Borderline Personality Disorder,  Validation,  WHINE Book

The validating statement revealed

Validation is Walking Along With Someone

This is an excerpt from pages 103-104 from my book When Hope is Not Enough: a how-to guide for living with and loving someone with Borderline Personality Disorder. This excerpt comes from my (long) discussion of validation and how and why to do it. In the book, I outline a six step process to validation. This is a part of “Step 3: Making a Validating Statement”:

Examples of validating statements:
– That must have made you feel really angry.
– What a frustrating situation to be in!
– It must make you feel angry to have someone do that.
– That’s so difficult for you.
– Wow, how hard that must be.
– That’s stinks!
– That’s messed up! (or stronger language if you are so inclined)
– How frustrating!
– Yeah, I can see how that might make you feel really sad.
– Boy, you must be angry.
– What a horrible feeling.
– What a tough spot.
– That must be really discouraging.
– I bet you feel disappointed.
– Rats, I know how much that meant to you.
– That’s so painful for you.
– Tell me more. (shows interest)
– Wow, she must have made you really angry.

And, of course, many, many more. If you want a validating statement to feel “true” make it about the truth of the situation for the other person. That truth is the way they feel about the event.
When you make a validating statement you should not:

– Make it about you. “I hated it when that happened to me.”
– Try to one-up the person. “Oh, you think you have it bad…”
– Tell them how they should feel. “You should feel blessed…”
– Try to give them advice. “What you really should do is…”
– Try to solve their problem. “I’m going to call that girl’s parents and…”
– Cheerlead (there is a time for this, but not now). “I know you can do it…”
– Make “life” statements. “Well, life’s not fair…”
– Make judgmental statements. “What you did was wrong…”
– Make “revisionist” statements. “If you had only…”
– Make it about your feelings. “How do you think that makes me feel?”
– Make “character” statements. “You’re too sensitive…”
– Rationalize another person’s behavior. “I bet they were just…”
– Call names. “You’re such a baby.”
– Use reason or the “facts.” “That’s not what happened…”
– Use “always” or “never” statements. “You always get yourself into these situations…”
– Compare the person to someone else. “Why can’t you be like your sister?”
– Label the person. “You’re nuts.”
– Advising to cut ties or ignore the situation. “Just ignore him.”

Remember, the current problem is not what happened; it is what the BP feels about it. So, the problem that must be addressed is her feelings, not the situation. To address her feelings, you must do so using emotional language, not rational or judgmental language.



  • Wandering Coyote

    Great lists, and great post.

    In dealing with BPD and with those that deal with us who have BPD, it’s amazing how communication styles differ, and what an impact just editing your statements can make. On the other side of it, I have found, sometimes people say things that, while said in a validating way, are so trite, so patronizing. Some people have the skills and some people don’t. I just have to sit back and not take anything personally – which of course is hard but something I’ve become better at over the years.

  • Bon Dobbs

    Yes, I know that they can sound patronizing and trite – that is one of the problems. I think it takes a change of style AND attitude to get your mind around this. You really have to BELIEVE what you’re saying is truth and not just use it as a “trick.” I have found that most people don’t even know about validation, much less how to do it. Many people don’t recognize the power of emotions to affect our thinking and behaving. I try and point that out. Also, people are generally VERY judgmental.

  • CC

    Hi! I’m glad to have found your site. I agree with your assessment of non-BPD support sites and have not really found any of them helpful. I’m looking for healthy ways to respond to the man I love who I believe has BPD when he says degrading things to me. I don’t know how to draw boundaries or address him when he starts raging. I usually say, “I see that you’re upset. Can you tell me why?” But there usually doesn’t appear to be any kind of trigger, and I don’t think he’s really angry at ME. But it gets to a point of being almost abusive towards me. I don’t internalize his insults because I like myself and I know he cares for me and I can see that it’s coming from a place of pain for him, not a place of meanness or arrogance. But I don’t always know how to respond. Sometimes I joke him out of it. I informed him that every time he insulted me, I would say something nice about him. So I’ll make some kind of mistake and he’ll yell, “THAT WAS REALLY STUPID.” and I’ll say, “I’m not perfect, and neither are you, and I love you.” Sometimes that actually works to calm him. But I don’t really know that it’s healthy. Sometimes he does it in front of other people. I need to figure out how to draw boundaries with him without shutting him off or making him think that I want to leave him. I don’t. Anyway, I haven’t finished reading all the posts. I assume there’s no easy answer. He does not like talking about what is really making him upset, when he’s upset. Sometimes he disappears for a couple of weeks and then pops back up again. I let him know in between hearing from him how much I like him and miss him. He goes from extreme gentleness to extreme hatred in less than 5 seconds, without anything that seems like a trigger. I can handle his rage, but I don’t always know how to respond to the insults in a way that calms him. I know that he doesn’t mean it, and therefore I excuse it. My friends say that I make excuses for him. And I know that I do that, but knowing some of the things he’s been through, and knowing that this is his coping mechanism and that he doesn’t mean any of what he says, really, I do make excuses for him. But it is painful to think that he is so frightened of me, and I want him to know that he can trust me. I don’t know how to accomplish that, although things have gotten better, generally, the more we know each other. Thanks for your posts.

