The Secret to Building and Maintaining Relationships

The Secret to Building and Maintaining RelationshipsMD post Apr 2016

Are relationships important to you? Do you want to build strong and meaningful relationships?

Social support has been studied at length in psychology. In general, social support is related to decrease stress. In order to build and maintain relationships, it is helpful to know what to do to achieve this goal. The straightforward tips below can help you with this goal.

Validation: The Secret To Strong Relationships

It can be helpful to start with something to which we can all relate. Let’s say you have had a long day and are frustrated about something. Doesn’t it feel good when you talk to someone else and the person says they understand you or what you are going through? That is validation. The opposite (invalidation) feels horrible. An example is having a bad day and sharing your frustration with someone, only to be met with the response that you are over-reacting or should have done something differently.

What is Validation?

Validation is communicating that another person’s feelings, thoughts, and actions make sense. Validating someone communicates that you understand what is true about the person’s perspective. Not only does it feel good and helps to bring down intense emotions, but validation also increases trust and intimacy in relationships (Linehan, 2015). This is because when you validate someone, you communicate that you understand the person and their experiences.

Now, the challenge comes when we don’t FEEL like validating someone else. Maybe we disagree with them or the person just did something that made us sad or angry. If you are really upset and not able to hold a conversation, take some time and come back to the conversation when you can act in a way that you will feel good about in the future. Then, VALIDATE! Read the below example and tips on what to do in a conversation.

Example of Validation

Situation: Your partner has told you that he/she is too busy to schedule time with you due to being stressed at work. You are sad and frustrated.

Here is what this may look like if you don’t validate:

“What is wrong with you! Your acting like your work is more important than our relationship. If you don’t get your priorities straight, this relationship won’t work.”

Here is what it what the conversation would look like if you do validate:

“I understand that you are really busy at work. I can see how that would make you nervous and you would want to spend more time at work trying to get your assignments completed. It is also important for me to spend time with you. Can we schedule some time together in the next week?”

Which one is going to get us to our goal of building and maintaining the relationship? The one with validation of course!

How to Validate

Let’s go over what went well in the above example.

STAY IN THE PRESENT: The key to staying present is listening and responding nonjudgmentally. Be open and curious – you may think you know what the other person may say or how the person will react, but staying mindful and grounded in the actual situation allows you to take in all the person is saying / doing (and NOT doing for that matter).

GIVE UP BEING RIGHT: You can be right, right out of a relationship! However, if your goal is to maintain the relationship, staying mindful of your goal is imperative. See if you can identify assumptions or judgmental thinking and try imagining the situation from the other person’s shoes. By doing this, it can make validating the other person easier. Also, validating someone doesn’t mean you agree with the person or like what they are saying, it just means you understand the person’s perspective.

SUMMARIZE: Repeat what the other person just told you to make sure you understand. Make sure you really can imagine how the person felt, what they were thinking, or why they engaged in a certain behavior. This moment also helps you take a step back from your own stance. After all, it IS possible that there is a kernel of truth in both your stance, and that of the other person.

Need Help With This Skill?

Intense emotions, habits, and past experiences can make it difficult to validate others or maintain relationships. If you or someone you know experiences difficulty in relationships, the trained therapists at Behavioral Associates, Los Angeles can help. You contact us at Behavioral Associates, Los Angeles to find out more about what treatment may be right for you.

Michelle Dexter, Ph.D., Associate | Behavioral Associates Los Angeles

Information adapted from DBT® Skills Training Manual, Second Edition, by Marsha M. Linehan. Copyright 2015 by Marsha M. Linehan.

Behavioral Associates Los Angeles is a group of cognitive-behavioral therapists specializing in the treatment of anxiety and mood disorders. To find out more, contact us by phone at 310-205-0523 or by email at

You can also request an appointment with a Behavioral Associates LA psychologist by submitting a brief patient assessment form on our Website. Our clinical staff will follow up with you within 24 hours of submission.