Last week I wrote about the Three Types of Listening and their importance in being an effective manager or leader. Strong managers and leaders have two more listening related skills at their disposal: Acknowledging and Validating.

These skills are especially important to use when someone is feeling upset – angry, sad, bitter, confused, etc. Acknowledging and validating can help diffuse some of the emotional intensity in a difficult situation. For example, you may find these skills particularly important when giving a performance review with a poor rating, or when telling someone they are losing their job.

What exactly are these two skills?

Acknowledging: Communicating back to the speaker that you have really understood what he or she has been saying. You are really putting you Level 3 listening skills to work and letting the other person know AND feel that you've heard him or her. Effective acknowledging creates a feeling that the speaker has been understood. In fact, when finished explaining what your understanding is, ask if you got it right. Keep going until you have it right. Then ask "Is there more?" The key measure of success is that the speaker feels understood.

Validating: Communicating to the speaker that it is ok for him to feel the way he does. Given the circumstances and personal history it is quite understandable that anyone would feel that way. Validating is non-judgmental. Validating is not about creating your own similar set of feelings so you can connect. In fact doing so becomes invalidating and shift the attention from the speaker to you. Also, avoid saying "I know how you feel."  Simply you do have no idea how the other person feels because you do have their history, sensitivities.

Putting Acknowledging and Validating to Work

Here are some examples of what you might say:

  • What you're saying is … (acknowledging)
  • I'm hearing you say… (acknowledging)
  • In other words, … (acknowledging)
  • You have every right to feel that way because… (validating)
  • That's perfectly normal. It can be very upsetting when something like that happens. (validating)
  • Based on your values (or your belief system or the way you saw that) no wonder you feel the say you do. (validating)

Acknowledging and validating are also great skills to use in your personal relationship as well. And when you authentically make these skills a part of your life you use them everywhere.

Are you ready to start using or make greater use of acknowledging and validating?