It’s a common myth that if something is bothering you, you should talk about it. Let it out. Get it off your chest. As if releasing the words releases the problem itself. People will tell you that you’ll feel better afterwards. What is the true end result of your airing your frustrations? Only added frustration and negativity.
This behavior is a learned behavior that usually begins in middle school. Kids aren’t born knowing the phrase “behind my back.” It’s something they learn. Friends get together and talk about the friends that aren’t there in a negative way. It’s an unhealthy way of bonding, of sharing experiences that don’t risk their own social standing, only someone else’s. It’s much easier to tear someone else down than to build yourself up. But no one ever feels good after these attacks. All that follows is guilt and worry that the person will find out what’s been said.
Romantic relationships suffer from venting as well. Men get together and complain that women are always nagging or women complain that men are slobs. Everyone agrees and shares their experiences of how their partner is worse than everyone else’s. Congratulations, you have the worst partner! What have you won? Have your partner’s habits magically resolved themselves? Of course they haven’t. You’ve just spent precious energy disparaging something trivial about your partner and thinking badly about them. The next time you see your partner, will you be thinking good thoughts about them, or will you be remembering and focusing on the imperfections that you’ve been dwelling on?
Complaining about work can also have a detrimental effect. If you don’t like your boss, or your workload, or the coffeemaker, talking to other co-workers about it can only have negative effects. Either they agree with you and you’ve just shared your negativity with them, or they don’t agree with you and you’ve made your workplace an awkward situation you have to face for 8+ hours a day. Complaining and negativity decreases productivity and well-being. Being successful at work hinges on having a positive attitude and not venting negativity.
When you vent your bad thoughts, you aren’t making them go away. You are repeating them to yourself over and over again. Your mind is turning the bad thoughts over, looking at them from every angle, finding new ways to be upset about the same thing. But should you just keep hurt and angry feelings bottled up inside? Absolutely not. The key is to acknowledge your feelings, accept them, and choose to change your thinking about them.
It does you no good to focus on things you don’t like about a person. If you take the person as a whole and think about all the good things about them, you will see the bad things become smaller and smaller until they don’t matter anymore. So your partner doesn’t change the toilet paper roll? Does it matter if they’ve made you a delicious meal? So your boss makes spelling errors in their email? Does it matter if they’ve challenged you to produce your best work? So your friend is always late? Does it matter if they’ve always helped you when you need it? What we crave when we vent our feelings is the release of those feelings. But the act of venting only brings those feelings out to the surface. We need to change the thoughts around those feelings in order to feel good.