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How do validate when we don’t agree

Agreeing vs validation

When we have conflict with someone, it can be difficult to see their point of view. This can be due to a few reasons:

  • We feel hurt by the other person
  • We don’t want to concede
  • We are embarrassed by our actions
  • We don’t feel our perspective is acknowledged
  • We are dealing with an unsolvable problem

The truth is that a lot of problems are unsolvable. There are problems that stem from differences in values, personalities, or dreams. This means that the goal of the conflict is not to come to a resolution (who’s right and who’s wrong), but to come to a mutual understanding of the different perspectives.

It can be hard to see someone else’s perspective when we feel hurt and this can cause a gridlock. It can be quite helpful to recognize when agreeing is not the most plausible solution, and when we might have to come to a mutual understanding of the diversity of perspectives.

  • To agree with someone during a conflict means to share the same opinion.
  • To validate someone during conflict means to acknowledge how they feel and how our actions may have contributed to their feelings.

What’s valid?

During conflict, it can be helpful to understand that someone’s feelings are still valid even if their behaviors are not. People’s feelings are valid because they are experiencing them and because they have little control over the way their feelings are triggered. However, they do have control over the behaviors that result from their feelings. This is the key point in communicating conflict. Remember, we cannot apologize for someone else’s feelings, as we cannot make anyone feel anything.


Someone may be hurt by our behavior and in turn they lash out. While we may not agree that lashing out was the appropriate response, or even a reaction we would have, we can validate their pain. 

“I’m sorry that my behavior(s) hurt you.”

“I can see how you would feel betrayed by my behavior.”

“I know that you felt hurt by my actions, and I appreciate you letting me know.”

When communicating our own hurt, it’s important to focus on the person’s behavior. Remember, we cannot expect others to change their behaviors because we want them to. Also, when we make it about the person (rather than their behaviors), it can feel like an attack.

“I understand you were feeling hurt by my actions, but I felt scared and sad when you lashed out at me.”

Each person should have time to share and be heard.

What if they don’t validate?

This method is not flawless. There is a possibility that even if we try to validate someone’s perspective and feelings, they may not do the same.

Both acknowledging someone else and asking them to acknowledge us are acts of vulnerability. Vulnerability is a skill that underpins all repair in relationships. If someone is unable to see your vulnerability, don’t meet them with avoidance or more combat. Try vulnerability again.

When navigating conflict, it can be difficult to acknowledge someone else’s feelings or perspective. Try the following next time:

  • Recognize when a problem is gridlocked
  • Separate the feelings from the behaviors
  • Practice empathy when listening and acknowledge their feelings
  • Reflect on feedback and avoid defensiveness
  • Specify behaviors when giving feedback
  • Use “I” statements when communicating feelings
  • Never apologize for someone’s feelings
  • Understand that two truths or realities can co-exist
  • Identify what the mutual understanding or goal is

This page is also part of the Roamers Therapy Glossary; a collection of mental-health related definitions that are written by our therapists.

While our offices are currently located at the South Loop neighborhood of Downtown Chicago, Illinois, we also welcome and serve clients for online therapy from anywhere in Illinois and Washington, D.C. Clients from the Chicagoland area may choose in-office or online therapy and usually commute from surrounding areas such as River North, West Loop, Gold Coast, Old Town, Lincoln Park, Lake View, Rogers Park, Logan Square, Pilsen, Bridgeport, Little Village, Bronzeville, South Shore, Hyde Park, Back of the Yards, Wicker Park, Bucktown and many more. You can visit our contact page to access detailed information on our office location.