Or, let’s play: Spot The Hypocrism.
Validation is one of those things that people require and demand from others, and which they often never think of offering to others.
Spot the hypocrism.
This is a bunch of further thoughts I had after writing this post
This was going to be a bit of a rant, but I just couldn’t summon up enough energy to have a proper rantfest about this issue. At another time I might have had a bit of a jump around breaking things over this, but at the moment it only saddens me. This is partly because:
- I’ve been suffering without a really exceptionally yummy biscuit for longer than I care to admit
- I’m depressed by finding yet more evidence (as if anybody needed it) of the epic legion of unknowingly damaged psyches all over the place
- I’m further depressed by watching all those damaged psyches obliviously committing hypocrisms hither and yon, whilst all the time they’re tripping merrily along singing tra la – the thingy-oh
- I still endure the deprivation of such quality biscuitness as no sensualist should be without (the importance of this cannot be over stressed)
- And if this weren’t bad enough, I am extra bonus depressed by
- watching all the damaged, hypocrismical, singing psyches blithely abandoning what I call “ordinary vanilla manners” (if they ever had any in the first place)
- and using the feeblest of excuses for doing so (my dog ate them)
Essentially, this is a rantfest, minus the fest, and without the chutzpah.
Ok, back (or onward, whatever) to validation.
I do not regard validation as something necessary or unique to BDSM and its participants. I regard validation as an example of respectful manners which, whilst it is frequently missing from “vanilla” interactions, it is even more frequently missing from BDSM interactions, as well as from many other non-mainstream diverse groups.
In short, this is about (and for) those people who bitch about not being validated by others, when those same people are unprepared (or more likely unable) to offer validation to others.
- (there’s that hypocrism I was mentioning, didja spot it?)
I searched the web, I searched Wikipedia, and I searched Wiktionary. I looked in my bedside table, behind the cushions of the sofa, and under the bed. Admittedly, my search was rather cursory, although I did maintain an awareness that one often finds things in the last place one looks.
So I also checked behind the fridge and under that big pile of stuff I’ve had in the corner for awhile. And then I checked teh intarwebz again. Considering the importance and scope of this topic in human interactions, I found incredibly few articles addressing this subject. Most of them were about technical validation in a wide variety of IT related topics.
This closest relevant resource I found, was this Wikipedia disambiguation page, which has buried within it (with no onward relevant link to any page with further detail about it) this definition:
- “In psychology and human communication, validation is the reciprocated communication of respect which communicates that the other’s opinions are acknowledged, respected, heard, and (regardless whether or not the listener actually agrees with the content), they are being treated with genuine respect as a legitimate expression of their feelings, rather than marginalized or dismissed.”
I think this is a rather convoluted, vague, and incomplete definition. Wikipedia usually does so much better.
I would rephrase it thusly:
- Validation: A communicative behaviour, in which one human being recognises, acknowledges, and affirms the value, importance, and legitimacy of a second human being’s opinions, feelings, efforts, and/or contributions, and that recognition, acknowledgment, and affirmation is made directly to that second human being.
It was very disappointing to have to create an entire whole definition all by myself when there is a whole internet’s worth of neurotics out there, many of whom are likely to have extremely good biscuit suppliers.
But I guess nobody else noticed that validation is that important.
One lesson I have learnt and had reinforced over and over again by repeated observation, is that it is difficult if not impossible for human beings to conceptualise an idea, if the person does not have a name or a term assigned to that idea.
I mean, you can’t call a puppy and expect him to respond to his name if he doesn’t have one.
I have also observed again and again that many people may be perfectly aware of word meanings, especially in the way those word meanings apply to other people, whilst at the same time remaining completely oblivious to how those word meanings apply in practice to their own behaviour.
Like, the puppy can associate a name with the person speaking it, but might never learn that the name applies to him.
- (sometimes it might just appear as though puppies are smarter than people)
And further to that, there are a lot of terms which are really very general and vague and not very helpful when used by themselves, because without specifics, they really don’t convey much meaning. Most people feel comfortable with many of those terms and assume that they know what they mean, and for some reason never wake up to the fact that they haven’t a clue about what those words mean in terms of their actual behaviour.
Common examples of this are terms such as:
and so on.
For example, most people seem very aware when their own diversity is excluded by others, but for the most part seem genuinely quite blissfully unaware when they themselves exclude the diversity of others.
You know those times when somebody is denouncing some really nasty behaviour, and it is pointed out to them that they do precisely the same thing as the thing they are denouncing?
And you know what it’s like when they turn to you, and calmly, and totally believing themselves, and absolutely without irony of any kind, they say:
- “”Oh, no, but that’s different.”
Dontcha just hate that?!
