how to vent responsibly (and win a free book!)

If you’ve ever worried you’re venting about your job too much, or secretly wished your friends or coworkers would vent a little less about theirs, you have a lot of company. People vent about their jobs! Sometimes a lot. And it often makes them feel better … until at some point it starts making them feel worse. It’s a tricky thing.

I really liked the “rules for venting” in Rachel Wilkerson Miller’s new book, The Art of Showing Up: How to Be There for Yourself and Your People. In fact, I really liked the whole book. It’s a guide to taking care of yourself (setting boundaries, building a healthy routine, saying no, asking for help) and taking care of your friends (making new friends, building healthy friendships, showing up for friends during big life events, etc.). It’s full of smart insights about how to show up for yourself and the people you care about.

Rachel agreed to let me reprint her rules for venting below (excerpted straight from the book), and she’s giving me two copies to give away to readers here.

To enter to win a free copy: Leave a comment below with your own thoughts about venting. I’ll pick two winners at random (or rather, random selector software will). All entries must be posted in the comments on this post by Tuesday, May 12, at 11:59 p.m. ET. To win, you must fill out the email address section of the comment form so I have a way of contacting you if you’re the winner.

How to Vent Responsibly

excerpted from The Art of Showing Up: How to Be There for Yourself and Your People

When you’re going through a difficult time, venting can really help. Therapist Ryan Howes says that venting is really about processing. You haven’t come to any real conclusions yet; you just need to get your thoughts out of your head, and you need a warm body to listen. Venting tends to feel good; it helps us name what happened and give it a narrative structure, which is really powerful. But it’s also something that we can easily get lost in, draining our energy reserves and alienating the people who are listening to us in the process.

If you’re worried about venting too much and exhausting your friends, here are some tips that might help.

Let people ask you how you’re doing.

When you’re dealing with a lot, it’s easy to blurt out the latest update to the first person you see without so much as a hello. If you’re worried about falling into that trap, consider holding off until someone actually says, “How are you?” or “How’s everything going with [situation]?” Being asked still isn’t a free pass to dump on them for the next three hours, but this is an easy way to keep your urge to unload in check, and to make sure your friends are interested in your latest download.

Explicitly ask for permission to vent—even if you just want to vent via text.

If you need a friend to lend an ear, consider requesting it in a more formal way. Scheduling time to talk or text about a specific topic isn’t silly; it’s courteous. As therapist Andrea Bonior says, “Texting lets us place something—immediately—into someone else’s consciousness, whether they want it there, and are adequately prepared to deal with it at the moment, or not.” Texting something like “When you have a moment, I’d love to talk with you about the latest in this Sam situation” or “If you’re around later and up for it, I’d like to scream about the Sam situation” will go a long way toward communicating respect for their time and energy. (And do be specific about what you want to discuss; just saying “Got a sec?” or “Are you busy?” isn’t cool.) It’s entirely likely they’ll respond, “I can talk now— what’s up?” but they’ll still appreciate that you asked.

If you aren’t looking for advice, say so.

In general, our loved ones want to be helpful and offer solutions to our problems . . . but jumping right to solutions can inadvertently communicate “I don’t want to hear about this anymore; I want to fix this so you’ll shut up about it”—which is maybe not what you want to hear in that moment. So if you know you simply need to vent, or that you aren’t in a place to consider what to do next, tell the other person that up front.

Don’t outright reject all suggestions and attempts to problem-solve.

This might seem at odds with what I said a second ago. And it kind of is! Here’s the thing: Wanting to vent and be validated is totally fine. But only venting, and shutting down whenever the conversation turns to the topic of possible solutions? Not so fine! It’s frustrating to listen to a friend talk endlessly about the same topic, particularly if they are refusing to acknowledge their part in the situation or do anything to feel better. Of course, sometimes there isn’t anything you can do to make things better. But at that point, talking about it for three hours isn’t really making it better either.

Consider the forty-five-minute rule.

A couples therapist once gave me this very good advice: If you’re having an argument or intense conversation, take a break after forty-five minutes. After the forty-five-minute mark, she said, people tend to be too emotionally exhausted to have a productive conversation; a twenty-minute break (at minimum!) can help everyone process and reset a bit. Putting this advice into practice made a huge difference, and I now try to apply it to any negative conversation. Aside from being good for the listener, it’s good for you, too. Because even if you aren’t arguing, you’re still depleting your energy (and probably starting to lose the thread of the conversation) when you vent for that long. So keep an eye on the clock, and remember: There’s a reason most therapy sessions are only fifty minutes long.

