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20 ways you can emotionally invalidate someone

Emotional invalidation is particularly a problem when you’re dealing with an emotionally sensitive person, like someone with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). I have a long list of emotionally invalidating phrases from which this list is derived. Emotional validation is the opposite of invalidation. You can learn how to use emotional validation to connect with a person with BPD by reading my book When Hope is Not Enough.

1. Ordering the person to feel differently

  • Cheer up.
  • Don’t cry.
  • Don’t worry.
  • Don’t be sad.
  • Stop whining.

2. Ordering the person to “look” differently

  • Don’t look so sad.
  • Don’t look so smug.
  • Don’t look so down.
  • Don’t look like that.
  • Don’t make that face.

3. Denying the person’s perception, defending

  • But of course I respect you.
  • But I do listen to you.
  • That is ridiculous (nonsense, totally absurd, etc.)
  • I was only kidding.
  • I honestly don’t judge you as much as you think.

4. Trying to make the person feel guilty While invalidating

  • I tried to help you.
  • At least I…
  • At least you…
  • You are making everyone else miserable.
  • You just won’t accept anyone’s help.

5. Trying to Isolate

  • You are the only one who feels that way.
  • It doesn’t bother anyone else, why should it bother you?
  • No one else feels that way.
  • Nobody has a problem with it except you.

6. Minimizing the feelings

  • You must be kidding.
  • It can’t be that bad.
  • Your life can’t be that bad.
  • You are just … (being difficult; being dramatic, in a bad mood, tired, etc)
  • It’s nothing to get upset over.

7. Using reason

  • There is no reason to get upset.
  • You are not being rational.
  • But it doesn’t make any sense to feel that way.
  • Let’s look at the facts.
  • But if you really think about it…

8. Debating

  • I don’t always do that.
  • It’s not that bad. (that far, that heavy, that hot, that serious, etc.)
  • I didn’t say that!
  • That’s not what I meant.

9. Judging & labeling

  • You are a cry baby.
  • You have a problem.
  • You are too sensitive.
  • You are over-reacting. You are too thin-skinned.
  • You are way too emotional.

10. Turning Things Around

  • You are making a big deal out of nothing.
  • You are blowing this way out of proportion.
  • You are making a mountain out of a molehill.

11. Trying to get the person to question himself/herself

  • What is your problem?
  • What’s wrong with you?
  • What’s the matter with you?
  • Why can’t you just get over it?
  • Can’t you take a joke?

12. Telling the person how he/she “Should” Feel or Act

  • You should be excited.
  • You should be thrilled.
  • You should feel guilty.
  • You should feel thankful.
  • You should feel ashamed of yourself.

13. Defending The Other Person

  • Maybe they were just having a bad day.
  • I am sure she didn’t mean it like that.
  • You just took it wrong.
  • I am sure she means well.

14. Negating, Denial & Confusion

  • Now you know that isn’t true.
  • You don’t mean that.
  • You don’t really mean that.
  • You are just… (in a bad mood today, tired, cranky)

15. Sarcasm and Mocking

  • Oh, you poor thing. Did I hurt your little feelings?
  • What did you think? The world was created to serve you?
  • What happened to you? Did you get out of the wrong side of bed again?

16. Laying Guilt Trips

  • Don’t you ever think of anyone but yourself?
  • What about my feelings?!
  • Have you ever stopped to consider my feelings?

17. Philosophizing Or Cliches

  • Time heals all wounds.
  • Every cloud has a silver lining.
  • Life is full of pain and pleasure.
  • When you are older you will understand.
  • You are just going through a phase.
  • It is what it is.

18. Talking about the person when she can hear it

  • She is impossible to talk to.
  • You can’t say anything to her.
  • She’s such a…

19. Showing Intolerance

  • This is getting really old.
  • This is getting really pathetic.
  • I am sick of hearing about it.

20. Making it about you

  • When I feel that way, I…
  • You think you have it bad? I once…
  • Do you ever think about me?
  • What about my feelings/needs?
  • That’s nothing. I had it much worse when…

9 comments to 20 ways you can emotionally invalidate someone

  • Queen Latifa

    Where is this from? I remember reading it someplace else and I need a source. Thanks.

  • I originally found it in a forum from unknown origin. I reprinted it in my book saying the origin was unknown. I then found out that it is posted http://eqi.org/invalid.htm

  • I’m quite surprised you took the moniker “Queen Latifa”. It seems odd to me.

  • Sarah Palin

    I was just funning

  • Just funning? Are you OK?

  • I would try to emotionally validate my BPD wife, be supportive, etc.

    Of course if she had gotten help one of the 50 times I demanded she did, we both could have learned how to address her disorder better.

    One thing I did do, that I realize now was counterproductive, was trying to rationalize with my wife, try to make her understand through facts and logic, it was ultimately frustrating for us both. I understand now that BPD’s inner turmoil and fear trump facts, like a person that panics (a reaction from fear) their perceptions are altered and emotions override fact.

    Communication was horribly dysfunctional, she refused to hear what she didn’t want to hear, and would rage and show emotion thinking her emotions alone would alter her environment around her. I tried to respond with calm and logic and trying to make her understand, which was pointless. Trying to communicate something important could take weeks, with me being hyper vigilant, probing her moods and assessing opportunities to broach the subject and communicate the facts without it turning into a full blown emotional melt down and an hour long rage episode. I gave up trying to communicate my needs to try to get them met, I lived in denial and told myself I’m strong and can thrive without having any needs met.

    The last ten years of the marriage (25 years long) my emotional health was deteriorating, I couldn’t remain strong anymore, and I began to lash out myself. Funny, our relationship improved. I realize now, which we both agreed during a discussion during our separation (in divorce proceedings now). My wife didn’t communicate with words, she communicated with emotions. If she showed stronger emotions, to her, she won the argument, she made her point, she trumped anything I was saying because I was calm, without emotion, using pointless facts that had no meaning. So these last ten years, how did our communication change which was a marginal improvement but still woefully inadequate; instead of the past hyper vigilance and looking for opportunities, I stop trying to self sooth and heal, I let myself sink into depression, showed the signs intentionally, this would get a response and fearing abandonment she would respond with trying to meet my needs. Sadly, and NOT intentionally, I had my own outburst from built up suppressed angers buried for decades, this had mixed results, fear definitely was understood. But like most BPD, my wife was exceptional at manipulation and learning and exploiting other people’s buttons and weakness’s. Just being a bit animated and excited, i.e. raising my voice a bit in positive way, would be met of accusations of being angry and out of control, blaming that my yelling and NOT even knowing it was the source of all the conflict in our marriage.

  • You seem to have been through a lot with your wife. I emphasize to the people on my list that therapy is not necessarily a fix for BPD. It has to be the right kind of therapy and the right therapist. Many places in the world have no access to the proper therapy. And the client/patient has to buy in and do the work.

    I try to encourage my list members and coaching clients to change themselves. You can’t make anyone go to therapy if they are refusing to go – as you found out with your wife. I posted a message on this going to therapy

  • Rebecca W

    Your blog is so helpful, thank you.

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