Conflict #13 – Validation

Years ago I worked with a young married couple, “Jack and Jill”, who had conflict with Jack’s father, “Bill”. Bill was a successful businessman. Bill and his wife, “Betty”, had been married for thirty-five years.

Jack and Jill came for counseling because they were so upset by Bill’s “my way or the highway” attitude – and Betty’s silence – that Jack and Jill stopped seeing them for a year. Bill and Betty did not see their grandchildren during that year. They were offended and hurt.

I worked mainly with Jack and Jill, but his parents participated in a couple of sessions. The situation was instantly clear. Bill was dominant, Betty submissive. He did most of the talking. She did all the crying. At one point in family counseling session Jack said he always felt put down and degraded by Bill. The dad’s words went something like this: “How can you say that? You have no reason to feel like that. It’s wrong. You shouldn’t feel like that.” Then he looked at me for support. He didn’t get it.

Jack was expressing an emotion, a feeling. When it comes to feelings, there is no ‘should’ about it. We can’t choose our emotions when they pop up. We can choose how to adjust after we’ve acted badly, if that’s called for. That’s different.

When you have conflict with someone, never, ever say you “should” or “shouldn’t”, as in “You shouldn’t feel that way.” Do not reject or deny the feelings, needs or opinions of another person. Instead, validate the other person’s feelings. That does not mean you like it. It simply means you respect the other person’s right to self-expression and to communicate how they feel.

The instant you deny another person’s emotions, you’re saying, I don’t respect or care how you feel. the other person feels rejected and hurt. The defenses go up and communication stops.

Have you ever rejected or criticized another person’s feelings? If so, and the conflicts didn’t always get resolved, don’t blame the other person. Instead, call me for a free consultation, at 219-309-3928. I’ve been coaching people on conflict resolution since 2004. If you’re honestly interested in learning how, I can coach you, too.

Thanks for reading!