Validation Doesn’t Mean Agreement, It Means Understanding

Imagine your partner confronts you. The house is a mess, and they feel like they’re the one trying to keep things together.

Now, your initial internal reaction is probably to feel offended and start creating a mental list of all the things you do. One thing you almost definitely aren’t doing is thinking about how you agree with them.

But here’s the thing. Explaining how wrong they are — likely in a defensive tone — isn’t going to solve anything. In fact, it’s likely to escalate the situation further, possibly leading to a fight.

Does that mean that you have to suck it up and agree with them — even when you don’t? No.

That can be just as bad. Because they don’t really want agreement. They want validation.

What does that mean?

The Need For Validation

In short, we feel validated when we feel truly heard. And this matters a lot, because knowing we are heard by our partner is one of the most essential aspects of feeling close.

What does it take to make your partner feel heard?

You need to suspend your point of view. Ignore that voice that says, “But you’re wrong!” Or “I don’t agree with that.”

Instead, focus on what they say they’re experiencing. Tell them: “What you’re saying makes sense to me.” And reassure them that you don’t think they’re crazy, irrational, or wrong. Show how you understand their concerns.

Struggling to stay focused and calm in the middle of interactions like this? Try downloading our book and reading Key #4 on communication. 

Couples often clash over differing points of view. But you can ignore this urge. Each of us is entitled to our own unique point of view. And we can build safety with each other to air those points of view.

In fact, once someone feels understood, they are often more likely to listen to another point-of-view. More open to listening to your thoughts and feelings on the matter.

Showing This Kind of Understanding Is Not the Same as Agreement

Validation does not equal agreement. It equals understanding. You can validate your partner’s point of view and still keep your own.

When both of you feel safe to express yourselves in this way, you’ll often find that you discover a fresh new point of view that combines the best in each. And that resolves the issue in a way that makes both of you feel better.