Acknowledging and Validating

What is the Difference Between Acknowledging and Validating and Why Does It Matter? by Violet Dhu

We know that good listening skills are crucial in determining the success and outcome of difficult conversations, negotiations, and conflict resolutions. And part of this listening process is to both Acknowledge and Validate the other person.

Many people don’t know the difference and make the mistake of listening and acknowledging what has been said, without validating what has been said or without validating the other person.

What is Acknowledging?

Acknowledging what someone has said is a way of letting the person know that you are listening and that you have heard what they have said. You can do this by reflecting what has been said or by paraphrasing what you have heard. Another term for this is mirroring what the other person has said. This acknowledges what they have said and demonstrates that you have listened. But it does not necessarily validate what the other person has said

What is Validating?

Validating what someone has said requires you, the listener, to also have an emotional response. Validation requires you to display empathy and express your feelings towards what has been said. Validation comes with no judgment as to if they are right or wrong. No judgment as to if it is a good idea or a bad idea. When a person receives validation from a listener (which could be their boss or their manager or someone in authority) they feel that they have a right to feel the way they do. They feel validated.

Acknowledging someone without validation may leave them feeling that you have heard them, but you have judged them as being wrong or that their idea is not valid. It leaves them feeling heard, but not appreciated or valued.

Difference Between Acknowledging and Validating

Think of the difference between acknowledgment and validation in a brainstorming meeting, or meeting where the team is trying to solve a problem. If someone comes up with an idea and you acknowledge it, but don’t validate, then the person may feel belittled and withdraw from further suggestions. The listening and the comments are simply a tokenistic acknowledgment. You have heard them, but you don’t really care. Yet if you validate their idea, they will feel valued and continue trying to contribute to the elusive solution you are looking for.

As you move forward and you are having difficult conversations, negotiations, and meetings, use both the skills of acknowledgment and validation in your listening skills. The validation will make a big difference and help build trust and connection with the other person which in turn helps the conversation moving forward.

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