Notice if you are repeating yourself.

Ryan Howes says if you find yourself saying the same thing over and over again (or the person you’re talking to keeps responding in the exact same way), you miiiight be ruminating, which can be pretty tiresome for the other person. If you’re just cycling through the same few exchanges (“This is bad! I’m so mad!” “Ugh, I know! It’s so bad!”) and neither of you is bringing up new information or insight, consider wrapping it up soon. Of course, there are exceptions to this, and sometimes a situation is so terrible or tragic or unfixable that all you can do is repeat, “This happened and I’m so upset!” while your friend nods sympathetically and says “It’s awful; I’m so sorry.” But that shouldn’t be the norm in most conversations. So if you’re just rehashing the same points—or if your friend is looking/sounding bored—it might be time to call it quits.

Try not to pre-vent.

Pre-venting is when someone says, “I’ll tell you more about this tonight” . . . and then immediately launches into telling you now . . . and then still wants to discuss it in full when you see them later that night. It’s a variation on repeating yourself, but it can be less obvious because some time passes between the initial conversation and the later one. But if you’ve already established you’re going to talk at not-now-o’clock, try to hold off on emotion-dumping before then. And if you do find yourself getting into the whole story (or, say, 75 percent of it) now, recognize that you don’t really need to rehash or repeat the same details later.

Consider journaling.

I wrote an entire book about journaling, so I admit I’m a bit biased, but the health benefits of journaling are well documented. Dumping your thoughts on a page allows you get everything out and helps you process what you’re experiencing. Set a timer for twenty minutes—any longer than that can actually lead to ruminating—and write freely, without worrying about punctuation, spelling, or the “quality” of the writing. Your writing doesn’t need to be “interesting” because no one is ever going to read it. (You don’t even have to reread it later!) You might find you feel a lot better overall, and that your urge to vent to a friend has mysteriously disappeared.

Give your friend time and space to talk about their life.

I’m of the belief that not every conversation with a friend has to be perfectly balanced in terms of who is talking and who is listening. We’ve all had days when we don’t have much to talk about and a friend has a lot going on, and we’re perfectly happy to listen while the friend vents, and then end the phone call there! It’s fine! But. But. If you only ever contact your friends to vent—or if your “How are you doing?” is perfunctory and communicates “I know this is the correct thing to say” instead of sincere interest—your pals are going to catch on. So be sure you’re leading with “How are you?” sometimes (before you’ve talked about yourself ) . . . and actually listen and engage when they answer. And if you know you’re only going to hang out for an hour, remember to cut yourself off after twenty or thirty minutes so they have a chance to talk, too.

Excerpt from The Art of Showing Up © Rachel Wilkerson Miller, 2020. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold.

{ 510 comments… read them below }

  1. Nicole Ludwig*

    All such excellent advice. It looks like this would be a good book for anyone (not just managers).

  2. Rainy*

    These are really excellent rules; I think a lot of people sort of fumble their way to many of them over time (but maybe I have a lot of faith in people’s self-awareness. :)

    1. Specks*

      Maybe they do (I’m definitely seeing improvements with that with my social circle), but definitely not everyone. I also occasionally use some of that, but definitely not consistently — seeing them in writing is so helpful! Anyway, I’m definitely in agreement — these are excellent!

  3. Chainsaw Bear*

    Honestly, the part about letting someone know you’re not looking for advice and just someone to listen is SO helpful. I know my personal default when my friends are venting is to switch into problem-solving mode and try to fix it, and it’s taken me a long time to figure out that that’s not always helpful or the appropriate response.

    1. Chainsaw Bear*

      Oh whoops, forgot to fill out the email address part! My email address is in this comment.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      I have a now-semi-friend who is a compulsive fixer. It comes from an understandable place–she had a kind of tough upbringing and has gotten everything she has in life by being a tireless go-getter and get-things-done-er, but the flip side is that she can’t stop herself from Planning The Course Of Action and is often not very sympathetic when people just need to release some steam or aren’t ready to act yet. We live in different states, which I think is the main reason we’re still friends. But I’ve stopped sharing things with her because she’s always ready to march over the hill and confront this Right Now, and I’m someone who needs to process a lot more before I do something (although I do actually *do* it rather than complaining endlessly. Just not on the timeline she would choose).

