Invalidation of Feelings
When you are in a relationship, it’s easy to fall into the trap of invalidating your partner’s feelings. It might feel like the right thing to do—after all, if they’re not happy, then why should you be? You have valid feelings. But this approach only digs a deeper hole for both parties. If you want to make things better in your relationship or just learn how to communicate more effectively with your loved one (or friends), here are four ways that you can respond when someone else is invalidating yours:
Express your feelings and why you are feeling that way.
So you’re feeling like your feelings are invalidated, and you want to say something about it. The first thing to remember is that you don’t have to be aggressive or mean to express yourself. There are many ways of saying “no” without being aggressive or mean! Here are some examples:
- “I would really like for my feelings not to be invalidated by someone else every time I talk about them. Can we work on this?” (Not an aggressive way at all!)
- “When someone tells me that my feelings aren’t valid, what am I supposed to do? Just let it go? That doesn’t sound very helpful or fair at all! Let’s try something different instead—maybe we can find another way of looking at things so that both parties feel heard.”
Keep a composed tone of voice.
- Keep a composed tone of voice.
- Don’t get defensive, emotional or sarcastic.
- Don’t get angry, loud or aggressive.
- Don’t be mean or passive-aggressive
Focus on the facts, and avoid speculation.
You might have the best intentions in mind, but it’s important to remember that your feelings are valid—and the other person doesn’t need to know that. This is especially true if you’re trying to get them on board with a difficult subject.
When you’re communicating about something emotional, try using “I” statements rather than making assumptions about what the other person is thinking or feeling. For example: “I feel upset because…,” not: “You should feel bad.” It may seem like an obvious tip, but often times our first instinct when someone invalidates our feelings is to jump straight into negotiation or blame-shifting behavior (or both). By focusing on the facts and avoiding speculation altogether, we can avoid getting trapped into a cycle of fighting back against each other over who gets their way instead of working together toward mutual resolution.”
Ask for validation in return.
- Ask for validation in return. People often invalidate our feelings, but this doesn’t mean that we have to stay silent. If you’re feeling hurt and want someone to validate your emotions, ask them if they’d like to hear more about why you’re upset or how they can better understand what’s going on with your life.
- Ask questions that let people know that they’re not alone with their feelings (and sometimes even help them find ways of coping). For example: “How did I get here?” or “What do I need right now?” These types of statements are much more likely than generalizing statements such as “I’m upset” or “It doesn’t seem fair.” The goal is simple: get someone talking!
You can ask for what you want without being aggressive or mean.
If you’re feeling invalidated, here are some ways to respond:
- Be specific. Describe what you want as if your life depended on it. For example: “I would like to go out with friends after work tonight. Is that possible?” or “I find your comment offensive and uncalled for; please stop talking about me like I’m not even here.”
- Be polite, clear and direct (don’t be lazy). Avoid vague language like “you don’t understand,” which implies that only someone who understands will be able to help (and who does that really help?). Instead of saying something along the lines of “You’re being rude,” try saying something like “Please don’t speak about my feelings without my consent.” Your tone should also be firm with no room for negotiation—no “buts” or “ifs” allowed!
It’s important to remember that everyone has their own experiences, and it can be tough to understand what someone else is feeling. However, if you respect their feelings and acknowledge that they are valid, you will help them feel less invalidated by asking for validation in return. This is the best way to help someone understand the validity of their own emotions—and why they deserve to feel validated when they do!