Using Validation to Communicate with a College Roommate
It is hard to live with another human being, and yet many college students find themselves sharing a small space with a roommate. How do you learn to live with, communicate, problem solve and simply share space with a roommate? Maybe one (or both!) of you are still learning how to do household chores. Perhaps you have different priorities (one is academic focused and the other is a social butterfly) or different values. Perhaps it’s just a matter of learning to divide up space. Sometimes you start out on the same page but as you discover yourself you notice one or both of you changes throughout the course of your college career. Regardless of the exact type of conflict, learning to understand and acknowledge the other person’s point of view through Validation will help you communicate effectively and keep your friendship intact.
I want to stress that Validation doesn’t mean you agree with the other person or approve of them. It means that you understand their point of view in light of their current or past situation. There are six different ways you can validate the other person:
- Pay Attention. Don’t assume you know their point of view. Ask and pay attention to what they say. If they feel “heard” by you, it will be much easier for them to listen when you tell them how you feel. So, practice those active listening skills. Stop texting or cleaning or listening to music and simply listen when you are talking about important topics. Lean in while they speak, make appropriate eye contact and ask questions.
- Reflect Back. This involves summarizing what they’ve said to make sure you fully understand. This often means quickly summarizing by saying, “It sounds like something went wrong in every single class today,” or, “Wow, it sounds like that was a horrible date!”
- “Read Minds” This step involves reading between the lines and trying to understand what the other person has not said. It’s essentially taking an educated guess. Don’t be afraid to “guess” wrong, because even if they insist you are wrong, they will know you are trying to understand where they’re coming from and they may correct you explaining how they actually feel.
- Understand. This is when you say their feelings make sense given something about the other person or their past experiences. This can actually invalidate a person if you say something like, “You feel that way because you are only a freshman. When you’re a senior you won’t feel that way.” However, saying, “You are worried your boyfriend is cheating on you, because your last boyfriend did,” shows that you understand where they are coming from.
- Acknowledge the Valid. Here you are simply acknowledging that their feelings are valid/ok/normal. Implying that anyone would feel like they feel, that you hear the depth of their emotions and that you accept their emotions will help them feel accepted and nondefensive during your conversation.
- Show Equality. Being radically genuine with and treating them as an equal. Your personalities might be very different-you come from different backgrounds and are on different journeys. Instead of tip toeing around difficult subjects because you are afraid to upset the other person, be real with them.
Validation will only get you so far, but it’s a great way to start conversations and help set the foundation for a positive relationship. When you and your roommate have that foundation set, it will be easier to communicate about more difficult topics like boundaries, space issues and household chores.
If you’d like to talk further about improving your interpersonal relationships, please call us today at 573-328-2288. We have the experience, training and expertise to help both you reach your goals and feel more confident solving life’s problems!