Thought provoking quotes, philosophies, photos and more
By: Jennifer Boudreau
Have you ever been in a relationship where it seems like your significant other can never admit that they were wrong- or maybe that they do something they know is not flattering? I am pretty sure we have all been there!
On the flip-side, have you ever been in a relationship where you found it incredibly difficult (maybe even impossible) to say “sorry”, to admit you did not handle a situation as effectively as you would have liked or that maybe…JUST MAYBE, there is a characteristic of yours (that you are VERY well aware of) that you do not find flattering?
So why, even with being aware of these flaws or mistakes, do people find it so difficult to admit them??
Well, there are the obvious reasons, such as people needing to feed into the idea that they are perfect, humans’ natural tendency to defend themselves to the death, and the inability for people to let down their guards and expose themselves to the internal and external scrutiny of their imperfections. However, there is another reason that is not so often acknowledged (and most likely contributes to the three aforementioned motives).
In order for most people to admit their imperfections they need to feel like their disclosures will be accepted and validated. Most importantly, they need to feel it is a safe environment where their flaws will not be used against them. In order to do this “the listener must convey that he or she understands the content of the speaker’s disclosure, accepts or validates the speaker, and feels positively toward the speaker” (Laurenceau, Barrett & Pietromonaco, 1998, p. 1239). Humans can naturally feel the need to defend themselves when being attacked. This attack can come in many forms, including, but not limited to, physical, emotional or verbal. Most humans will not put themselves in the way of perceived harm and are realistically more likely to go out of their way to avoid that type of situation.
However, there is great reward in being able to recognize, accept, explore and alter personal imperfections. This type self-awareness can improve individual characteristics and strengthen interpersonal relationships. Additionally, this type of self-awareness can cultivate personal and interpersonal growth.
One possible way to create a “safe environment” is through validation. You will “find that validation opens people up and helps them feel free to communicate with you” (Hein, n.d.). Additionally, it is noted that invalidation tends to be where communication breaks down and conflict and disagreement flourish.
Now let me clarify a common misconception of validation. Validating someone DOES NOT mean you agree with them. Validation simply means you are empathically listening and you are non-judgmentally supporting the individual with the feelings they are experiencing. When supporting someone through their acceptance and disclosure of personal mistakes or characteristic flaws it can be helpful to listen, acknowledge, and then ask questions in order to gain greater insight and allow for personal reflection.
It is essential to build trust, communication and acceptance in order to foster and sustain an interpersonal relationship where individuals feel safe to admit and learn from their flaws. Without the security of positive feedback and support there will often be that lack of communication and the inability to admit and grow from mistakes and personal limitations.
Hein, S. (n.d.). Emotional validation. Retrieved from http://eqi.org/valid.htm
Laurenceau, J.P., Barrett, L.F., & Pietromonaco, P. R. (1998). Intimacy as an interpersonal process: The importance of self-disclosure, partner disclosure, and perceived partner responsiveness in interpersonal exchanges. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(5). 1238-1251.