“Why is it we sometimes say the nastiest things to the person we love the most? How is it that seemingly simple negotiations sometimes end up with partners screaming at each other? Most importantly, how can we learn to stop long-standing patterns of destructive conflict and develop the skills to talk and listen in ways that lead to understanding, validation, negotiation and closeness?”

Dr. Alan Fruzzetti, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Nevada, Reno poses these questions and more in his research on interpersonal processes and emotion. He introduces us to six levels of validation. Utilized with effective interpersonal strategies, one can accurately express one’s emotions and reach a level of understanding that can lead to more fulfilling and healthy relationships.

Levels of Validation

  1. Basic attention. Actively acting interested; listening, providing full attention, nonverbal behavior consistent with attending, observing, clarifying.
  2. Accurately acknowledging the other’s disclosures; convey understanding of facts of the situation and the person’s perspective.
  3. Articulating what has not been said. Offering ideas about what the other might want/feel/think, etc., in an empathic way; helping the other to clarify for themselves. Asking questions to help clarify what the person has not verbalized.
  4. Validating in Context of Past learning or biological dysfunction. Person’s behavior is adaptive in context it was learned.
  5. Validation of present context. Normalizing other’s behavior (any type) given present circumstances.
  6. Radical genuineness. Empathy, acceptance of the person in general; not treating the other as fragile or incompetent, but rather as equal and competent.