The Imago Dialogue: Validation (Step 2)

Over the month of June, I will provide a series of blogs on the Imago Dialogue.  The first blog will introduce the dialogue, and the following three will detail its steps – mirroring, validation, and empathy.  The dialogue is a powerful communication tool that can transform your relationship.  Want to learn more?  The series sets the stage for the Start Right, Stay Connected workshop that I’ll be leading on June 24 where you’ll learn and practice this skill and more.


“You make sense.”  Those three little words brought tears to Amelia’s eyes.  After mirroring back Amelia’s concerns, James stated these words to her.  Seeing the impact, he then continued to express what made sense about her concerns, her point of view, and how it made her feel.  He even acknowledged how sometimes his non-responses could lead her to think he was disinterested in hearing her.

“You make sense” begins the process of validation.  While mirroring conveys that James is listening, validation takes it to the next step in honoring Amelia’s perspective, giving her the sense of being more deeply understood.  After being mirrored, sometimes Amelia would wonder, “I know he’s listening, but does he really get it?”  This second step – validation – confirms for her that he does indeed get it.   It is the antithesis of the “yes, but…” response that dismisses what was heard and propels the cycle of conflict.

It is important to clarify that validation does not imply agreement.  I would never ask a partner to say “I agree with you” when they don’t.  Often, problems arise in relationship because one person has been stating agreement when they don’t mean it just to pacify their partner.  Rather “you make sense” recognizes that there are two equally valid perspectives in the room, even if one is struggling to fully grasp or doesn’t agree with their partner’s view.  There is a subtle yet profound shift from the power struggle of “yes, but…” to the collaboration of “yes, and…”

F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” I would add that it is also the sign of a healthy relationship.   


Previously in this series:


Come learn how to play egg toss – and communicate more effectively – at my upcoming “Start Right, Stay Connected” workshop on June 24.  This one-day workshop for committed, engaged and newly married couples will provide the knowledge and skills to transform your relationship.  Click here for more details and registration.

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