      1. 2QS*

        I’ve been this semi-friend. My friend had been suffering for years, mentioning her situation every couple of weeks, and at some point I accidentally learned of an obscure organization near her that specialized in the sort of thing she was going through, so I looked them up, read their whole website, and sent a Twitter message suggesting she reach out to them. 4 other people responded to the same post with only “sorry love!” and “this sucks,” and my friend liked every single response except for mine. She wasn’t looking for practical help.

        The moral of the story is that when it comes down to a standoff like this – A quietly resents B for doing too much to try to fix A’s life, and B quietly resents A for not doing enough to help themselves out – then it’s very likely that A is correct, because A is the one living A’s life. I’m still trying to learn this.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          And sometimes, B needs to distance from A because A won’t try to fix their life, or keeps doing the same pointless thing and expects better results. IME, YMMV.

      2. James*

        My wife is like that. I’ll vent, because I’m stuck in a situation where there are no good options. She’ll start saying “Why don’t you do X?” and I’ll have to explain that no, regulatory guidance states I’m not legally allowed to. Then she’ll have another idea–and I’ll have to explain that that violates the company Health and Safety policy. Then she’ll have another idea, which would work perfectly–if we had twice the number of staff and could afford a $500,000 piece of equipment. Or her idea will send me to jail. Or I’ve tried it and it didn’t work either. And so on. This is nothing against my wife–my work is rather niche, and most people (even many in the field) don’t fully understand the regulatory framework. But it’s exhausting to have to explain things over and over again when really I just want to get stuff off my chest because I’ve already put a solution into motion.

        That’s one thing I’ve learned about venting: the person hearing only gets to hear a small amount about the situation. And when you only hear 5% of the situation, solutions are easy to come by. When you add that other 95% to the mix, solutions are much more difficult. If the person you’re venting to isn’t the type to see that, it’s easy for them to view you as merely being unmotivated/unwilling to find a solution.

        There’s also the individual to consider. I may be able to do things in a way that you can’t–I have the connections, the political capital, and the knowledge to do things my way. On the flip side, you can do things I can’t, due to YOUR connections, political capital, and knowledge. What that means is that a solution that is completely reasonable for me may not be possible for you. And most people trying to find solutions to your problems don’t factor that in.

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Agree so much! I’m a ‘fixer’ and it’s automatic for me to try to offer solutions. I have gotten better about asking people if they want advice, but it helps so much when someone says they just want to vent too.

      [I pre-ordered the book, so if I happen to win, you can pick another person]

    4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I have gotten better at interrupting myself and going “do you want a suggestion” or such, but it would definitely help if people would preface their vents (because I apparently have a “please vent to me!” tattoo on my forehead, and I am SUCH A FIXER OMG) with the heads-up that they don’t want advice or fixes from the get-go.

      1. AnxiouslyAnon*

        I need to get better at the suggestion asking. I am a fixer, I fall heavily under the “Support people” category of wanting everyone to be well, and I am often the person vented to.

        And on the flip side, I also was glad for these refreshers, because I have very much been venting to my coworker willy-nilly because my boss has been driving me up a wall with his insanity since the pandemic hit and we transitioned to WFH. And on top of that the number of people who have reached out to me to vent about EVERYTHING (work issues, life issues, politics issues) has burnt out my ability to actually hear anything now. So nice reminders here, at least for the boundaries bit.

        1. Anonymous*

          I’m a fixer, too. That doesn’t mean I never vent myself, but usually when I do, I want some ideas on how I might be able to fix it, if I’ve run out. Sometimes I’ll vent out of frustration when I’m not looking for ideas, but then I’ll keep it short. A maximum of 20 minutes usually does it.
          I can do one vent session with someone who’s only looking for sympathy, maybe two if the issue is serious and it’s a close friend or family member, but I have a very low tolerance threshold for people who keep venting about the same things repeatedly and don’t want any suggestions. I’ve stopped being friends with two people who were like this. I just realized that I couldn’t be friends with them anymore because they were making me anxious. Especially as they were never willing to listen to me vent in return.

