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The Universal Benefits of Validation in Communication by Rudolf Rodenburg


Communication is the foundation of all relationships, whether they be personal, professional, or social. It is through communication that we share our thoughts, feelings, and experiences with others, and it is through communication that we build understanding and connection. However, effective communication can be challenging, especially when we are dealing with difficult or emotionally charged topics.

Validation is a powerful tool that can help us to communicate more effectively and build stronger relationships. It is a way of acknowledging and respecting the feelings and perspectives of others, even when we disagree with them. Validation is not about agreeing with someone’s point of view; it is about letting them know that their feelings are valid and that we understand their perspective.

I first came into contact with Validation when I met Vicki de Klerk, Executive Director of VTI and daughter of Naomi Feil, in 1993. I immediately saw the impact Validation can have on any form of relationship, not only with elderly people. And that is what I would like to share with you in the following paragraphs.

Understanding Validation

Validation is a communication approach that was developed by Naomi Feil, a pioneer in the field of dementia care. From her own experience, Naomi believed that people with dementia need to feel understood and validated. Like we all do. She developed a set of principles that can be used to communicate with people with dementia in a way that is respectful and supportive.

Key Principles of Validation

There are 11 Validation Principles. Some of them are specific to very old people in the final stage of life. Some of them apply to every person. Many of them align with principles of good communication.

  • Acknowledge and accept the person’s feelings. Even if you don’t understand why someone is feeling a certain way.
  • Listen actively and use empathy to understand their feelings and perspective.
  • Be patient. It may take time for someone to feel comfortable expressing their feelings. 
  • Explore using Validation Questions:  these are used to explore someone’s feelings. For example: What makes you the most frustrated? 
  • Or rephrase with empathy: this will acknowledge what the person has said and begin to form a connection. For example, if someone says, “I need to get out of here!”, you might rephrase, “You need to get out!”
  • Be willing to learn and grow. Validation is a skill that takes time and practice to develop. Be willing to learn from your experiences and grow as a communicator.

Validation Techniques

The application of these Principles is supported using Validation Techniques:

  • Rephrasing: repeating back what the other person has said, in your own words.
  • Ask Open questions to help explore the other person’s feelings and perspective.
  • Use mirroring (with empathy) to reflect the emotions being expressed.
  • Ask the extreme (how bad, how much, what’s the worst): to better understand their perspective if you’re not sure what the other person is feeling or why they are feeling that way.

The Challenges of Effective Communication

What makes effective communication so difficult? 

  • Misunderstandings and assumptions. We often make assumptions about what other people are thinking and feeling, and this can lead to misunderstandings. It is important to check our assumptions and ask clarifying questions.
  • Lack of empathy. We may not always be able to understand or relate to the experiences of others. This can make it difficult to communicate effectively. 
  • Lack of active listening. We often listen to other people with our own agenda in mind. This can prevent us from really hearing what they have to say.

These are exactly the challenges that are addressed by the Validation method.

Benefits of Validation when Used in Elderly Care

You are probably reading this newsletter because you are interested in, and aware of the wide use of Validation in elderly care. It helps to improve communication with people with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other forms of cognitive decline. Validation can also help to reduce agitation and improve mood. But Validation can be applied to a wide variety of communication scenarios.

Applying Validation Beyond Elderly Care

  • Family relationships. Validation can help to improve communication and strengthen relationships within families. Think of generational communication gaps, when you have the feeling you no longer understand your own children.
  • Workplace relationships. Validation can help to create a more positive and supportive work environment. It can give you a better understanding of the perspective your difficult boss has, or why a client seems less respectful than you expect.
  • Social interactions. Validation can help us to build stronger and more meaningful relationships with friends and acquaintances. The enhanced understanding through empathy for example, will deepen the friendship and mutual understanding.

The Connection of Validation with Mindfulness, Coaching, and Positive Psychology

Validation shares several key principles with these concepts that have increased in popularity over the last decades. Because they make our lives better and increase our general well-being. They all share an emphasis on self-awareness and empathy. And in Validation the additional emphasis is on communication.

  • Mindfulness: Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment without judgment. When we are mindful, we are more likely to be aware of our own feelings and thoughts, as well as the feelings and thoughts of others. This awareness can help us to communicate more effectively and compassionately.
  • Coaching: Coaching is a process of helping others to achieve their goals. Coaches often use validation to help their clients to feel understood and supported, and to help them gain access to underlying feelings and needs.
  • Positive psychology: Positive psychology is the study of what makes life worth living. It emphasizes the importance of building strong relationships and cultivating positive emotions. Validation is a valuable tool for promoting positive relationships and emotions.

Benefits of a Validation Mindset

There are many benefits to adopting a validation mindset. These include:

  • Improved understanding and empathy in conversations. When we are validating, we are more likely to understand and empathize with the other person’s perspective. This can lead to more productive and meaningful conversations.
  • Building stronger, more meaningful relationships. Validation helps us to connect with others on a deeper level. It builds trust and rapport, which are essential for strong relationships.
  • Enhanced conflict resolution skills. When we validate the other person’s feelings, we can help to de-escalate conflict and find common ground. This can lead to more constructive solutions.
  • Increased self-awareness and self-compassion. As we practice validation with others, we can also learn to validate our own feelings. This can lead to greater self-awareness and self-compassion.
  • Greater emotional well-being. Validation can help us to manage stress, anxiety, and other negative emotions. It can also help us to feel more connected and supported.


Validation is a powerful tool that can help us to communicate more effectively and build stronger relationships. It is a way of showing respect for others and acknowledging their feelings, even when we disagree with them. It helps us foster a more positive and supportive environment for all.

  • Validation is about acknowledging and accepting the other person’s feelings, even if you don’t understand why they are feeling that way.
  • Validation is not about agreeing with the other person’s point of view.
  • Validation is a skill that can be learned and developed with practice.

And above all: validation can be used in any day-to-day situation that involves communication.

I encourage you to incorporate validation into your communication with others and see how it can improve your relationships and overall well-being.

We offer several affordable online courses for Validation beginners and for those who are more experienced. 

It was Naomi’s biggest wish for people to experience and use Validation. The Validation Training Institute’s mission is to implement this wish. We are dedicated to continue Naomi’s legacy into the future. You can help us by taking a course or donating here.

Rudolf Rodenburg

Rudolf is, together with his business partner Mariska Praktiek, Partner and Co-Founder at The Athena Group, a Switzerland-based consultancy. Their mission is to help people and organisations to realise their full potential beyond financial goals, finding an optimal balance of material and spiritual well-being. The consultancy has a strategy pillar, Athena Associates, and a mindfulness/coaching/positive psychology pillar, Athena Academy. 

Rudolf works with the owners of small and medium-sized enterprises and their core stakeholders to prepare for the next chapter: when the owner wants to reduce (operational) involvement or step away completely/sell the business.  Together, they write a business strategy and define a brand that are well-understood and anchored throughout the organisation, to ensure a smooth transition and a premium valuation of the business. The employees know their own role and contribution to reach the long-term objectives, as well as how others fit into the bigger picture. 

Rudolf has a Master’s Degree in Business Economics from the University of Groningen, The Netherlands. His professional background is in strategy and brand consultancy, working on both globally and locally across various industries. 

He believes that smaller businesses deserve affordable access to high-calibre expertise, and provides them with quality strategy, branding, and employee engagement without the intimidating complexity and associated fees of the larger consultancies. 

It is in this capacity that he has been working with VTI as a Board Member since 2016. In his article, Rudolf expands on the powerful impact that Validation has, beyond the care of elderly people with cognitive decline.