- (that would be another example of that depressing [and infuriating] oblivious hypocrism I mentioned earlier)
This kind of selective obliviousness really makes me want to jump up and down and fling noisy breakables at very firm stationary objects.
But it’s sad too, because it doesn’t really help me feel optimistic about the human condition improving at all anytime soon.
Although most people may very well know the meaning of the term “open-minded”, it has been brought to my attention many times that most people are really not aware of what it means, in practice, to actually incorporate open-mindedness towards others into their own behaviour.
My practical experience of most people’s open-mindedness, is that their minds are about as open as a bank at midnight on a Sunday.
I have found that most people’s open-mindedness, no matter what they say to the contrary, is never as open as as they say it is.
- (which is to say, not as open as the door of a fridge in a Jewish home)
Just like the difficulty with open-mindedness, I find the same problem with communication. Most people hear the term “communication”, and assume that they know what is meant. Yet there are always things which are unclear until they are explicitly specified:
- Communication by whom?
- Communication to whom?
- Communicated where?
- Communicated how?
- Communication of what content?
- Communication for what reason?
- Communication for achieving what end(s)?
Without knowing the answers to those questions, I think that the term “communication” all by itself is just about meaningless. Yet most people seldom stop to consider that “communication” itself is only the vaguest of terms, which comprises many vital elements within it. For example, “validation”, in my opinion, is just one of the many elements required before “communication” becomes meaningful.
I mean, there is a vast chasm of difference between:
- A meal was cooked.
- To thank me for a favour I’d done for her, my friend spent ages at her home preparing and serving me a delectable Italian dinner, which I enjoyed immensely.
To thank me for a favour I’d done for her, [what end]
my friend [by whom]
spent ages (preparing and serving) [how]
at her home [where]
preparing and serving (for) me [to whom]
a delectable Italian dinner [what content]
which I enjoyed immensely [what reason].
It may be of interest to note in this example that the gift of the meal may legitimately be regarded as my friend validating me for doing her the favour, and my enjoyment of the meal (if I express my enjoyment explicitly to her) might legitimately be regarded as me validating my friend for her culinary efforts.
My friend validating me for the favour I did for her is really what I think the “what reason” was all about in the above example. Thanking me was the end goal, and validation was the reason for the thanks.
Or, one might describe my favour for my friend, and my friend validating me for my favour, as:
- A favour for a flavour, and a flavour for a favour.
Heh. Sorry. :)
It seems that most people (if not all) are at least subconsciously aware of the beneficial and positive effects they experience from being validated by others (in the sense outlined above), even if they aren’t aware that “validation” is what’s happening.
I’m sure you’ve all heard somebody bitching vociferously at least once in your life about how everybody is so ungrateful and how they never get appreciated enough for all their hard work and so on and so on and son on.
(yes, it gets old for me too)
If any of the incoming validation which people expect or require is insufficient for their needs or altogether absent (even if they don’t have a term for what they’re bitching about), my experience is that much bitchness will ensue, therein.
However, few people seem to be aware of the positive benefits they may achieve in their human interactions by offering validation to others, in the same ways which they require validation from others.
- please note the hypocrism of requiring without offering.
Clearly, a person may easily enjoy a validating experience without having to recognise or identify it. Obviously I might have enjoyed that Italian dinner every bit as much without having to specially recognise that my friend was using the meal to express her validation for the the favour I did for her.
Even if I hadn’t consciously recognised that my friend was “validating” me, my subconscious will have taken note of the validatory content of the exchange and found it profoundly satisfying, even if I hadn’t consciously associated the term “validation” with that experience.
But if a person doesn’t precisely and consciously identify “validation” by name as incoming behaviour which they require and recognise, then I don’t think it’s really possible for a person to assimilate “validation” into their own behaviour to the point where they are able to generate that behaviour for others.
I don’t think the difficult part is knowing what “validation” means. I think the difficult part is observing incoming validation, being able to properly recognise it, and then being able to generate that same behaviour appropriately.
I think everybody knows that listening to and understanding somebody speaking a foreign language is much easier than speaking that foreign language themselves. I believe this is another flavour of the same problem.
So, here is a primer on how to incorporate validation into your own behaviour, and hopefully achieve some positive results. :)
Welcome to Validation 101. Hopefully this will make it clearer how to validate others in ways which you yourself would prefer to be validated. It is my opinion that the more people do this, the more people will be aware of how to do it for others.
Or maybe not.
But anyhow, it’s an effort. You may validate me in the comments if you wish.
(which I’d like a lot :) )
1. Your Feelings
Your feelings are vital indicators to you about all kinds of things. Your feelings will tell you unmistakably whether you are genuinely being validated or not. Your feelings and instincts always convey very valuable and important information, even if that information isn’t what you expect.
