Expression, Relationships, Singapore
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One simple way to dramatically improve your relationships: Listen, then emotionally validate.

Last night Yeow An invited me to RG, and the topic of emotional intimacy/ empathy came up. So today I would like to share something powerful that I’d learnt from Monica, a really cool counsellor from REACH Counselling.

It’s the concept of “emotional validation”. First, I’d explain how to do it, then I’d provide the context to how I realised that there was such a thing.

How to do emotional validation

  • Step 1: Listen to the person.
  • Step 2: Find a way to validate your partner’s views.

Emotional validation needs not necessarily come as a result of conflict. It comes as a result of speech. For instance, if your boyfriend holds your hand, you can always emotionally validate by saying “I really like it when you hold my hand; it makes me feel secure.”

Or, you can emotionally validate sharings. Like if a friend were to share her views on “Why people should not eat animals”, you can always validate her view by saying “I really liked the part when you said XYZ, it’s so smart because of ABCDE…”

Validation does not mean “agreement”. It just means you understand (on various levels) where people are coming from.

I actually think emotional validation is a very powerful tool, because I’d experienced people in Finland who loves using this listen + emotionally validate method on me. And I felt very loved by them–intimate, even. Initially I thought it was “flirting”, like them flirting with me? (HAHA) but then along the way, I realised, no! It is actually a good communication habit. 🙂

The result is a 100% guaranteed level of intimacy, so you have to choose who you want to be intimate to.

So I think one should always spam these methods on their spouse/partner. HEHE. But again, the premise is that one must be true to heart and not lie. The power and purpose of emotional validation lies in authenticity and being sincere.

Try it! Listen to your partner, and do listening and emotional validation today.


Monica’s premise during BOWS was that there is a tendency for Singaporeans to:

(1) Not listen;

(2) Not emotionally validate.

Both (1) and (2) are necessary for genuine communication and deeper intimacy. She says it is like that because it’s the Singaporean culture.

I concur. I’d think Singaporeans in general just like to act smart, assume, then proceed to provide advice/ nag/ fit you into what they consider (societal’s) ideal. So they completely act within what they think is best for you, or what they think is societal’s best for you, and completely ignore your feelings or your internal experience. I think our obsession with efficiency contributes to this non-listening and non-validating behaviour too.

It’s also not surprising that we do this, because we have never been taught to do otherwise. Everybody just nags, provide unwarranted advice, or assume that what they like is what you like.

Let me give you an example. Since last year, I’d been really upset with thing X. The pain is still raw today–as in I get “heart pain” on and off– but is gradually getting less in intensity. The worst part was that I don’t think I did a single thing wrong–there was no guilt, nor shame in the process, but I still end up with a terrible result of thing X. Can you imagine being judged so severely–in your brain and by your immediate environment?

I had been.

But amazingly, a few precious people crossed my path who could validate these emotions. So I’m convinced that this thing X is actually from childhood, and a sort of emotional baggage which doesn’t even make sense.

Can you imagine being hurt by something which doesn’t make logical sense?

So–If I’d never met these few people, I wouldn’t have healed fast. You know why? Because my environment is filled with people who are go-getters. These are people who work really hard and aggressively for money, status and power. There is no such acceptable thing as “weakness” or whatever.

My environment also has another group of people, who don’t know what the hell they are doing. But you see, instead of taking their time to find out slowly, the SG fast-paced society forces them into action onto the societal’s expected path. If you take time out and are not emotionally strong, it’s easy to be pushed by society into becoming something society says you should be. Then you get caught in some sub-par nonsense and start to settle. Then one starts to be numbed to who he or she really is, or really wants, under the subtext of “life in Singapore”, “because life is like that lor”.

I think it is very difficult to live out a life “as is”. It takes a lot of courage, and a lot of internal validation. So today, let’s just think about how to listen to yourself and do validation not only to others, but also to yourself. It really is very empowering.

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