The word “mandate” has been swirling around lately.
From protocols to help mitigate the spread of the Coronavirus, to commentary about the election, we have been inundated with messages about official orders.
While viewpoints about particular mandates are subjective, I think we can agree that the word itself has a powerful connotation and when applied, it often results in significant change.
Given these attributes, this word could prove to be helpful when used in an unusual context—making people feel more whole.
People can feel broken for many reasons, and the term heartbreak is relevant far beyond its usual romantic association.
I’ve surmised that one way we can help each other heal from broken-heartedness is to “mandate that we validate.”
This idea emerged quite strongly for me after a friend recently shared how someone revitalized her and helped mend her broken heart after one validating conversation.
For months, my friend (whom I’ll call Abbey) had worked relentlessly to make countless arrangements for her parents who were trying to digest the news of Abbey’s mother’s life-altering diagnosis.
On practically a moment’s notice, this daughter extraordinaire, who is also the CEO of her own busy family’s household, set her parents up with health aides, doctor referrals, legal support for estate and end-of-life planning, guides for basic tasks, ongoing emotional support, and more.
Needless to say, Abbey was pretty spent when we had an opportunity to catch up.
Interestingly though, she was quick to clarify that it wasn’t the administrative work that really wiped her out. Rather, it was a feeling of dejection from believing she wasn’t doing enough.
Rationally, Abbey knew she did a great job for her parents, especially given that these tasks were completely new territory to her and she was navigating it solo.
She didn’t feel that truth, however, partly because even with all the new services in place for her parents, Abbey’s dad continued to call multiple times a day to complain or to point out a detail that was unclear to him.
How sad that on top of enduring the emotional turmoil of her mother’s ailing condition, Abbey was also experiencing heartbreak over feeling inadequate.
Enter “Susan,” an employee at an agency that was providing home care for Abbey’s mother (which Abbey of course, coordinated).
While discussing Abbey’s mother’s affairs, Susan said to Abbey something to the effect of, “You have done an incredible job helping your parents in a very short amount of time, all while traveling back and forth hundreds of miles between your homes. You have made life much easier for them!”
Abbey told me that sentiment made her smile from the inside out.
Abbey felt whole again for the first time in a good while.
She felt validated.
Let’s be clear: validating people does not mean blowing smoke up you know where.
It must be genuine and happen in one of two ways:
1--Give “props”: This is the type of validation Susan offered Abbey.
She observed something beautiful about Abbey and recognized it.
When giving props, it is important to be specific and of course, sincere. Susan did this well when she noted the effect Abbey’s actions had on the situation (i.e., she made her parents’ life easier through her incredible efforts).
Remember that we can give props not just for things that people DO, but also for a person’s way of BEING. For example, Susan could have also shared that Abbey’s devotion to her parents was palpable and inspiring.
2--“Allow the yuck”: This type of validation means that if someone expresses that they’re going through a hard time and as a result, they feel down and out, then we simply convey that we see/feel that they’re suffering and we’re terribly sorry.
It’s unlikely that we can “fix” the troubles, so offering advice is often not warranted. We validate by being emotionally available and supportive.
I think it’s safe to believe that most people can accept the mandate to validate when it concerns others.
The real challenge is…can we apply it to OURSELVES, especially when we feel broken-hearted?
One place to start is by communicating with yourself as you would with a dear friend who is in emotional pain.
If this form of self-talk isn’t accessible, a “safer” beginning step is to listen intently to a song that allows difficult emotions to flow. From that place, it’s often easier to soften towards ourself.
While I can’t make it an official order, I can say that making people feel more whole is simply good policy.
There’s already enough brokenness in the world…let’s accept the mandate to validate!