Category Archives: validation

Practicing intimacy: Intimate communication

Ninth in the series 
Notes on recovery 
Intimacy depends on the quality of communication.
And the first step to raising that quality is by not doing stuff we normally do.
Psychologist Thomas Gordon once famously identified twelve “roadblocks to communication” between parents and children.  It’s a good list to memorize, since each item is essentially a controlling behavior able to destroy intimacy between anyone and anyone else:
1. Ordering or directing
2. Warning or threatening
3. Advising or suggesting
4. Arguing or persuading
5. Lecturing or moralizing
6. Criticizing, judging or blaming
7. Agreeing or praising*
8. Ridiculing or shaming
9. Analyzing or diagnosing
10. Reassuring or sympathizing*
11. Questioning or probing
12. Withdrawing, humoring or distracting
A client with whom I shared this list responded, “What’s left?  Hand signals?”
I sympathize.  We’re so used to these ways of unconsciously controlling each other that it’s hard to imagine doing without them.
But there are alternatives.
I-statements, for example.  Ever notice how any sentence containing the word You tends to make the listener defensive?  I-statements avoid this by focusing on me instead.  I’m confused by what you’re saying, instead of You make no sense.  I’m mad at you, instead of You suck.  Like that.  Which do you think leads to better communication?      
Then there’s feedback, a skill I teach in therapy groups.  Group requires a lot of emotional safety, so to forestall judgments or unsolicited advice members are asked to respond to what they hear by describing only what it made them think, feel or remember.  (When you talk about your anger I remember all the times I lost my temper and how it felt.)   These expanded I-statements not only make it safer for everyone to talk about sensitive issues, they help members get to know each other quickly, and to understand their own reactions and perceptions reactions on a deeper level.
Finally, monologuing is an exercise I teach couples who want to learn intimate communication.  Each partner takes five minutes to list his/her resentments (I resent when you insult my mother) and appreciations (I appreciate when you make coffee so I don’t have to) while the other just listens.  Then they switch roles.  Monologuing’s not meant to settle disputes or solve problems; it’s used to keep the air clear, lines of communication open, and each partner in touch with where the other is emotionally.  It also teaches them to make I-statements, identify feelings, listen without interrupting, and develop empathy.  (I didn’t know you felt that way is a common reaction.) Couples who monologue regularly tell me it becomes a way they can talk safely about almost anything.

___________________

*Yes, items 7 and 10 tend to surprise people.   See here for an explanation of why they inhibit parent/child communication.

 

 

 


The Tribe: Validation

 

You all know me, but not each other.  So let’s find out what you’re doing here. 

Why did each of you join this group?

1

2

 

3therapist 3

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2

member 3

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4

1=

2=

Come on, be honest.  Why are you here?

1

member 4

3

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2=herapist 5

a

It was your idea.

It was your idea.

It was your idea.

It was your idea.

It was your idea.

1=

2 

My idea?  That’s the reason?

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2

member 6

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a

Pretty much.

Pretty much.

Pretty much.

Pretty much.

Pretty much.

1=

 

2=

Hm.

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member 8

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1=

2=

Well, needing to please your therapist isn’t very therapeutic.  Maybe we should rethink this.

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member 9

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What if we cancel groupHow would you feel?

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member 10

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therapist 11

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member 11

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Come on, be brave.  How would you feel about stopping right now?

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member 12

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2=

th

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Yippee.

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t1herapist 14

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Yes.  Yippee.

14

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th2

Yippee also.

 

 

 

Me too.

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th

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Ditto.

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th

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mem

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Huh.  Now you’re all smiling.  

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member 15

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You better be careful.

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member 16

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Someone might mistake you for a group.

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About validation

One of the most important emotional skills is the skill of validation.
It is a skill because it can be learned.
Whether it is or ever will be part of the academic or corporate measures of emotional intelligence, I really don’t know.
But I do know that if you want to have better relationships with people, the skill of emotional validation is extremely useful.
The relationship will be better because with more validation you are going to have less debating, less conflicts, and less disagreement.  You will also find that validation opens people up and helps them feel free to communicate with you.
In fact, if there is a communication breakdown, if there is a wall between you and someone else, it probably has been built with the bricks of invalidation 
Validation is the means of chipping away at the wall and opening the free flow of communication.

~ From “Emotional validation: Introduction” at EQI.org.

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1

Visited

Monkey House

yet?

 

  

No?

What are you waiting for?

 

What’s Monkey House?  Read this.

Then click here to join the conversation.  (Go to “Do you need to register a new member?” at the top.)

We’re asking, “What’s the most difficult control issue you’re facing now?“

A recent exchange:

Hi Bert and Members, 
       Cutting through the fear barrier of speaking out.  Here goes: 

       My control issue:  wanting validation as a person, in an individual sense.
       Always, no matter what the situation, I’m pushed to the outer, disregarded, invalidated and not included, the invisible factor engulfs.  As much as I try, 30+ years of trying, same result.  I can do my job, very well if I may say so myself, and yet everything/everyone stays out of arm’s reach to the point of utter loneliness. Smiley

        Thanks Bert And Steve.  After reading your blog for nearly 6 months, I’ve become aware of how the issue of control infiltrates so many aspect of our lives while recognizing both the healthy and unhealthy aspects of control. Smiley

 

Hey, David.  Thanks for cutting through. Smiley

Odd you should mention validation.  That just happens to be the title of our next Monkeytraps post (due Sunday 5/13.)  It’s also a subject on which we both have thoughts.

Steve:  The need for validation is legitimate, inescapable, and the biggest damn monkeytrap I know, since it forces us to try — endlessly and in countless ways, not always conscious or healthy — to get what we need from other people.  And as with most forms of control, the more of it you need, the less you seem to get.  It’s also why having at least one reasonably healthy relationship is more or less essential to happiness.

Bert:  God, I hate needing validation.  I grew up hungry for it, so hungry that I used to avoid relationships just to avoid being disappointed.  That didn’t work, of course, since it was like starving myself in order to avoid food poisoning.  Eventually I had to take the risk again with people.  A pain in the ass, people, but also the only game in town.

 


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