Curiosity and validation are two of the most powerful relationship tools, yet, ironically, they are also two of the most underused.
Just how often your partner, friends and children feel your curiosity about them (their feelings or experiences), and how deeply they feel that you really understand them (their perspectives, ideas and feelings) are very indicative of how much trust, understanding and connection will exist between the two of you.
Often our deep longings to feel loved, safe and connected in our relationships play out in wanting palpable experiences that we… simply… matter… to the other person – and this is usually through feeling honored for who we are, where we are, and what we are experiencing.
Validation in a relationship context is very different than validating a scientific theory or a case that is presented by an opposing debate team. Rather, in a relationship context it means that we understand that their point, perspective, feelings and ideas are truly valid to them. Based on their personal perception and experience, we see and honor the basis for that. In other words we see them and their experience as legitimate and worthy of respect.
The common lack of bringing curiosity and validation into relationship, I believe, are born from not experiencing it enough personally, as well as being projected on and not understood by parents and peers going all the way back to our childhood. Most of us didn’t come close to receiving enough deep inner-world curiosity and validation, and our nervous system remembers that. This got us in the need to protect ourselves with walls, beliefs and perceptions, egocentric patterns, in order to create a sense of self and a sense of security. As a result of this, we may have developed a sense of co-dependency, clinginess or reactivity when our friends, family, partners, or even strangers do not see us for who we are, because they are too caught up in their own basic human distractions and delusions. This is why, in the journey towards creating very healthy relationships it is so important for us to see, understand and unconditionally love ourselves first – or at least be on the journey towards this simultaneously. And this is why, in part, conscious relationships are so healing, especially when we can find the courage and ability to work through the inevitable pains that arise.
The shift occurs when we are able to face and work with these old patterns within ourselves, allowing us to become more “mutual-understanding-centric”. That’s when we rise above our own walls, and when the love and connection (and curiosity and validation) we want to see can really begin to flow in the midst of that vulnerability.
Being curious about and acknowledging another’s experience invites a shift from relating mainly to our own thoughts and feelings and towards a critical bridging of the gap.
Curiosity says that we actually care enough about them to want more – more connection with them, more of who they are, more understanding between both of you.
Validation is born from a deep recognition that the other person has their perspective and feelings as the result of their vantage point, combined with their conditioning from all the things they have or haven’t experienced, healed, realized or understood. It’s an expression that you understand how their point of view is culminated (though it may be different than yours). It’s expressing that you get them. And when we are able to process and integrate any of our own contracted feelings that may be arising, we are able to let them feel that our love and respect is still able to flow towards them.
When we resist validating another person’s experience it is usually for these common reasons: we don’t agree or see the truth in what they are thinking or doing, we believe their feelings have no legitimate basis, or we are concerned that if we validate them then it might mean that we agree with their perspective or, worse, that we’ll enable something we’d like to see come to an end. There is also the possibility that we are stuck in righteousness and any other angle on the situation is basically a threat for us to consider.But when we de-validate or resist validating others, more ripples are created than just them not feeling understood. The problems this can create is that they will pick up on our lack of trust and openness to them- which they’ll certainly react to, perhaps deepening the conflict by becoming defensive or offensive or damaging the foundation of the relationship, or they’ll further internalize it, exacerbating the triggers they already likely have in this arena, and retreat from their true selves, becoming more insecure – in an attempt to stay in relationship with you, or to avoid what they may perceive as shame coming at them.
When we are aching for the warmth of love and connection, the fires we seek for in others may not consistently give off the heat we need. Distractions and head-trips can do that to the fire tenders. The fire that keeps us the warmest, thankfully, is from self-love. Learning to tend this fire is part of our sacred purpose. And it allows us to show up more receptive and open to others, with things like curiosity and validation.