Do you know there are rules for venting? I didn’t until a couple of years ago.
The company I used to work for organised lunchtime speakers now and then. One day, a lady who assisted one of the Sydney Rugby League teams as a wellbeing coach, spoke to us about being more aware of each other’s needs at work.
She got on to the subject of venting, and while I can’t remember her name, I’ll never forget the lessons I learnt from her.
She asked us to think about who our venting partner was. I happened to be sitting right next to mine, and we gave each other a knowing smile.
I learnt not to take that person for granted and that it’s polite to ask if it’s OK to vent, even if you know them well.
Everyone has one or two venting partners (at work and home). They are the people you feel comfortable having a rant too who will happily listen and not judge. But when you dive into it without asking first, it’s not fair to the other person, and you’re not going to get what you need from them.
Here are a few of the other guidelines I learnt that day
When you need to vent
- Ask first. You would know from experience, if you’re in the middle of something and someone rocks up to vent, it can impact the rest of your day. Asking permission allows the other person to say “Not now but want to grab a coffee later?”. You will probably be a little calmer by then, and they will be in a position to listen.
- Do you need help with a solution? If you just want to get something off your chest, and don’t want help coming up with a solution, say so. Otherwise, you’ll get frustrated when solutions are offered, and the other person will feel dejected.
- Be considerate. Be respectful of the other person’s time and frame of mind. Know when to stop (if you’re repeating yourself it’s time) and try not to dump negativity on them. They don’t have to feel the same way you do, and you don’t want to ruin their day.
When someone is venting to you
- Stop them if you’re in the middle of something or not in the right frame of mind and organise another time of the day to chat with them. Of course, if they are distressed, you may need to drop everything and help them straight away, but in most circumstances, they’ll be able to wait.
- Don’t let their frame of mind affect yours. They might be having a bad day but try not to let it rub off on you. It’s important to listen and be empathetic, but don’t take on their problems.
- Only offer solutions if asked. My venting partner was a master at this. He’d let me vent, then he’d say nothing. Every now and then he’d throw in a little one-liner which would help me think about the situation differently, and then I’d solve it myself.
Following these guidelines has worked for me in every aspect of my life.
My team members would often vent in their one-on-one meetings. It’s a gift because you learn so much about their values and what motivates and frustrates them. Absolute gold! Same applies to your peers.
My husband and I say “I just need to vent” and we know that means “you don’t need to solve my problem, but it would be great if you could listen to me for a bit”. I have a similar understanding with my brother and my best friend. And there is no judgement in these conversations.
I must confess that I’m not so good at this with my kids. I listen, and I’m empathetic, but I’m a mum, and I want to solve all their problems for them. Of course, they won’t learn anything if I do – time to do some more practice.