (as another person), it means that we can genuinely tell others that we understand how they are feeling. Validation does not encourage unhealthy emotional responses or behavior; on the contrary, acknowledgment reduces shame and avoidance of feelings and often allows feelings to diminish on their own. Allowing people to feel “okay” with having their feelings promotes self-awareness and an improved ability to cope and problem solve.
How to validate someone’s feelings? Listen, reflect what you heard the person say they are feeling (e.g., “it sounds like you are frustrated”), genuinely state how you imagine it must be to be in that state (e.g., “it must be difficult to feel that way”), if appropriate normalize or praise having feelings (e.g., “I understand how you could feel that way”, “good job identifying your feelings”), offer support (e.g., “is there anything I can do?”). Do NOT judge, minimize, shame, or give advice!