I recently read “I Hear You” by Michael S. Sorensen. The book discusses the act of validating someone else’s emotions. That is, acknowledging how they feel and not trying to tell them to feel a different way, or present them with a solution to their problem — just validating they have those emotions.
This is really powerful.
In the book, Michael explains that validation has two main elements:
- It acknowledges a specific emotion.
- It offers justification for feeling that emotion.
I have started doing this more in conversations, and it has significantly improved my conversations and relationships with other people. For instance, my wife and I both read the book, and it's helped our communication a lot. Instead of trying to tell each other not to feel a certain way, we just acknowledge one another's emotions.
The truth is there’s nothing inherently good or bad about any emotion. Emotions just are. They’re simply reactions to a situation. Michael S. Sorensen
One of the biggest learnings I had is to not try and immediately solve a problem for someone else. Frequently, someone will come to you with a problem — and while you may think they need your help solving it — they already know what to do. They're just looking for someone to validate that they are experiencing these emotions. "I Hear You" is based on that premise, and it's quite powerful.
Next time someone comes to you, try telling them "That sucks." and "What are you going to do about it?" before you try and give them a solution. You will be amazed at how differently people will respond. They will offer more context, open up, and will feel heard and validated. And that's a huge component to building great relationships.
When we sympathize, we feel for someone because of his or her pain. When we empathize, we feel the pain with them. Michael S. Sorensen