    5. AGD*

      I am the same way. I was raised to either fix the problem or for heaven’s sake shut up about it already, and I STILL think I’m phoning it in if I respond with, e.g., “I am sorry to hear this,” rather than coming up with a possible solution (which takes effort and is almost always tailored to the situation). I’ve been doing a better job of not just generating advice lately, but I’ve been doing it by training myself to react the way I would if I wanted to acknowledge something but cared a lot less. That’s making me feel like a terrible friend, but I think it’s improving things.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I wrote a longer bit below, but nowadays I try to just “be them.” I complain right along side them, as if it was my problem a bit too.
        I’ve actually seen it work with people! Their venting is shorter, and they move into “solve it” mode sooner.

        Often people just want to really be seen. and “Oh, man, that SUCKS! What a pain in the ass,” is so much more powerful to hear than “I’m sorry to hear that.”

      2. LQ*

        I’m entirely with you on feeling like I’m phoning it in and not being a good enough friend if I DON’T try to help solve the problem. Just listening doesn’t feel like I’m doing enough and then I feel bad about being a bad friend to someone who is in need. Meanwhile they feel better because I actually did the right thing for them. Brains are often full of nonsense.

      3. Spencer Hastings*

        I also have this feeling of “phoning it in” if I say something too generic. Like, if I say “sorry to hear that” or “yeah, that really sucks”, I could have been not listening at all!

        Relatedly, a thought has crossed my mind a couple times that goes a bit like “oh, geez, what am I going to do when I run out of good enough ideas for things to write on my best friend’s birthday card some year?”

        Because I am like that, I was intrigued by this post by Scott Alexander ( Basically, good answers to certain questions or situations become predictable, and there’s a certain kind of personality (hi!) that will find them unsatisfying for that very reason.

        My tendency when a friend is venting is not so much to give advice as to give reactions and analysis and follow-up questions: more like “Wow, what a jerk, did he at least apologize to you afterward?” or “It sounds like she just wants you to feel guilty and nothing you do will satisfy her” or whatever. Does admittedly still have the potential to get annoying after a while, though.

    6. Double A*

      I have a serious limit to how much venting I can listen to if someone isn’t looking for a solution. Venting is fine if it’s part of the process of coming to a solution (Like, “I need to process this/just get it off my chest/hear myself talk through this out loud”). And sometimes venting IS the solution, you just need to say your piece and then can move on! That’s fine. But if you just come back to venting over and over without ever moving forward… well, then you become a complainer, and I don’t do well with complainers.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        If you tell someone that you just want to vent, they need to be able to say no!

        “I love to listen to people extensively complain about something while making sympathetic noises and not being allowed to offer solutions or honest feedback, even when they’re being unreasonable” is not something you hear people say very often. Being a sponge for someone’s venting is hard work, and often leaves you feeling worse.

        There are people I will listen to vent, in moderation, because I care about them. And generally short “aarghs!” of frustration about specific things are fine. But there are a few people in my social circle prone to frustration and venting, and I find that I end up changing the subject and finding a reason to leave when they get going, or even avoiding them completely when they’re in a frustrated mood.

        1. MsSolo*

          Ooh, all very much this. It’s not fun being on the receiving end of constant venting, especially when trying to move the conversation on is seen as unsympathetic. A problem shared can be a problem doubled, and now I have a situation to worry about I’m not even an active participant in. And I don’t want to share any of my worries with the person, because they’re not going to try and help me fix them!

    7. Curmudgeon in California*

      So… I had a roommate a long time ago who would come home a half hour after I got home from work, corner me in the living room while I was reading the paper and trying to unwind, and start in on her litany of woes – for an hour. I’d make suggestions, and all I’d get was “yes, but…”. She didn’t want solutions, she wanted to complain and vent. Being young at the time, I didn’t grok that, but I also wasn’t wanting to have to deal with her litany of unsolvable problems – I had my own. I ended up retreating to my room instead, and closing the door.

      Nowadays I get it. I like to vent, and don’t necessarily want a solution. But I also try to ask permission before burning someone’s ear even for 15 minutes, much less an hour or more.

    8. Mockingdragon*

      What’s ridiculous is that I’m a fixer when I listen to other people, but I never want advice for myself ^^; it’s taken some getting used to and I’ve tried hard to be more aware.

    9. filosofickle*

      I do the inverse, too — when someone calls me when they’re having a bad time, I ask how I can best help. Do they want me to listen, help, or even distract them? Learning I could do this helped me so much! I was always guessing what people wanted, and the fear of getting it wrong really ate at me.

