We've all been there. It's the text message from a friend. "I'm feeling some kind of way." It's the social media post as we aimlessly scroll. "Has anyone . . . (insert any emotion under the sun and follow it by the phrase asking for a friend)?" If we are good humans, we probably stop and take the time to quickly validate the emotion. "Oh girl! You must so (overwhelmed, unsettled, frustrated, scared, etc.). How could you not be? I have been there. I get it!"
And you know, that's not wrong. Validating emotions can be one of the strongest and quickest ways to build a positive, empathetic relationship with those around us, especially in a time of crisis. What we leave off by stopping at validation, however, is getting to the core of how someone is truly feeling. Which, let's be honest, is kind of something we stop at in every day life.
Hear me out. I want you to conduct a little informal survey, collecting some quick, qualitative data. The next time you ask someone how they're doing, record their response. Do this for the next few days. How many responses sound like . . .
"Alright, I guess."
Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but since when did "okay" become an emotion? And "alright"? That doesn't really do much to explain how I feel. In fact, these are nothing more than mere categories of emotions (if we can even truly given them such merit). I don't really know how any of these people I've encountered feel. What is it that they are experiencing at their core? And really, do they even know?
3 Ways to Cope Through the Pandemic
So, how do we reach beyond validation as a coping mechanism?
First, let's remember that validation, again, is not wrong. It is a good communication technique, and is expounded upon greatly by many an author in many a good read. However, what I am suggesting here is to look beyond validation as an isolated event, and actually consider what might precede validation in a general dialogue. Let's break this down into a few simple steps:
Beyond getting curious about others, this may be a good time to get curious about ourselves. We may not always realize it, but we go through our own personal process of validating our emotions, too. However, this is harder to do when we might not know how we ourselves are feeling at our core. I don't know about you, but this feels relatable to me right now as I go through the motions of my to-do list without feeling (or trying to feel) much emotion these days. Do you dare ask yourself, "How am I doing at my core?"
Ask for more information. Validate the emotion. Then, ask yourself, What is the next right thing? If we follow these three simple steps to get beyond validating, we might find better ways to cope through this pandemic after all.