Communication Skills: Validation

We’re going to go back to basics this month, and I’m going to cover a couple aspects of communication. These will be sweet and to the point, and hopefully a good reminder of basic skills that can support relationships.

I believe that validation is one of the most important skills to support any type of relationship. So often, we just need to be sure that another person understands where we are coming from.

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Saying No

Do you struggle saying no? Find yourself with a lot of things piling up on your plate, none of which are things you are actually excited about? Are you feeling burned out?

Saying no can be a really challenging skill for a lot of people. Maybe you think of yourself as a people pleaser; maybe you underestimate the energy and time of your various commitments until it is too late; maybe the thought of missing out on something is enough to keep you saying yes to everything. You might find yourself feeling guilty after saying no, or ruminating over how others are perceiving your response.

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Happy [almost] Thanksgiving! For many, this week begins the holiday season- here we go! Given that this can be a time of stress, celebration, and lots and lots of interactions, I thought I would spend this week doing a bit of a communication review.

Types of Communication Styles

1.     Aggressive Communication

I am going to frame each of the communication styles in terms of how you prioritize and treat the needs of others and the needs of yourself. Aggressive communication is all about me. When I am engaging in this style of communication, I am thinking only of my needs. I am not considering what your needs or experience might be. “My needs are the only needs that matter. Your needs are unimportant and not valid.”

2.     Passive Communication

This communication style is all about you. When I am engaging in this style of communication, I am disregarding my own needs and am only considering what you might want or need in a given interaction. “Your needs are the only needs that matter. My needs are unimportant and not valid.”

3.     Assertive Communication

The assertive communication style considers my needs and your needs. When I am engaging in this style, I do not disregard the needs of either person participating in the interaction. Being assertive means that I am able to clearly identify and communicate my needs, without denying, shaming, or discounting the needs of the other person. “These are my needs and experiences. I realize that yours may be different. How can we work this out in a way that leaves us both feeling okay?”


1.     Be clear and direct

You cannot expect others to read your mind and know what you are feeling or needing. It is your responsibility to be clear and direct with what you are experiencing- if you want someone to know how you feel, tell them!

2.     Stay present

It can be tempting to drudge up things from the past. You might do this to prove a point, defend against your own wrongdoing, or out of frustration or hurt. This is rarely helpful. Redirect yourself back to your current feelings and experience. There may be past events and hurts that do need addressing, but there are more effective ways of doing so.

3.     Avoid blaming statements

Utilize “I” statements. “I feel…”, “I need…”, “I would like…”. When you start off with “You did…” or “You never…” or “You always”, the other person often responds by putting up their defenses. Leading with “you” statements sets up a “you versus me” mentality and primes participants for a fight.

4.     Focus on what you can control

You might feel reluctant to engage in assertive communication out of fear of what others may think or feel in response. You can control your use use of respectful communication, your feelings, your thoughts, and your behaviors. You cannot control the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of another person. Should a person respond negatively to your use of assertive communication, that is their choice.

To learn more or to book an appointment, contact me via telephone or email.

Brenna Burke, LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Santa Clarita, CA. She provides individual psychotherapy and couples counseling. Information provided through this website is for informational purposes only. It does not create a therapist-client relationship and does not replace clinical assessment or professional consultation.