7 Relationship Sins 02 | Invalidation

The next deadly relationship sin is invalidation. Unlike escalation, invalidation can be quite subtle. Often it comes in the form of trying to help: “Don’t worry,” “Don’t be angry,” “Don’t cry.” Research conducted by Stanley, Trathen, and McCain of University of Denver revealed four negative patterns that were: 1) present in almost all failed relationships; 2) strong predictors of divorce; 3) often learned from the home of origin and 4) tend to neutralize all the good that might be going on in the relationship. Those four patterns are:

  1. Escalation
  2. Invalidation
  3. Negative interpretation
  4. Withdrawal

The best replacement for invalidation is empathic listening. It’s interesting, James 1:19 says, “Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath.” Most of us are slow to hear, quick to speak, and quick to wrath—or escalation. The Behavioral Change Stairway Model (BCSM), developed by the FBI’s Crisis Negotiation Unit which specializes in hostage situations, has developed a method that involves five stages: active listening, empathy, rapport, influence, and behavioral change..[1] If active listening can begin the process of calming a hostage situation, it can help our lesser conflicts! Most people don’t want to be agreed with. They want to be understood and felt. Rather than invalidating, try active listening and empathy and a whole new world of communication will open up.

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[1] Dalfonzo, 2002; Noesner & Webster, 1997; Webster, 1998a, 1998b

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Jennifer Jill Schwirzer LPC

In 1999 Jennifer graduated summa cum laude from Atlantic Union College. She is the founder of Michael Ministries, a music/speaking/writing ministry. She has produced six CDs of her own music and given concerts in the United States, Canada, Africa, South America, and Europe. Previous books include Testimony of a Seeker, A Most Precious Message, and I Want It All. Jennifer and husband, Michael, have been married for more than 20 years and have two children, Alison and Kimberly.

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