Friday, February 15, 2013

Invalidation: Telling People What They Should Want

One common invalidation I have experienced is when you say that something is a problem for you, and someone tells you that your problem is actually a good thing, like this:

Person A: "I'm really annoyed that the bakery across the street is closing. Now I can't get my strawberry cupcakes!"
Person B: "Maybe that's a good thing because you won't eat as many cupcakes."

While people sometimes try to make their friend feel better by saying something positive, these are better examples of being positive:
"I know another bakery that makes pretty good cupcakes."
"They're putting in a bowling alley where the bakery used to be, so that could be fun too." (if your friend likes bowling).
The comment about eating fewer cupcakes is not a positive statement because if the person wanted to eat fewer cupcakes, they would probably not be sad about the bakery closing in the first place. To further emphasize this point, what if Person A said:
"I'm really upset that the gym across the street is closing. Now I won't get to work out anymore."
Now, would anyone say, "That's great that you don't have to exercise anymore," or would everyone suggest other ways that the person could exercise besides going to that gym?

The bakery may be a minor example, but I have gotten similar responses to more serious problems.  If you respond differently to the gym and the bakery scenarios, you are using your own (or society's) opinion of what is good and bad and invalidating your friend's feelings. If you respond the same way to the gym and the bakery scenarios, you are respectful of what matters to your friends.

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