  • CC

    I thought your post about the # of women complaining about their male companions’ BPD, and how it might actually be NPD, very interesting. I considered that about my boyf but a lot of what he’s been through and his actions seem to fit the BPD profile more. He has self-injured (his thighs are covered in huge gash scars) and been suicidal in the past, he has an abusive past that he refuses to discuss, he said he does not trust people, he goes from very loving to very hateful in seconds without anything that seems like a trigger, and he has had plastic surgery and plans on getting more even though he’s good looking. I know he’s had trouble making friends in the past and alternatingly degrades and idealizes the people in his life to the point of having lost some friends. I know that when this happens, it makes him very sad, even though he helped cause the rift. There is such a push/pull feel at all times. He has not been diagnosed, and I’m no doctor, but I’m not able to see another explanation for his behavior. When he starts insulting, it feels like a rage, and it’s usually very over the top. He does not seem to be an NPD person, because when he’s not raging, he’s extraordinarily caring and empathetic towards others. I am still trying to figure out ways of responding to him when he starts his insult storms. Sometimes when I try to respond in a caring way, like “Hey I see that you’re upset – I care about you” he thinks that I’m patronizing him. If I try to defend myself, he lays in harder. If I get upset, he lays in harder. If I make a joke out of it, sometimes I can him out of it, and sometimes I can’t. I have yet to tell him that I think he has BPD because I don’t want him to think I’m attacking him. He doesn’t respond well to that. So I’m waiting for the right time/way to talk with him about this, because I think he may need help. I love him though. He doesn’t rage like this most of the time. He’s almost 2 completely different people. Once I brought that to his attention during a calm time and I asked him if he acted that way sometimes defensively, and he said yes, and he said I’d probably never understand. Telling him he can trust me doesn’t help – he doesn’t trust me to begin with. I will keep reading though too.

  • Bon Dobbs

    Well, obviously I can’t diagnose your partner. Self-injury is definitely more a BP trait than NPD. I DO have to say, if he IS BPD, validation can help. It take a LOT of practice though. Just using the words does not insure a feeling of honesty. He might find your attempts at validation as patronizing… my wife did too at my first attempts. But with practice and (most importantly) honesty (and non-judgment) validation can help to douse the flaming emotional fires. Join our group and see what happens… oh, and read WHINE.

    Take care,


  • CC

    Book’s on the way. 🙂 Thanks, Bon. This site is really helping me. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. Will let you know how it goes after reading the book. 🙂

  • PaulNON

    I have been married to a BPD for over 25 years. It was not until year 22 that I started to understand it. When I was a young man, I had never heard of this disorder.

    As a man of over 6 foot and 200 lbs, I have literally feared her rages, especially since I cannot physically defend myself without seeing some time behind concrete walls and bars. Truly, a very frightening position to be in at times and trying to leave can be as dangerous as staying.

    I have ofetn found that the rages are far more emotionally stressful to endure than the combat in Iraq. The verbal, physical and emotional assaults are real and once, a time ago, they were very painful. Today, it is not so much because I understand the illness. Does it ever get any better. Not really.

    All of this does not make it any more easier to accept. Yes, I can leave anytime I want. I choose not to and instead, spend my days trying to be there for her and letting her know she is loved. Often this can be futile but it does teach great patience in love and understanding and gives me a strength in other parts of my life to be able to deal with people.

    I have been learning to do the validation techniques for about a year but validating words are very short listed and they run out quickly when my BPD is in a foul mood. What makes my BPD so challenging is her intelligence is way up there. She hears every word and keys in on only those words that are minor in the whole context of the conversation but appear invalidating and turns it against me. The whole context may be supporting, affirming and understanding, but just one phrase and sometimes even one word that suggests even a better direction, can be invalidating.

    Truly, there is no user manual I have found that unlocks the secrets. It is a day by day approach to dealing with a person whose emotions are all consuming and overwhelming to them. Validation is critical but will not always solve the rage or anger.

    If you do not know the Lord, seek him in your walk. Read Ephesians 5 and 6. Put on your armor each day and use the Word to counter the accusations calmly and with the Spirit. It is amazing how it can help at times.

    Most of all, if you are a woman and man hits you, please leave. No woman should fear this or experience this, ever.

  • Nicole

    Thanks for posting this, it is a great article. I’m learning the art of Validation in my DBT class and I find it quite challenging indeed!
    I think a lot is in what you say but even more in the delivery and tone you say it in that can make all the difference.
    What’s also crucial for development is to not only validate others but ourselves as well! :0
    Thank you!

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