I'm Not Complaining, I'm Just Venting!
When was the last time you caught yourself complaining or venting?
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:
- What is happening?
- What am I feeling?
- What am I thinking of doing?
- What will happen if I do it?
- Is that really what I want?
- Is there something better I could do instead?
- What would be best for me and others in the long run?
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!
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.
© 2016 Denise W Anderson