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Validating with Compassion

Supporting people’s social and emotional well-being is important. You may be the person that someone goes to for support. You may be the person that someone goes to as a sounding board. Think about how you can validate how someone else feels. Who can serve as a model from your own life that has validated your feelings? Think about how you can show them compassion. Compassion is a subjective state. How someone experiences compassion could be feelings of warmth, caring, calm, hopeful or centeredness, just to name a few. Here are some tips to show someone you are listening with compassion and validating how they are feeling:

  • Give verbal responses to show you are listening. Saying simple things like “okay,” “I see.” Alternatively, perhaps you could paraphrase back what they just said to you.
  • Be aware of your body language. Are you facing the person or turned away doing something else? Are you using direct eye contact? Are you showing that you are listening and that you care? Is your body open (arms to your side and hands open) or closed off (arms crossed and hands clenched)?
  • Stay present in the conversation and in the moment. Eye contact, head nods or saying “I am here” can show compassion and validation.
  • Notice if the person is excited, sad, mad or nervous. If they are excited, let your tone and expression be excited too. If they are anxious or nervous, be understanding and comforting. You may mirror those expressions or feelings, such as “I feel a little bit nervous sometimes too.” You may even repeat words back to them after the person is done sharing their thoughts and feelings. For example, saying, “So you are frustrated that your baseball game was canceled.” “Tell me if this seems right.” “You are sad that you can’t see your parents this weekend.”
  • Empathy and compassion can go a long way during times of uncertainty or when someone is upset. You may have a similar experience, and want to it share with the person to help normalize their feelings. For example, “of course you are worried about … this is worrisome for a lot of people.”
  • Talk with the person and try not to offer unsolicited advice. Give them the space to share and find ways to connect with them.
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