Validating One Another's Pain is Vital to Doing Conflict Safely

A vital part of feeling safe in relating is knowing that we are heard and held when we are in pain. A lot of conflict, both interpersonal and collective, turns ugly because people ignore and/or invalidate each other's pain. 

Invalidating a person's pain is dehumanizing. It's refusing to acknowledge the full humanity of the person we're relating to. 

Oppression and abuse thrives by denying our pain is real. Invalidating pain is a tool of supremacy culture. You can't deny someone's pain unless you believe you are in the superior position to claim the absolute truth about someone else's experience. 

On the other side, it is human to become emotionally activated when we don't believe we are being heard and seen in our pain. Emotional activation can lead to unsafe behavior as we try different tactics to make ourselves heard.

The antidote to all of this is validation. Validation isn't necessarily believing the stories people tell about their pain are true, it's validating that the pain itself is real.

The safe relating framework I use has a tool called the Kernel of Truth. When we go through a feedback or accounting process, we seek out the kernel of truth in the other person's story about what happened. 

We really listen to our relating partner's share so that we can understand what led to their experience of hurt, even if we don't agree that our actions were hurtful. Then we reflect back what we heard about their experience and their pain. We share what is real for us in return and together we see and understand the whole story of what happened.

We won't ever find safety with each other as long as we ignore and invalidate one another's hurt. If we hope to learn to do conflict without violating each other, then we need to validate one another's pain.