We are all longing to feel seen and heard, to receive validation that our experience matters. That we matter. The last few months have been especially challenging. For many, the uncertainty we have been experiencing can feel overwhelming at times. And whenever our loved ones or friends are facing struggles and adversity, there is one powerful thing we can each do is to support them.
We can start by validating their pain instead of immediately encouraging them.
“When you trust that your pain is/was real, you’ll trust your joy more,” Danielle LaPorte.
When someone is struggling and opens up to you, they are choosing to be brave and vulnerable. I’ve been there, and in some of those really low moments I have been told, “You got this!”
But I didn’t actually feel like “I got this.”
Here’s the truth, hearing this didn’t make me feel better. In fact, I was left feeling demoralized and much worse off. Those three words may seem like they are uplifting and empowering to someone who is in pain or really struggling, but they’re not. When someone is at their lowest, there can be shame in asking for help. What they truly need instead of encouragement in those moments is someone to listen to their struggles. Someone to support them.
At the times when I don’t “got this” and am struggling I’d rather hear, “You’re going through a hard time. I’m here for you,” or “That makes sense. Do you want to talk more about it?” or “Wow, that sounds really challenging. How can I help?”
When I hear these words I feel like my feelings actually matter and that I’m not wrong or crazy for feeling that way. This acknowledgment strengthens the connection and trust I have with my true feelings, and that is empowering and uplifting.
The most powerful gift you can give someone going through a difficult time is validation for what they are feeling and experiencing. Non-judgmental, open, and honest validation. We can reserve “You got this!” for moments when someone needs some encouragement, like before going into an interview or exam. Context matters and knowing when someone needs support instead of encouragement is essential for them to feel like their experience truly matters. This is how we can show each other we truly care and give each other support and strength when we need it most.
If extra support beyond friends and family is needed, online counseling can be a good option. And for counselors in the local area, see our article on Counselors in Fargo-Moorhead: When & How to Get Help.
This article was inspired by a post in The Relationship School Community Facebook group How to Validate Someone in 3 Words.