Monthly Archives: January 2018

Validation: What is it, Really?

Dear Reader,

Last week, we talked about kindness, and we’ll return to that again. This week, let’s explore “validation”, which edges into kindness territory in some ways, but goes mostly into the realm of politeness.

What is validation, anyway? In my experience, it’s mostly about letting someone know they’ve been heard and understood. Paying attention. Not agreed with, not accepted, not endorsed, but only heard and understood. I think the majority of folks fear that if they listen to anything that doesn’t coincide with their own view, they open themselves up to trouble, idea/philosophical conversion, or something even more dangerous. Not necessarily true. Aristotle said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to entertain a thought without accepting it.” It seems as if validation was an issue even in ancient Greece. Validating is only about paying attention.

Why do you think it’s called “paying attention”? We pay with energy, effort, and sometimes great skill. Attention – both giving and receiving it — is not to be taken lightly. Studies have shown that any attention, positive or negative, is better than being ignored. Let’s be honest, at least with ourselves. What happens to us when we are ignored (another way to put it is “not validated”)? Nothing good, that’s for sure. We either become enraged or depressed when we realize we’re not being paid attention to. In either case, what is really being communicated is not what was intended by either the message sender, or the message receiver.

It seems to me that many of us go through a conversation waiting for the other person to stop talking so we can throw our two cents out there. Actually listening to what the other person is saying and what they really mean takes some work. And time. Being part of a conversation, even if only listening, is an active thing. In fact, there are tons of articles, posters, and audio-visual products talking about how important active listening is to effective interaction with another living thing. My Google search produced 23,200,000 entries on the subject.

Validation is one of those absolutely must-haves when you’re trying to get your message across. Or to make sure you’re accurately getting someone else’s message. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the same one I used last time, the third meaning of “validate” is “to substantiate, verify.” The only thing a listener is substantiating or verifying is that the speaker is expressing his or her position on an issue and that the speaker was heard and understood.

There is one critical underlying principle in all this validation business: The speaker, in and of him-or herself, has as much value as the listener. Period. The speaker, simply by being on the planet, has as much right as you to express him- or herself. We’re not talking about economic utility or moral behavior, but of a living thing’s intrinsic value. Just by virtue of being alive, a being has value.

So, where does that leave us? Remember what Aristotle said. Listen to and understand the other. You don’t have to accept the idea. It doesn’t hurt; it just takes paying attention. And isn’t that a kinder way to be?

Next time, we’ll delve into the differences between kindness, politeness, and thoughtfulness.

Warmest regards,



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2018, the Year to Be Kind

Dear Reader,

The sixth year of owning this blog has snuck up on me and I realize that, in my opinion (IMO), I have yet to say, or share, something substantive. What do I really mean by that? I want to provide something here that gives you a reason to come to this space, take the time to read and think about what I wrote, and go away with something that makes your life even a little bit better in some way. It doesn’t have to be major or profound, just worth your time and attention.

So where do we start? What would you like to read about here? What makes you feel more able to deal with whatever gets thrown in your way? Learning something new (although I don’t know what you already know)? Seeing a different way of looking at something? Learning to feel differently about something or someone? Improving your physical/mental/emotional/spiritual health without obsessing about it or spending oodles of money on it? What?

After thinking about it for most of the day, it occurred to me that the one thing we can all do, and get a really big return on our investment (which does NOT have to involve any money), is to be kind. To everyone and everything. And you know what’s really cool is that it doesn’t take much at all to be kind.

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition (1982, Houghton Mifflin Company), the first definition of “kind” is “of a friendly, generous, or warmhearted nature.” Being kind is not about being a doormat, gushing at folks, or acting against our values, but it can take us out of our comfort zones on occasion. Being kind is a premeditated attempt to make someone’s experience – large or small – better (whereas being cruel is a premeditated attempt to make someone’s experience worse).

Some examples of kind acts are: letting a person in ahead of you in line (any line); giving your seat to someone older, weaker, or more infirm than you on a public conveyance; offering to help someone with packages, pets, or small children. I came up with these three in less time than it took to type them. You can probably come up with ten or so off the top of your head.

Being kind doesn’t have to be active. It’s a mindset. Let me repeat that. Kindness. Is. A. Mindset. Listening without interrupting in order to understand another’s point of view is kind (although, good manners would put it as standard operating  procedure). Waiting without fussing until someone is finished doing whatever they’re doing is kind. Not eavesdropping on someone’s telephone conversation is kind.

Or are we straying into the realm of polite?

Does it matter? The words kind and polite are often used together. Polite is the absolute minimum for appropriate interaction between humans; it can be kinda cold (hence the phrase “chilly politeness”). Kind, on the other hand, implies some warmth in the interaction, and we all can use all the warmth we can get.

Next time, we’ll get into “validation.” And in this day and age, who doesn’t need all the validation they can get?


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