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We all want to be heard. Our students want to be heard too. Validation is a simple tool we can use liberally to let our students know we are listening. It confirms that we hear what others are saying. Acknowledging our students and the feeling state behind their remark also verifies that we are accurately receiving the message they are sending. It can help build relationships and promote cooperation by increasing understanding.

Validation can also aid in dissipating a tense situation. One may be concerned if we reflect a students anger (or otherwise intense emotion) that feeling may intensify. On the contrary, it assists in regulating the emotion by recognizing the feelings. Consider the last time you were very upset. How did you feel if someone acknowledged how you felt?

Using validation is not dependent on agreeing with a student. It is not a judgment. It can give us additional time to digest, process and formulate a thoughtful response, particularly in an emotionally loaded situation.

To validate and acknowledge feelings:

• Be fully present and listen attentively
• Reflect what you hear
• Name the feeling behind the statement, “you seem really frustrated”
• Normalize the feeling (or at least don’t reject or ignore it), “Many people would feel anxious about speaking in front of the class”
• Be compassionate and authentic

Heather Opp – Behavior Coach Tulsa Public Schools

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