So please listen to your feelings. If you don’t, then it will not be possible to self-validate, which is the first step in being able to validate others.
- If you can’t validate yourself, then you will not be able to validate others.
Simple ways to do this are to take note of your accomplishments, enjoy the results, and take pride in your efforts.
In any human interaction, if you feel any of the following:
then chances are you have genuinely been validated.
3. Not Receiving
If, on the other hand, in any human interaction, you feel any of the following:
Then you are very likely to have just been invalidated.
To be fair, it doesn’t take much to invalidate somebody. Simple inaction will do it.
Validating is a bucketload harder than invalidating.
- (which explains why there’s so much invalidating going on and hardly any validating)
1. People Are Not Mind Readers
However much you make use of somebody’s gift, or enjoy their efforts, or agree with their opinions, or however smart or intuitive somebody might be, other people are unlikely to be able to read your mind to determine whatever sentiments you have, unless you tell them in detail using so many words.
- No matter how obvious you think your feelings are to other people, your feelings are unlikely to be obvious to others unless you describe your feelings explicitly to them.
- No matter whether other people have guessed correctly how they think you feel or not, they are unikely to penalise you if you express your appreciation using explicit words.
- No matter whether you think you’ve communicated your appreciation of somebody in vague words or deeds, they are unlikely to penalise you if you repeat your appreciation to them explicitly.
2. Not All Things Are Little Things
Just as you might sometimes feel that a little favour you’ve done for somebody might not have been a big deal for you, but was a big deal to them, sometimes something which may seem like a small favour done for you might have been a large effort for somebody else.
- No matter how insignificant a favour or effort might appear to you, the person who benefitted you will still benefit from you expressing your appreciation explicitly and directly to them.
- No matter how little time a person spent on something to benefit you, explicitly expressing your appreciation to them will probably take less time than they invested for your benefit.
3. Incidental Benefits
Just because another person has already expressed appreciation to an individual for their effort which benefitted both the other person and you, there is nothing stopping you from also expressing your own appreciation for that individual’s effort which has incidentally benefitted you.
- No matter how many other people have already expressed their appreciation, human beings do not generally have a limit on the number of people from whom personal and genuine appreciation can be enjoyed.
- No matter how indirectly something has benefitted you, and how unintentional that benefit was, if you benefitted, then the person who benefitted you deserves and is entitled to your explicitly expressed appreciation, just as you would appreciate, deserve, and be entitled to an expression of appreciation from a person whom you inadvertently benefitted.
4. Validation Is Effective Regardless Of Benefit Received
Just as you would appreciate some acknowledgment of the value of your efforts, even if they did not result in achieving your goal, it is very important and worthwhile to acknowledge your appreciation of the value of other people’s efforts, regardless of whether you benefitted from those efforts.
- It is not necessary for you to have directly experienced a tangible benefit, in order for you to express positive appreciation to a person for their attempts to benefit you.
- It is possible to achieve a tangible benefit (in terms of human relationships) from expressing your genuine appreciation to a person for their efforts on your behalf, even if the person’s effort in itself did not result in a related tangible benefit for you.
- If a person has exerted themselves on your behalf, even if that effort did not tangibly benefit you, the resulting good will from your expressed appreciation WILL encourage that person to exert themselves again on your behalf at some unspecified time in future.
5. Validation For Individuals
Every human being is very aware whether they have been validated or not, even if they are not clear on the concept of “validation” itself, and even if they are not clear enough on the concept of “validation” to generate it effectively themselves.
Sometimes people will refer to needing feedback, or acknowledgment, or thanks, or some other related behaviour. All of those are integral parts of validation. Please take note of them so you may recognise when somebody is trying to tell you that they want you to validate them.
Of course, if the person who wants you to validate them is somebody who consistently fails to validate you, then you might want to rethink offering what they do not offer, and possibly point out to them how they are asking for that which they do not offer.
- Individual human beings (whether they are aware of it or not), require validation in all of their interpersonal interactions.
- Individual human beings (whether they are aware of it or not), notice the absence of validation and miss it when it’s not there.
- Individual human beings (whether they are aware of it or not), always benefit from appropriate and genuine validation.
If you want or need somebody to validate you, then ask them.
See above about how people are not mind readers. :)
That’s all. :)
1. Good Will
Maintaining genuine good will is a vital part of maintaining positive ongoing human relationships.
Just as you may feel positively about exerting yourself in future for a person who validates you despite your unsuccessful efforts, so others are likely to feel positively about exerting themselves for you in future if you validate them regardless of the success or failure of their efforts.
- In human relationships, offering validation is vital for maintaining good will REGARDLESS of the success or failure of their efforts.
