Venting has its Consequences

You know the scene. You’re more than familiar with it.

It’s a bright, crisp Monday morning and you’re walking into work. Sure you’re not ready for the day–you REALLY don’t want to be there–but you figure that you’ll make the best of things, that you’ll get through the day, go home and rest. But as you arrive at your station, a horrendous sight awaits you.

It’s the company sniveler and boy do they look seething today.

The moment you arrive at your station, they pounce on you with “I can’t believes” and “So and so is such a terrible persons.” They litter your ear with all the negative things about your workplace and about their home life.

There is no escape.

The moment you manage to fit a “I don’t want to talk about this with you, talk to so and so” in, they immediately counter with a “I’m just venting” and continue their attack with just as much fury.

No one likes a sniveler.

It’s okay to complain every once in a while–we are human, I suppose–but the problem comes when you complain about someone to another person or when you complain constantly. People, oddly enough, are attracted to optimistic people who can remain positive through the toughest ordeals.

Think about it.

Would you want to spend your Monday with someone who is going to complain about every single thing that happened (both today and over the weekend) or would you want to spend it with someone who grins at the challenge but otherwise talks with you in a way that lightens your load rather than throws more bricks on it?

The curious thing is that complaining can actually destroy a reputation. When you complain a lot, people begin to look down on you. They begin to think “THEN WHY DON’T YOU DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT” after everything that you tell them. People are no idiots. They know that if you’re talking bad about someone else to their face, there’s a chance that you’re talking bad about them too. Even if you aren’t, the fact that they think that can destroy your reputation quicker than the beat of a hummingbird’s wing.

Complaining doesn’t just alter other’s opinions about you, though, it also changes your judgement of the day you’re having. What one says and how one acts, researchers have found, actually dictates their feelings and judgements.

There have been experiments done where participants were forced to nod or shake their heads during an argument. Most of the people who nodded agreed with the person. Most who shook their head disagreed.

There have also been experiments where participants were forced to smile, laugh, frown or snarl–and with similar results. Those who acted happy became happy. Those who acted angry became angry.

“What upsets people,” Epictetus said around 1960 years ago, “is not things themselves but their judgments about the things.” (Handbook of Epictetus, 5)

In other words, venting doesn’t actually get rid of the anger–it solidifies it. Someone could have upset you unintentionally, but the moment you complain about it, their action becomes intentional to you and they become unreasonable in your judgement.

Venting is actually more harmful than it is helpful, with regards to both you and others.

Think about it.

Epictetus was a slave. He was beaten and dehumanized daily. If he’s able to live and let live, what possible excuse could you have otherwise?


1 Comment

  1. EFoley said,

    August 3, 2012 at 03:50

    Great post–you helped me to realize that venting makes it so we “let off steam,” leaving no power for us to actually solve the problem about which we’re complaining…

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