Friday, December 16, 2011

Validation Letters for the Holidays

Want to give a gift that someone you love is likely to keep forever and will be meaningful to them for the rest of their lives? Regardless of the relationship, a validation letter is one of the most meaningful gifts you could choose.  Sending a validation letter each year creates a tradition that will serve as a chronicle of the person's life as shared with you.  Writing validation letters for young children serves as another way to communicate their importance to you and how much you love them.  When they are older they will enjoy reading about your experience of their taking their first step, for example.

Validation, according to Steven Hayes, means communicating that you respect, acknowledge and accept who others are and how they became who they are.  Validation is acceptance of the person, without judgment. Validation can focus on emotions, thoughts, or behaviors.  What a gift acceptance without judgment is!

Writing a letter of validation will likely take some thought and time.  Here are some steps to follow:

1.  Make a list of events that happened in the person's life this past year.  These events could be significant like your daughter's first day of school, birthdays, and  trips.  You could also use routine experiences you shared such as date nights with your husband, watching a television show you both enjoy, caring for children together, or

2.  Choose the events to include in the letter.

3.  Beside each event, write your memory of the emotions and thoughts they shared them with you and/or your best guess of their emotions and thoughts.  If you have a photo of the person at the time of the event, you could include that as well, and comment on what you would guess their facial expression means.

4.  Express your understanding of what the event meant to them, given their history,  values, struggles or their goals.

5.  If you experienced a emotional reaction to the event that occurred to them, write about your feelings of their experience--not your own experience of the event.

For an example, imagine that your husband ran his first marathon in 2011.  The paragraph about the race might read as follows:

"I remember when you decided this was the year you would run a marathon. It was Thursday, in March, I believe the 10th.  Your face looked so determined and you sounded committed.  That morning at breakfast you wrote out your training schedule.  Even though you'd never run more than a mile before, you seemed to know you could do this.  I admire that about you, your confidence that you can finish what you start.  Running became a regular part of your day for the next seven months.  At first, you often woke up with sore calves and thighs but as you got stronger you seemed to crave running, like your day wasn't complete without it.  You kept to your schedule regardless of the difficulty of balancing work and the demands of daily living.  When you crossed the finish line, you were breathing hard, dripping sweat, red in the face, and panting. You  couldn't talk for a few minutes, but you were smiling. I think I know what that marathon meant to you.  I can still feel how excited and proud I was when you finished, and for you it meant so much more."

Remember, validation communicates acceptance and acknowledgment of  thoughts, emotions, and behavior.  You don't need to agree--validation doesn't mean endorsement.  Validation is about communicating that the other person is important to you and their thoughts and feelings are important as well.  Validation strengthens relationships. For detailed steps on learning validation, check out The Power of Validation (December 2011, New Harbinger).  Happy Holidays!

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