- Validation is vital for maintaining human relationships, including validation expressed for efforts which didn’t APPEAR to benefit you, since those efforts might well have benefitted you in ways you didn’t notice or expect, or might benefit you in future.
- Your expressed appreciation of a person’s failed attempt to achieve something which was meant to benefit you, WILL encourage them to feel it is worthwhile to them to exert themselves again for your benefit at some time in future. Otherwise they may not bother for you again. I mean, would you?
2. Your Responsibilities
Part of maintaining genuine good will in positive ongoing human relationships is by being responsible for your own behaviour.
Part of being responsible for your own behaviour is by being aware of how to behave appropriately and with respect.
A significant part of appropriate and respectful behaviour is maintaining an awareness that it is unreasonable to expect everybody else to explicitly inform you when and how you make mistakes.
You are an adult, and it is unrealistic to expect other adults to always educate you regarding appropriate and respectful behaviour. It shouldn’t be that difficult for you to work out what kinds of behaviour you would prefer to receive in any situation, or whether a person is pleased with your response at any given time, and then try to reproduce that behaviour appropriately.
Even if doing this is difficult at first, keep at it! The positive results you achieve in your relationships with people important to you will be worth it. :)
Damage to goodwill may not always be apparent. It is a fact that people will not always explicitly express all of their resentments to you when they feel them. After all, you don’t express your resentment each and every time to the people who inspired it, do you?
These resentments can build up, leading to explosions of feeling, arguments, and relationship breakdowns. So in order to avoid these, it is important to be able to be independently aware of when and how to validate appropriately.
- No matter whether they are aware or not that “validation” is what they expect, people DO feel resentment or disappointment when they expect or want validation and do not receive it.
- Unfortunately, not everybody will take it upon themselves to ensure that you know when and how to validate them or others. Do NOT expect to be explicitly informed every time it would benefit you to validate somebody.
- Just as people do not always explicitly express appreciation when they feel it, they also do not always explicitly express resentment when they feel it. Do NOT expect to be explicitly informed every time you should have validated somebody but didn’t.
- It is also unfortunate that it is not other people’s job to educate you how to behave with sufficient respect. If behaving with respect is important to you, then you will educate yourself when and how to do it. Do NOT expect to be explicitly informed every time you have validated somebody insufficiently.
3. When Not To Validate
It is very important NOT to validate if your validation would not be genuine or appropriate.
For example, validating a person who has just burgled your home is unlikely to benefit you.
Or if a friend (however inadvertently) has accidentally driven their car over you and broken your pelvis (or inadvertently harmed you in whatever way), then you are under no obligation to validate them.
- (they may try to blame you for them running you over, but that’s a whole other problem)
Some people seek validation when they do not merit or offer it. And some people unfortunately try to use other people’s validation as a tool to manipulate them. Your feelings will unequivocally tell you if validation is or is not appropriate for any specific person in any situation.
In a situation where you would normally expect your validation to be appropriate, but you also feel any of the following:
- Under pressure
In these cases I think that validation is completely INappropriate.
It makes no sense for you to validate behaviour which you do not wish to encourage.
- Validation must be genuine in order to be effective and worthwhile. So please do not validate if you don’t want to. This is important.
Remember, just as it is nobody else’s job to educate you on how to behave appropriately and respectfully, it is also not your job to educate others on how to behave appropriately and respectfully. So if your feelings are unequivocally telling you that somebody is not respecting you, then there is no reason at all why you should validate them.
In situations such as these where your feelings are unequivocally telling you this is a bad situation, then I think the best thing is to simply disengage completely from the situation right then and there, and (if necessary) come back to it later.
I really feel that people primarily and most easily learn by example.
I firmly believe that the more we take responsibility for validating others, the more people will be able to validate us. Hopefully our own improvements will lead to more people learning to validate by example.
I don’t think it’s possible to fix all the broken invalidators out there so that we all get validated as we need.
However, I believe it is possible for us to work on our own validation skills so that we can each behave like better human beings.
- The only thing you need to get started, is the desire to try.
And anyhow, once we can better identify validation as a behaviour, then the people who consistently fail to genuinely validate us will be clearly recognisable and may more easily be avoided. This will be another useful way to help identify those people who are really toxic to us.
I mean, I think we all know people close to us, whom we try and try and try to satisfy, and the way they respond to our efforts nearly always leaves us disappointed and unsatisfied, and sometimes resentful?
To those people in my life, I say:
- Fuck That.
Thank you for wading through the length and breadth of my take on validation. I hope you found it useful and helpful.
You may practice on me by validating me in the comments.
- (that was a request for validation :) )
I look forward to reading your efforts. :)