Validation by the Six Levels

plus Functional Validation and Matching Vulnerability

Validation of others and self-validation are both key skills for emotion regulation and effective interpersonal interactions. You can practice your ability to validate with these suggestions.

Level One: Am I Mindfully Listening?  

Can I listen with empathy, “really paying attention,” putting the paper down, turning the TV off?

I am willing to…

Level Two: Accurate Reflecting and Acknowledging

Say back the essence or gist of what has been expressed. Describe what you observe. Refrain from interpretations, as these likely come from your perspective to make your point. Your acknowledging does NOT depend on agreement. This can allow you to express an accurate understanding of the other’s experience and of the other’s feelings without judgment.

State your nonjudgmental observation of what was said to you:

Level Three: Articulating Unverbalized Emotions or Thoughts

Focus questions on confirming what the other appears to be thinking, feeling, wanting.

Ask a clarifying question from your caring or genuine curiosity:

Level Four: Validation of Causes of Behavior or Experiences

Validate a behavior in terms of causes:

  •  Past learning
  •  Current invalid information (e.g., had the wrong time for an appointment)
  •  Current biological conditions (e.g., hungry, lonely, depressed, manic)

Validate feelings like, “Since your new boss reminds you of your last one, I can see why you’d be scared to meet with her,” or “Since you have had panic attacks on the bus, you’re scared to ride one now.”

Describe how you understand the context of this problem:

Level Five: Validating as Reasonable in the Moment

Communicate that the person’s behavior is reasonable, meaningful, and effective. Validate feelings like, “It seems very normal to be nervous before a job interview – that sure makes sense to me” or “It sounds like you were very clear and direct with your doctor.”

This makes sense to me considering…

Level Six: Radical Genuineness: Expressing Equality and Respect

The other is not seen or related to as a fragile or incapable person. Allow his/her experience without attempting or forcing change.

I am remembering to demonstrate my respect by…

Variation Seven: Matching Vulnerability (from Alan Fruzzetti)

We are self-disclosing to reassure, to validate, to increase safety. This is when we openly express some of our own painful, vulnerable, or sensitive experience that may parallel what our partner is coping with.

I also feel _________ at times…

Variation Eight: Functional Validation: Responding with Action

Offer assistance, act with kindness, offer a hug, reach out to take a hand.

May I…