What Happens When Someone Invalidates Your Feelings

Apr 26, 2020

What is the number one thing that destroys connection and trust? Trust emerges when we can enter someone's reality, validate their experiences, and have ours validated by them as well.

Connection and trust happen when one heart meets another. What destroys connection and trust like nothing else? Invalidation. Invalidation occurs when a person’s experience is all that exists to him or her. And he or she then moves to negate the other person’s experience, treating it as somehow not real or non-existent.

Have you ever had this happen? It feels terrible. Especially when it comes from someone you care about or someone you need.

Think of the contexts of life that change when a person has the ability to connect with the other:

In business, deals are won and sales are made. Medical malpractice lawsuits are avoided when a doctor listens and understands what the patient or family has experienced as a result of an error. In personal relationships, marriages are healed when a closed-off spouse finally hears and understands what the other has been feeling and experiencing. Wayward children are won back when they feel that their side of things is finally listened to, and vice versa. There is not a context of life where listening and connecting with the other side’s reality and experience is not helpful.

The sad thing is that most times the people who invalidate other people’s experience are not aware that they are doing something destructive. In fact, they often think they are helping. 

We have all seen those instances where someone (maybe even ourselves) has said something negative like “I’m such a loser,” and someone immediately comes back with “Don’t say that! You don’t really feel that way!” or some other attempt to help that only drives the person further into hopelessness. The reason is that he now has two problems instead of one. He has the initial problem that he felt so negative about, and then he feels that he is all alone and has no one who truly understands. That is why people who try to help others by talking them out of what they feel are usually no help at all. It is also the reason why research has for decades proven that you can help desperate people immensely by giving them no answers at all, and only giving them empathy.

From childhood to corporate boardrooms, connection is key, and invalidation is a cancer.