Yesterday as I posted my deconstruction of the difference between validation and affirmation, and its essentialness to bridge building between the GLBT and conservative communities, a reader posed the question:
What a wonderful challenge…I have not mastered that skill without having the feeling I’m conceding to agree. Do you have any practical ways to get over that?
Here is my response:
As practical as I can get, it’s still somewhat theory by nature—which can only start to change by making a daily cognizant choice to reframe your mindset and understanding during those particularly uncomfortable and disagreeable situations within a relationship. Here's what I mean:
The only way that I have found this validation/affirmation construct to become an effective part of someone's life is with a repeated purposefulness throughout each different context of life. For example, unless I CONSTANTLY remind myself that validation is different than affirmation in whatever situation (ESPECIALLY IN THE SITUATIONS THAT SO EASILY MAKE ME RECOIL AND GET DEFENSIVE),
unless I CONSTANTLY vocalize [that validation is different than affirmation] to myself during each time of reflection on the aforementioned situation, I have found it just doesn't sink in for me and I end up no better then when I started.
The best place to start is with the place that makes you most easily revert back to your baseline feelings/judgments/reactions that at the end of the day might seem right to you, but actually end up causing a further divide between you and the other person/situation. These moments of self-reflection are key, because you have to be able to find those certain "push-button" situations/issues first, before you’re able to start applying this construct into everyday life. And unless you're willing to do some digging within yourself, no matter how well intentioned you are to trying to practically use this validation vs. affirmation understanding, it'll never happen—or if it does, it will only superficially last. And that is not the point.
1. Self-reflect to find those moments that most easily make you recoil and get defensive
2. Daily remind yourself in preparation of those moments that validation is different than affirmation, and remind yourself of how that difference is not only important, but how it will play itself out within your current context
3. After the situation, replay it in your head and vocalize to yourself how you could have better implemented the legitimization of the other person’s experiences that have led them to their current spot—recognizing that difference and yet being able to productively move forward within that divisive situation/context.