Providing Validations to Volunteers
Excerpted from Keeping Volunteers: A Guide to Retention by Steve McCurley and Rick Lynch, Fat Cat Publications, 2005.
One method for enhancing a volunteer's sense of uniqueness is to praise them for personality traits that they possess. These validations tend to make the volunteer feel good. And this sense of feeling appreciated they foster also makes them feel connected.
A validation is a statement that praises a person's positive characteristics. Some examples of validations include:
- I admire your work ethic.
- I'm impressed at how pleasant you are after a hard day.
- You sure are smart.
- I love your sense of humor.
- You are so good at solving problems.
- I like the way you stay calm in the face of conflict.
- You are such a caring person.
Such statements can be made at any time, without the volunteer having done anything in particular. They are recognition not for the work they do but for the kind of people they are....
In their simplest form, validations begin with phrases such as:
Such statements would be followed by a positive personality trait. For example:
- You sure are smart.
- You always come up with the best ideas.
- You are the hardest worker I've ever seen.
The technical term for this approach in psychology is altercasting, attributing a positive characteristic to someone as a way of motivating them to actually exhibit the characteristic. Validations are even more connecting if they begin with the word "I." For example:
- I admire ...
- I'm impressed by
- I like ...
- I value ...
- I treasure....
Again these phrases are followed by a mention of the trait being praised:
- I admire how pleasant you are at the end of a stressful day.
- I'm impressed by your ability to stick to a task.
- I value your keen insight.
- I like the way you keep an even temper.
Because it is likely your volunteers will not have heard many validations in their lives, you should be careful not to overdo it. But once people get used to hearing these kinds of statements from you, they might become comfortable validating each other. A mutually validating environment is one in which people feel connected and unique at the same time.
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