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I'm Not Complaining, I'm Just Venting!

Denise speaks from her own experience. She has had many trials and difficulties in her own life and seeks to help others through theirs.

Complaining spreads seeds of ill will, choking out those things we could be enjoying in our lives.

Complaining spreads seeds of ill will, choking out those things we could be enjoying in our lives.

I am just as guilty as the next person. When someone asks how I am doing, I am quick to think of all the reasons that I am not doing well. At least, in my mind, they are reasons, but really, they are just excuses.

Why we think that others want to hear about how much we hate our jobs, how insensitive our neighbors are, or why we think that the government is really off the mark, I don't know!

Perhaps we think that they will feel sorry for us. Or perhaps we are just looking to fit in and get some attention. Aren't relationships all about communication? What is there to say if we can't talk about all the bad things we are experiencing?

Is it really complaining when we are blowing off steam after being ticked off? Isn't that what we call venting? How are they different? Is there a purpose in either action that fulfills a basic human need? If not, why do we do it so frequently? The following paragraphs give us a better understanding.

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.

— Eleanor Roosevelt

Our communication tells a lot about us

There are many telltale signs of what kind of people we are. One is the way we spend our money. Another is the way we talk. Our emotional health becomes the backdrop of both. It forms a framework that determines how we deal with our lives; i.e. what we do when we are angry, sad, or excited, and how we express our feelings to others.

Our communication determines the type of job we are able to secure, how well our children do in school, and how we are treated by others who provide us with the vital services that we need to sustain life. How we speak even determines the type of car we drive!

Communication is not just an outward sign, it is also a key to how we regard our own selves. Our Savior said that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (see Mathew 19:19). If we have no love for ourselves, we will not treat ourselves as worthwhile people, and the same holds true for how we treat others.

Complaining is the finding and telling of the negative. It is a springboard to such distorted thought patterns as blame, fault-finding, criticism, and exaggeration. Venting is nothing more than complaining when we are angry. Neither of these actions elicit positive results. Both are simply a way of not taking responsibility for what we do and how we feel.

Our ability to recognize this reality is a skill that can be learned and taught. Once we recognize what we are doing, and catch ourselves in it, we are in a position to choose something different and take the path toward a more positive demeanor and outcome.


Complaining versus venting

Many people mistakenly believe that in order for an emotion to be dealt with, it must be expressed. This has led to the notion that we must "vent" in order to get anger "off our chests." We need to let people know when we are dissatisfied, talking through what has happened, why we are angry about it, and then having others agree with us.

The resulting cesspool of negative communication that comes from this practice has brought the pecking order from the workplace into the home, where it is played out in the heinous saga of child and spouse abuse. We feel bullied and picked on by those in authority over us, therefore, we are entitled to bully and pick on those who are less powerful than we are in our homes.

When we complain, we think we can get rid of our negative thoughts and feelings. We experience problems and difficulties during our daily interactions with others, then we turn around and increase those feelings by sharing what happened with others. Our problems do not go away, in fact, they may even be multiplied by our ill will and lack of desire to change. We receive no inspiration on how to solve these feelings, rather, we increase them.

Complaining and venting both lead us down the road of negativity. They are the "poor me" of self-pity that keeps us from making choices for our own better future. They give us little encouragement to build up our sagging spirits. We would do much better to work through our negative emotions rather than expressing them.


How can we make the shift?

Once we recognize that our complaining is not benefiting us, we can move on to problem solving. The 7-step model below from The Emotional Survival Handbook is a tool we can use:

  1. What is happening?
  2. What am I feeling?
  3. What am I thinking of doing?
  4. What will happen if I do it?
  5. Is that really what I want?
  6. Is there something better I could do instead?
  7. What would be best for me and others in the long run?
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Giving ourselves a template for working through our emotions using this process increases our emotional health dramatically. We begin to find that we actually have a lot of power within ourselves to come up with plans to change things for the better.

There is a definite difference between complaining and problem solving. Those who complain are not looking for solutions, rather, they are looking for sympathy, someone to agree that they have been wronged and therefore, have the right to feel poorly.

When we problem solve, we share our difficulties with others with the objective of looking for solutions. We are open to seeing things from a different point of view and not only talk about what happened, but what we can do differently. We prepare ourselves to make things better in the future..

Problem solving uplifts and strengthens us. We see hope and work to make life a positive experience. Complaining and venting, on the other hand, drag us further downward, leaving us with increased negative emotions, and a circle of people around who help us keep them going!

Problem solving allows us to rise above our difficulties.

Problem solving allows us to rise above our difficulties.

The benefits of having a problem solving mind set

The more we problem solve rather than complaining or venting, the more we are in a position to have a positive effect on our lives and the lives of others. We don't have to dread each day, fearful of what "could happen."

Solving problems gives us greater feelings of esteem and worth for ourselves. We are more apt to look for the good in others because we see the good in us. We tell ourselves that we are able and keep our eyes open for ways we can help others.

