It’s time for another immediately-applicable highly-concrete post. We’re still in that season of summer jobs and I have a feeling I’m not the only one who finds myself venting about work. But, what differentiates venting from complaining and/or gossiping? And, as we’ve already discussed, communication creates reality. If I start speaking negatively about my job, it’s going to spiral, and work is going to get worse. So how do I balance these risks with a need to relate my struggles and frustrations to someone who cares (*thanks Mom!)?
Rule #1: One of the most significant rules is vent to the right person
Ideally, it is best to vent to a person who is fairly removed from the situation. If you are venting about work, this person probably should not be a co-worker. If you’re venting about a relationship, this person probably should not be a mutual friend. Doing this is a set up for disaster. This is because venting to an immediately-involved person is likely to make that other person think worse of the situation as well and that is not fair to this person nor the person or situation you are venting about. Venting to a co-worker is likely to make us both more upset with our jobs. Venting about a mutual friend can easily turn into gossip and will make the relationships worse all around. At school if I have struggles, I vent to my mom who is at home and won’t get emotionally involved in the situation or get upset with the people I’m talking about.
Another factor to keep in mind is that you want to vent to someone who will downplay, instead of create, drama–someone who listens more than he/she talks. Don’t vent to someone whose response will be something like, “Oh geez, that’s horrible. You’re right. Your boss or friend should never do that to you! I would definitely throw a fit if I were in your shoes.” We’re going for a release of negative emotions, not a shared pity party. The goal is to relieve pressure, not build it up! (FYI, a journal does a good job of listening and a pretty good job of not creating drama 😉 )
In case you’re having trouble thinking of someone who can fulfill these roles for you, let me suggest God. He’s not going to think any more negatively of the situation or person just because you vent about it. He’s great at listening and–added bonus!–he’s actually in control of the situation. If you’re asking with the right motives and it’s within his will, it’s likely he will actually change the situation in some way (even if it’s just by working in you)–which is more than a lot of friends or parents can do.
Rule #2: Be active, not passive
Sitting on your butt whining isn’t going to change anything. Use the time you spend venting as time you spend thinking. Is there any way you can change things for the better? Is there anything you can do to affect the situation? This might come in the form of not even changing the situation, but purely trying to change your attitude. Can you start viewing work as a service? Can you keep your focus on the eternal? Can you go out of your way to show love to your “enemy”? Can you work your hardest even when you really don’t care? Even if you use the experience just to get to know yourself better (what you can deal with and what you can’t), that is still a beneficial learning experience. Arguably this is the hardest rule. But if you aren’t seriously considering what you can do to make a difference, you’re really just whining about the situation.
Rule #3: Vent for the right amount of time
I’ve said it multiple times before, but it’s vital to keep in mind. Communication forms reality. The more time you spend complaining, the more you’re going to see that person, that situation, or that job as negative. So keep your venting short and sweet. Say what you need to say to get it off your chest. And then be done. Let the dead dog lie.
Rule #4: End on a good note
In the midst of the things that are bothering you, there has to be something positive. I find myself regularly fed up with specific things at work and am quite willing to vent about them. But do I ever talk about the perks of my job? Do I ever mention the positives? You still became friends with that person for a reason and you still chose that job for a reason. When you are wrapping up a good venting session, be sure to verbalize the positives. It takes a strong soul to remember the positives, but it is an important step.
Another really good source that I would recommend: Anger Management: The Five W’s of Healthy Venting