Tips for Handling Invalidating Comments

If you’re in an environment of disrespect, it can make it really hard for you to function. This is really stressful. There are some thing you can do to make it easier. Here are some tips for handling invalidating comments.

Give responses that:

  • reflect YOUR thoughts, feeling, and needs
  • show respect – both self-respect and respect for all other parties
  • acknowledge the feelings of others.

These things will help to keep the situation from escalating. They also model effective communication skills. It could be that the person that you are speaking to comes from an invalidating environment and hasn’t learned how to speak in other ways. Your example will give them other choices.

Other guidelines:

  • ask for clarification if anything has the potential of being unclear
  • if you jump to conclusions, err on the side of a positive assumption
  • stay away from passive aggressive responses
  • stay mindful
  • lower your voice
  • use “I” statements. This way you’re owning your thoughts.
  • ask for what you want
  • practice. Everything is easier with practice.

Here are some examples

Invalidating Event: A friend responds to your sadness by saying, “It’s been two months. You need to get over it.”
Ineffective Response: “Aw, you’re right. I know I should, but I just can’t stop thinking about it.”
Effective Response: “I realize it’s hard for you to see me like this. I need to grieve in my own way.”

Invalidating Event: A family member says, “There you go being crazy again.”
Ineffective Response: “You need to shut up. You’re always judging me. You are not the expert on me!”
Effective Response: “I am not sure what you meant by that, but I have a right to my thoughts and feelings.”

Invalidating Event: Mother says, “Should you really be eating that?”
Ineffective Response: You say nothing. You don’t eat it right then, but you eat that and more behind her back.
Effective Response: “I appreciate your concern. I can handle this.”

Invalidating Event: Co-worker says that you don’t have a chance of getting the supervisor position.
Ineffective Response: “You’re just a jealous bitch who has always hated me!”
Effective Response: “I have as good a chance as anyone else and can certainly apply if I want to.”

The first example is effective because you stand in your power and allow yourself to feel your feelings. Number two is effective because it doesn’t respond to the name calling. It doesn’t go on the attack. It gives the speaker a graceful out, yet allows you to be authentic. The third example is effective because it let’s your mom know that you’re in control and you’re not going to let her tell you what to do – especially not in that way. Finally, the last example is effective because the speaker seems intent on hurting you. This response lets her know that she didn’t. It’s no fun taunting someone who doesn’t react so this type of response will generally result in fewer nasty remarks over time.

If you don’t know what to say, but feel you have to say something, say thank you.  This says, “I acknowledge you” and tends to shut down the conversation. We don’t usually snipe at people who are thanking us.

Invalidating comments are not just what is said. It’s also about how what is said is interpreted. If you stay nonjudgmental, the words can just be perceived as information. Information is neutral so you don’t have to respond to it, and have less chance of responding in ways that result in conflict.

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