Practical Applications for Validation vs. Affirmation

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),

and,

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.

In summary:

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.

Any follow-ups?

Much love.
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About Andrew Marin

Andrew Marin is President and Founder of The Marin Foundation (www.themarinfoundation.org). He is the award winning author of two books and a DVD curriculum, and his new book 86%: Groundbreaking Research on the LGBT Community and Religion, will release November 2015. Since 2010 Andrew has been asked by the United Nations to advise their various agencies on issues of bridging opposing worldviews, civic engagement, and theological aspects of reconciliation. He is currently based St. Andrews, Scotland where he is researching and teaching at the University of St. Andrews, earning his PhD in Constructive Theology and Ethics. His research focuses on the theology and praxis of social reconciliation between victims and their perpetrators. Andrew is married to Brenda, and you can find him elsewhere on Twitter (@Andrew_Marin), Facebook (AndrewMarin01), and Instagram (@andrewmarin1).

  • JDESJARD

    Great ideas. I would imagine this is easier said than done for probably just about everyone. I also think a key element in all of this would be giving up the right to be right. Being right, whether you are or not, doesn't always matter in the end. I really like being right though :)Thanks again for your thoughts.

  • lbcarizona

    The clarity here is good, Andy…I think I'm tracking with you on the topics in these last 3-ish posts. Do you think you can give an example or two as to what this maybe has looked like for you in the past, without somehow being disrespectful (if that's even a risk here)? I think it would help to see a "person A talks with person B and feels defensive because of issue 1" situation as we try to find these issues in our own lives.Much love.linda

  • Andrew Marin

    Good call Linda…I’ll do that. And JDESJARD, it is WAY easier said than done.

    Your insight is extremely mature and you hit it right on the head. I had the same problem of always wanting to be right (and in being “right”, it also gives power to the “right” person.) So in essence, it’s not just about being right, its root is about being able to release power to the situation/other person first and foremost –

    Kingdom responsibilities of what an inverted hiearchy in building a bridge constists of.

  • http://jontrouten.blogspot.com/ Jon Trouten

    I saw this letter to the editor in our local newspaper and thought of TMF and the whole “validation vs. affirmation” idea. It’s not a complete match, but it’s worth considering:

    Replace “Tolerate” with the Word “Respect” by Bobbie Paxton (http://www.press-citizen.com/article/20110430/OPINION05/104300305/Replace-tolerate-word-respect-?odyssey=mod|mostcom)

    A few days ago USA Today carried an article about people saying they couldn’t “tolerate” the Amish practice of spreading animal waste on their fields. Something that was done for ages before the use of petrochemical fertilizers!

    That made me think of something a priest I knew well in my Milwaukee days said in one of his Sunday homilies. He said he’d love to get rid of the word “tolerate” and replace it with the word “respect.”

    “Tolerate” indicates that I am better than you are; “respect” indicates that our views have equal weight and that becomes a virtue.

    Father Bernie really got this right.

    In these days when there is so much noise and dissent, we all need to take a step back and just listen to ourselves. We rant and rave; we do not behave with dignity and respect when those qualities would be so much better.

    Remember a few years ago when a gunman entered an Amish school and slaughtered several children before killing himself? The Amish people showed respect and deep concern for the widow and children the shooter left behind.

    Both Father Bernie and the Amish people know a better way. We, too, know a better way if we would just do it!


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