Tackling a Common Question: Why 'Planting Happiness Seeds' is Step 2 of the Communication Code and Not Step 1

| Mary Shores

A question I often receive that I want to address is why planting seeds of happiness is Step 2 of the Communication Code and not Step 1.

To recap, Step 1 of the Code is validation.

Validation is all about making the people you’re talking with feel heard.

The first thing we do when someone brings us a concern, a complaint, or even a bit of good news is make that person feel heard.

We communicate that with phrases like...

"I can see how important this is to you.”

“I can understand your concern.”

"Thank you for sharing that with me.”

Step 2 of the Communication Code is planting seeds of happiness.

It's the equivalent of someone saying to you, “I’ve got you” or “I’ve got this.”

Aside from "I’ve got you” or “I’ve got this," you could say...

“I’ve got great news for you!”

“You’re in great hands!”

“I’m more than glad to help you with this.”

"I can definitely look into this.”

The reason planting happiness seeds is Step 2 and not Step 1 is because people have to be emotionally ready to move on to a happier place.

For someone to truly believe you've "got this," that person needs to know he or she has been heard (validated).

Validation helps the people we're talking to see us as allies. It builds instant trust and connection and brings them out of "freak-out mode."

Once the people you're talking to feel validated and confident they can trust you, then it's OK to go ahead and plant that seed of happiness.

Consider this scenario: You and your friend are having coffee on a Sunday morning. She says to you, “I can’t believe this. I screwed up on my taxes again. I’m so stupid. How could I make this mistake? I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

She’s sitting there beating herself up. As her friend, you’re going to want to make her feel better. So, the first thing you’re probably going to say is something like, “I hear you. Tax season stresses me out,” or "I can understand how frustrating this is to you."

Once she feels her frustration has been validated, then it’s okay to move on to the better feeling spot, which is that, “I think it’s going to be okay. I know someone who can help you out... ."

Your friend has shown you she's deeply concerned. Do you see how jumping to the solution without acknowledging her concern could cause her to question whether you understand her situation and whether your contact can really help her? Going back to what I said earlier, people have to be emotionally ready to move onto a "better place."

Now, say someone you don't have a history with (and whose trust you don't already posses) brings you a concern or complaint. This person shares his or her story and you immediately follow up with, "I've got great news." Do you see how that could also cause the person to feel like he or she hasn't fully been heard and that your "good news" might not actually help him out? He or might then go on to repeat his or her story.

You need to create a foundation of trust first.

Acknowledging people's situations through validation will help you establish a foundation of trust that gets people to want to engage with you further and moves them to a place where they're ready to hear your solutions.

Tell me! If you were to ask someone for help or advice, what words would make you feel heard? Are you using those words when other people come to you with their problems?

To view this article as originally written, visit


Back to Blog