Life takes on new meaning and purpose, and we don't find ourselves succumbing to the cacophony of noise in the world about us. There is more peace and contentment, happiness and joy as we seek the company of those who bring out the best in us.

Life is short and every moment is precious indeed. Choose to lay complaining aside and solve problems today.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2016 Denise W Anderson


Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on July 04, 2016:

I am glad that you shared your experience, Brandi. I think that it is interesting that people think they can obtain "free services" simply because we are in a service oriented field! Thanks for sharing what you do to curb this trend. I will keep that in mind!

Brandi Stone from NC on July 03, 2016:

Because of my role as a therapist, many people automatically think that gives them a green light to began complaining or venting about whatever issues are going on in their lives. In a therapeutic setting, I am able to have some control over this, but outside of that realm I've found that simply responding optimistically works. "It will get better" is a quick and easy way to let venters and complainers know that whatever crisis they're going through in the moment shall soon pass.

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on March 06, 2016:

You are right, Dr. Pran. There is a time and a place for everything. Your professional background gives you the ability to understand that, and you are in a position to help many. Once I became a School Psychologist and people found out that I was, they automatically assumed that I would be a sympathetic listener. They are right. I am able to help many people when they complain or vent, because I immediately help them to turn to a problem solving mentality. My hub, however, focuses on the establishment and maintenance of emotional health from within the individual. Realizing and understanding how this works gives one the tools to make life better. Having this knowledge and understanding gives them the tools to obtain support and empathy from others without pulling themselves or others down in the process.

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on March 06, 2016:

I am sorry that happened to you, Dora. You were in a position to need the support and strength of others, and they did not know how to give it. I have been on both sides of the table, needing support, and being the one listening. It wasn't until I adopted the mentality of problem solving that I was able to turn things around. Now, when I go to others for support, I ask for their assistance in concrete ways, and they are more than willing to listen and help. Thanks for sharing your personal experiences with this issue.

Dr Pran Rangan from Kanpur (UP), India on March 05, 2016:

I support your view that complaining is negative. The expression of negative emotions is also negative. To complain and to express negative emotions, in fact, enhance further negativity.

But there are many situations, where one has to complain or express negative emotions. To do so, one requires special ability, which most of us lack. Actually, this ability can be learned and then we will be able to complain or vent our negativity without hurting anyone.

Thanks for such a nice hub. Your write-ups have so much to learn from.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on March 05, 2016:

Denise, I started out venting about my difficulties as a caregiver, but no one would let me. Everyone wanted to hush me up by telling what I should do or should have done. Perhaps I was looking for sympathy, but I didn't think so. Anyway, your article is very helpful in explaining the alternative and its benefits. Thank you.

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on March 05, 2016:

You are welcome, Blossom. I oftentimes here it put this way, "I just need to vent" followed by a saga of how the person has been wronged, cheated, or made to feel the fool. I have yet to hear someone who has "vented" to me try to problem solve the issue, think from the other person's point of view, or seek to find a way to make the situation better. It is certainly food for thought. I appreciate your comments!

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on March 05, 2016:

You are welcome, Audrey! If more people were like you, this would be a wonderful world! I appreciate you stopping by and commenting!

Bronwen Scott-Branagan from Victoria, Australia on March 04, 2016:

Thank you for sharing some good ideas about how to deal with our negative attitudes. I hadn't heard the term 'venting' before, but it's quite expressive of how we feel sometimes when we want to complain about injustices we see happening in the world.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on March 04, 2016:

Thank you so much Denise for presenting this marvelous hub. I've learned a valuable lesson about how destructive complaining can be. I'm now on a mission to stop complaining. I'm so grateful to you for bringing this subject to light.

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on March 04, 2016:

Yes, DDE. Every moment counts. I once wrote a poem called "Life Begins" in which I indicated that every moment of every day, our life begins anew. We have many opportunities to make things better. I appreciate you stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on March 04, 2016:

That is a good point, Eric. When we take responsibility for our own actions, we are in a much better position to affect the outcome for the better. The philosophy taught by the sensei was probably along the line of using introspection to help us become better people. I believe that is the best way to emotional health. Thanks for sharing!

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on March 04, 2016:

Thanks, Glenn, and you are right! Following a decision making model where we hold ourselves accountable will help us in many aspects of our lives. I appreciate your comments!

DDE on March 04, 2016:

Every moment is special in life. Life is what you make of it! Good thought about life.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on March 03, 2016:

Very cool. I really like the 7 steps. For some reason this reminds me of what a sensei taught me: When there is a problem, take the blame, that way you can make the solution. There is not a single problem that I can't make better or worse simply by my reaction.

Thank you for sharing this.

Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on March 03, 2016:

This is a good lessen. It applies to all kinds of decision making, even if we don't tend to vent about problems. We can control the path of our life better, as you had said, just by applying those seven questions you mentioned to our thinking process.

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