Validating Others is a Win-Win Practice

One of the most common complaints expressed by mates during couple therapy is that one or both do not feel valued, respected, appreciated or positively regarded by the other. Why would these attributes command such a primary role in the comfort and security of committed partners

The need to be positively regarded is essential in all human interactions. Babies instinctively seek loving cues from their parents as essential elements in securing their need fulfillment and survival. All other relationships are founded on a reciprocal emotional responsiveness that safeguards our need fulfillment.

In 1938 Psychologist Henry Murray published “Exploration of Personality” in which he termed “Psychogenic Needs” as “Universal basic needs that function on an unconscious level, but can play a major role in our personality.” His five categories of needs included, “Ambition, Materialistic, Power, Affection, and Information.”

Being validated by another individual, particularly one’s significant beloved is crucial in supporting all of the above needs.

Charles T. Schmidt, Jr. a Labor Researcher at The University of Rhode Island defined Affirming Behaviors as “The words and deeds of others that act to reinforce an individual’s self-perceptions of competencies, traits, and values that validate one’s self concept.” He added, “To preserve and sustain our self-concept we are attracted to people who make us feel good. Self Concept Motivation theory predicts that the greater degree to which individuals affirm our self-concept, the more we like them and the more we are attracted to them. Likewise, we avoid and tend to dislike invalidators with whom we come in contact.”

A committed love relationship serves as a major fundamental anchoring support of our emotional and psychological wellbeing. We need the ongoing affirmation of our worthiness to be expressed on a regular basis by our beloved. Those who consider this a weakness or excessive dependence on a partner or a tiring “neediness and weakness” are mistaken or ill-informed.

All mammals are dependent on the affirmation of their owners. Any dog or cat owner knows all too well how responsive his pet is to attention, petting, cuddling, reassurance, and loving words. Why then, are we surprised or sometimes impatient with providing validation, appreciation, verbal encouragement and support to our mate?

Since being thought well of by others is sought by all, affirming any individual we relate to empowers and pleases him/her, increases that person’s efficacy and enhances us as decent beings as we create mutually rewarding human exchanges with others.

Practice validating others:

  • Will yourself to say something positive, supportive or appreciative to anyone you encounter in life.
  • Trust that affirming a service provider, a clerk, waitperson, colleague, friend and your spouse, enriches him/her and you at the same time.
  • Be kind even if the other individual has not lived up to the expected level of performance. Say, “We all have off days.” “That was very hard. You did your best and I appreciate your efforts.”

Validate your partner daily for behaviors, thoughts, feelings or actions he/she exhibits.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life.

Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions.

Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column “Relationship Matters” for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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