If you like to listen to people as I do you’ll soon notice that most peoples’ “stories” can be summed up this way: “I’m not appreciated enough, I don’t get the credit I deserve, I don’t get any respect.”
Everywhere I go I hear people telling their stories and what they’re all saying if you listen closely is that they want to be validated. They want somebody to tell them how important they are, how smart they are, how right they are and how good they are.
We even expect politicians to validate us by not seeming to be too superior to us or too “other”. Even with his patrician pedigree and his Ivy League degrees, George W Bush made millions of plebeians feel validated. Rednecks everywhere wanted to have a beer with “W”. By contrast, our current president isn’t a very convincing Validator-In-Chief. He’s too black, too smart and too “other”. A redneck can’t imagine Obama having a beer with a redneck – but he can watch him having a beer on the White House lawn with Henry Louis Gates under circumstances that reinforce Obama’s “otherness”.
Had Obama been running against George W Bush, he couldn’t have won the 2008 election. We expect our presidents to validate us, to make us feel OK about our bigotries, our ignorance of the US Constitution and our closed-mindedness.
On one recent hot afternoon I overheard three conversations that support my thesis that what everybody is saying is “validate me”.
At the St. Albans Public Library I overheard a math tutor telling his friend he was even more qualified to teach Algebra than some smartass college professor who is certified in calculus, trigonometry and physics.
“Validate me. I count, too,” he was saying.
Later that day I heard an old woman telling stories to a friend. In every story she told, she was the heroin.
“Validate me, will somebody please validate me!” she seemed to be screaming.
At the Town Center mall I overheard a woman telling her friend how her volunteer work had gone unnoticed and unappreciated.
My Kentucky Baptist correspondent, Darrell, may remember a joke that Baptist preachers used to tell. They used to say you could offend the organ player by praising the piano player and you could offend the person who brought the petunias by forgetting to thank the person who brought the roses.
Those aren’t flowers on the dais. Those are invoices demanding payment for services rendered.
Armed with this insight into human nature, I face each day and each conversation with a choice. I can either offend the people I meet by not validating them or I can go ahead and offer them the validation they seek. It saves time and, if you’re running for office, it’ll help you get elected.