December 1, 2021
Right off the bat …
To all of our partners, spouses and friends and families
- Yes, we love you, we want the best for you and we want to help, if possible.
- No, we do not know when you are just venting.
- No, we do not know when you want suggestions or solutions nor when you don’t.
If you are anything like me, you get in to so much trouble by assuming others are asking for your help, ideas or solutions when really they are just venting and want to be heard. I am not opposed to listening and letting someone be heard, I need to know that is what you want. Have you ever noticed that the same people that want you to “just listen,” are also the same people that get pissed when you don’t offer solutions or help them when they are ranting and raving? It truly is a no-win situation. You get into trouble when you just listen and then you get in to trouble when you offer solutions or suggestions.
Have an agreement when someone is venting and only wants you to listen
Let’s have an agreement for the “Ventor” and the “Ventee” aka the Listener. What will this agreement do? It will get everyone on the same page at the same time. It will improve your communication. Since communifriggin’cation is the key to everything, it might just stop the needless fighting, anger or hurt feelings.
I would suggest that you work on the agreement as soon as possible. Once the talking/venting begins it is too late. Each of you have unique ways that you deal with things. Your friends, partner, spouse, families do not deal with things the same way as you. If you only do one thing …make it clear that you just want to be heard, understood and supported OR you want ideas, help and possible solutions. Come up with two words that you can say and the other person understands. For example, you can say “rant” then the other person will know that you want to vent. If you say “help,” then they know to listen and then help you come up with possible solutions.
Listen and validate their feelings
What happens if Vivi starts talking and Lindsay has no clue about what to do? Then Lindsay has to listen, understand, and empathize. No Fixing! No offering suggestions! I know that to just listen, understand and empathize is very hard to do. I always want to fix it or find a solution. I am a work in progress, but I am getting better and better at not offering unsolicited advice.
Rule #1 – The person being talked TO is “Lindsay the Listener” and the person doing the talking is “Vivi the Ventor.” Be quiet and listen for understanding, and NOT to reply.
Rule #2 – “Lindsay the Listener” will have to be on their toes ‘cause when “Vivi the Ventor” starts talking, they just start talking. You have no warning and are hardly ever told by Vivi that they “just want to vent.” As the current “Listener”, you must become the one that takes those two seconds to breathe and think before responding in any way, shape or form. Lest you become the one getting yelled at! If you have not been told if this is a venting session or a brainstorming session, then you must ask nicely.
Rule #3 – “Vivi the Ventor” has a responsibility to tell “Lindsay the Listener” what is going on and what is expected of them. No assuming allowed.
Rule #4 – “Vivi the Ventor” gets to feel however they feel.
Rule #5 – “Vivi the Ventor” and “Lindsay the Listener” both must agree to be respectful towards each other.
Rule #6 – Vivi may need to vent or discuss but Lindsay either cannot handle it at the moment or has something else that needs to be dealt with. Set a time to talk later.
Rule # 7 – Do not interrupt. You may ask for clarification when they are finished with their thoughts. Repeat back to them what you have heard to make sure you understand.
Rule # 8 – Be fully present. Do Not look at your phone or the TV.
The natual born problem-solvers
Some people are natural born problem solvers and others need some time to figure out what course of action to take. What are the known challenges that are preventing you from moving forward? What are some barriers that arise once you begin moving forward? Identifying challenges and barriers are easy for some people and not so easy for others. We all have different perspectives and life experiences. Different is not bad or wrong, it is just different.
Are you able to listen for understanding or are you waiting for your turn to respond? Are you willing to be uncomfortable when they express their feelings/concerns? It is much easier to rush to problem solving than it is to deal with feelings and emotions that are being caused by the problem. Everyone gets to have their own feelings and everyone deserves to have their feelings validated. You may not agree with their feelings or emotions and that is fine, but they get to have them and feel them. Maybe all the other person needs to hear is “that sucks” or “I am sorry that you are having to deal with that.” Maybe, they just want to know that you have their back no matter what.
Learn what empathetic listening means. Empathy is about listening to the emotions and feelings that the other person is describing. Maybe you could ask, “How do you feel about this?” They probably want to feel supported by you. Understand where they are coming from and what they are feeling about what has happened.
Watch out for the dark side of venting
Venting can have a dark side. If you find yourself venting about the same things over and over again then it is time to move on to problem solving. Are you venting for more than 3 minutes? If so, you are probably replaying the same thing over and over again while getting madder and madder. You are letting it become entrenched in your thoughts. That is not doing you any good and it may keep you ruminating about the issues. Ruminating keeps you stuck. If you cannot change anything about the problem then you must change how you view or deal with the problem. Start processing your possible solutions out-loud. Yes, get the thoughts out of your head. What if the same types of situations keep happening? Other than pissing you off, what else is behind it? Be open to the possibility that there is a lesson that you need to learn. Do you need to let it be, just as it is (also known as letting it go)? Let it be. What a novel idea. Be curious. No judgement (it is what it is). Just observe. You really can let your thoughts wonder and not attach any meaning to them. Just go, “huh, wonder what that is about?” and keep on keeping on. Not everything is meant to be figured out. I get it, I drive myself crazy too trying to figure out the meaning behind something. Most of the time, there is no meaning, there is no problem, it is just a thing. Don’t misunderstand, there are problems/issues that do need to be thought about, figured out and a plan of action developed …but, not everything.
If any of these apply to you then stop venting.
- You have no intention of changing anything about the situation or the way you react to it
- The person you are venting to is dealing with harder or more complicated situations
- If you have absolutely nothing positive to say about anything, start working on finding gratitude for 3 things in your life every day.
- You deny any personal responsibility for what is happening or how you are reacting
Everyone needs to vent every now and then. It is cathartic and helpful. It can help you to clear your mind so you can begin working on solutions to improve the situation. When we find ourselves venting we probably to need to get those strong emotions off of our chest and deal with that conflict in a healthy manner. Venting is not complaining. When you find yourself complaining, watch out? Complainers tend to focus on their own dissatisfaction, pain or uneasiness. Complainers only see it from their own point of view. Complainers see themselves as always right and others are wrong. Complainers become energy vampires that zap the listener.
Expressing your feelings is healthy. Complaining focuses on judging someone or something which does not help the complainer nor the listener. Which type of person do you want to be? Will you let others vent to you or is it always a one-way street? Some people take on a false sense of responsibility to fix things or help whenever others dump things on them. It is fine to be a helper, but not to the expense of your own peace of mind. Be wise. You cannot fix everyone or everything. Remember, you cannot make another person happy. Happiness is an inside job for each of us to handle on our own.