We all want it! Don’t we? Why exactly is it so important to thriving in our work, home, relationships? Is it that we want to be heard? Understood? Encouraged?
Maybe you long for your boss to acknowledge how hard you work. Or is it your boss that needs to feel important and respected in his or her position? Do you wish your spouse (or maybe a roommate) would thank you for doing all the dishes, vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom and doing the laundry after a long day at work or taking care of the kiddos?
Think about your conversations with your friends. This topic and awareness of the human need for validation keeps smacking me in the face. A friend reminded me this weekend that everything we talk about can be debated. It made me think. When I was younger I used to love to get in heated discussions, sometimes without a leg to stand on. The ironic thing is now that I actually am educated or have life experience to back up my perspectives, I find myself more annoyed by how argumentative people get if they don’t agree with you.
A few years ago my husband brought to my attention that me an my loud Italian family constantly cut each other off when we’re talking and don’t actually pay attention to what each other is saying. To me, this fact was just our way of showing we were participating and caring about the topic of conversation. To him, who comes from a family of amazingly active, attentive listeners, us cutting each other off was rude! This awareness made me realize why I thought his family was so compassionate and soft spoken. The result: I started working on listening more and asking more questions.
Now, here is the crazy thing I’ve found (most of the time): people get defensive with questions (confirming that his family is on a different spectrum of effective communication than the rest of the world). We’ve become so confrontational as a society and so quick to give our opinions. When someone asks us a question, we think they’re getting ready to tell us what we’re doing wrong. As more studies are done and an increasing amount of information is available to us, we’re becoming more ignorant and close minded. This information should foster an environment for people to make their own educated decisions, but instead it’s stirring up fights all over social media. What are we trying to prove?
Take parenting for example. My friend who’s expecting a baby in a few months posted a comment asking if anyone had a couple specific baby information books she could borrow as she prepares for this amazing and exciting journey. I was appalled at the responses. Her simple question was followed by a floodgate of people vomiting their opinions on those particular parenting philosophies; sharing how wonderful their kids turned out because of everything they did “right”. One person went as far as saying one of the philosophies has actually killed babies.
It’s just not fair! Parenting is one of the most rewarding adventures, and everyone thinks its their right to tell moms what they should and should not be doing. My favorite is when other moms tell me how easy I have it compared to them. When I wasn’t a mom I got the you-just-don’t-understand tone, “oh just wait until you have a baby.” Now that I am a Mom I get, “oh, just wait until he’s older, now is when it’s easy,” or “just wait until you two kids,”the best was, “you’re not really a mom ’til you have two.” Really? Is me thinking this is extremely rude because I need validation as a mom? Or are these moms so under appreciated they need to put other people down so THEY feel validated? What moms really need is to support each other and, yes, learn from each other, but not judge how each is raising her child(ren)!
Does this need for validation come from insecurity? Or is it just apart of the human experience of community? How do arguments or misunderstandings happen in the first place? Is it because we’re so anxious to be heard that we’re not listening to the other person.
Recently, my friend was going through a really difficult situation and needed to process her thoughts and talk out how she was feeling. Rather than allowing her to express herself, her other friends turned the situation into how they were emotionally affected by the circumstances and how upset it made them. Empathy and sympathy are both necessary at times, but so is discerning when its best to simply be quiet and let someone else talk.
What would happen in our relationships if we all just stopped thinking about the next thing to say and started appreciating the way other people think? We’re taught to ask good questions, which is important, don’t get me wrong, but are we spending too much time thinking about the next question that, again, we’re not actually listening? If everyone is seeking to be heard and understood, then questions really aren’t that important because we already have our mind made up of what we are wanting to say, right?
I’m not by any means claiming to be the best in this area. In fact, maybe because I’ve seen it as a personal weakness is the reason I’m so passionate about it. So, I’m getting off my soapbox now, but I really want your
validation opinion on this topic! 🙂
Well, until my munchkin’s next nap time: I encourage you to smile, lighten up, start listening, start loving, start appreciating differences. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with everyone! Please, no! Autonomy is boring! Just look at the person talking and hear her heart rather than the subject with which you may or may not agree.