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Validation—How We Speak Is how We Love

Rachel Alexander May 17, 2016

{4:24 minutes to read} There is a saying that goes, “In heaven, there’s no talking, because men invented heaven.” OK, just kidding. The parable actually is that in heaven, everything is perfect, so speech is unnecessary. Everyone is content, fulfilled, and attuned, so no one need ask for anything.

On Earth, we speak because something’s agitating us, and we need to express it in order to address it, communicate our need to another, be understood, or be acknowledged. We also speak to process things that affect us, to sift through and unravel our experiences and their impact, and to gain understanding.

Often, we need to express that something is wrong.

Often, we speak to connect to another.

When my goddaughter was a very little girl, about 3 or 4, her mother and I were trying to have a conversation in her presence. Her mother—my best friend—and I had very little time to catch up and were both starved to get our thoughts out and converse. My goddaughter, in her blond, Madelinesque preciousness, interrupted unrelentingly. “Sweetheart,” said her mother, “Mommy and Rachel need to talk for a few minutes. Please try not to interrupt.” Almost a minute went by when my goddaughter burst out: “Mommy, I can’t. I need to talk.” Her mother turned to her daughter with a tenderness, not only for her own child but (I thought) for the plight of people everywhere, “Oh baby, it’s okay, I understand. Keep talking.”

We need to talk, to participate, not only to share what is happening within us but to help form and further our own experience. Using language and our own voice helps us form and contextualize the content of our lives. When we speak and also are given the space and respect to be fully heard, the experience of our own aliveness is brightened.

When we converse, we establish how we are with the other person. Talking is the ground where we build our togetherness and our separateness. Our use of language can either trample the other person or sprinkle them with Miracle Grow-infused water. Our communication can be where we diminish and dismiss or value and validate.

What seems to go wrong in a marriage is when communication is used to assault, discount, or overcome the other. And what seems to go right in relationships is when partners maintain a respectfulness and gentleness of speech, when room is held for the other as both separate and important.

When we listen closely and with an interest in understanding the other’s experience, we value and validate them. We acknowledge their “thereness” in a profound way. We nourish them as well as our connection to them.