  4. Anon Panda*

    These are great! I especially love the tip of letting people know you don’t want advice.

  5. Kristi C.*

    It is really great to see the advice comments about ruminating. Being stuck with bad feelings is so hard sometimes, but knowing the repetition is a marker may help people get out of it. I can see this moving between work and home interactions.

    1. Melewen*

      My friends like to vent to me because I’ll lend a sympathetic ear, but I will let them know their time is up when they start to get to that point. Venting is cathartic. Stewing is not. They’ve told me that they appreciate when I give them their 5-minute warning because it makes them find an ending and it gives them a bit of closure. They usually don’t even take the full 5 minutes. (That doesn’t mean I only let them vent for 5 minutes — I’ll let them vent as long as they need to until it stops seeming productive, THEN they get the warning.)

      1. Boom! Tetris for Jeff!*

        Melewen, how do you announce the 5 minute warning to your friends? It seems like a great idea and I would love to have a phrase or two up my sleeve to communicate the message kindly and effectively.

      2. Spencer Hastings*

        Though, for what it’s worth, recent psychological research suggests that expressing anger just makes people angrier over time, and isn’t as cathartic as we thought. (Jeffrey Lohr is one person who’s written about this.) Better alternatives include deep breathing, relaxation, and CBT techniques. Apparently.

  6. Kathryn*

    I LOVE the note about not necessarily wanting advice! helps both sides of the conversation.

    1. SarSar*

      Agreed! I’m a fixer by nature, and love to offer advice. I realized how obnoxious that can be when I encountered another fixer friend who always had a suggestion to share even when I just needed to talk things through to help myself process. Since then, I’ve been really trying to step back and just listen to friends vent and only offer advice if they ask for my opinion. I would love if people proactively told me if they wanted advice or not.

  7. Hills to Die on*

    So true! I tend to over share so this would be great for me. I have learned that having healthy boundaries reduces the need to blow up and/or vent in the first place.

  8. juliebulie*

    45 minutes? I don’t have the stamina for a negative conversation for more than maybe 10 minutes at a time!

    Good rules, though. I definitely have a problem with “pre-venting.”

    1. Engineer Woman*

      I agree – wow to the 45 minutes as I think I only have a 30 minute limit: both in terms of my own venting as well as listening to someone else vent, and even if both parties are venting about the same thing!

      Love all the advice given!

    2. ...*

      We had a family rule that was basically called “15 minutes of b*tching” and you could complain and rant for 15 minutes and the other person had to listen, but after that it had to be done. Worked well haha!

      1. Lynn*

        15 minutes sounds really good to me. 45 minutes is way too long. I have a colleague who is dealing with issues that have been with the company during her entire tenure (well over 20 years) and my tenure (just over 20 years). And she ranted to me for an hour last week. AAAAARGH! I think I will put her on a time limit next time-I’ll say 10 minutes so that she can, with any luck, be done in 15. :>

  9. arkangel*

    I like the part about making it clear up front you aren’t looking for solutions, you just need to vent. I need to start doing that.

    1. TinyRaptor*

      This is something you can prompt from the listening side, too, by asking “are you looking to vent or are you looking for help finding a solution?” I personally find that asking that question at the start of a potential venting conversation is one of the best ways to get on the same page about what you can give and what the other person needs, and helps the rest of the conversation go a lot more smoothly.

      The venting advice in general seems very sound and very timely.

      1. TootsNYC*

        me, I have started just assuming that people never want advice, and that they always want company.
        Focusing on “how can I express my empathy with their problem?” keeps me from leaping into advice mode.

        Because that “giving suggestions right away implies they want you to shut up” is something I’ve experienced from the “venting” side. Not venting, but sharing my worries with someone I thought would understand them, and I got reassurance and advice immediately, and it felt REALLY dismissive. That changed how I react.

        1. Shining*

          I prefer to ask, and to be asked. Because I DO want advice (if I’m talking I’m doing it to get advice, not to vent, because I don’t talk just to make someone listen), someone who just sits there listening and doesn’t help me figure it out isn’t helping and feels uninterested and dismissive from my side.

          I think it’s much more helpful to clarify upfront rather than assume based on my own experiences and preferences.

          1. New Senior Manager*

            I always want advice when I vent. That was the whole purpose of venting for me. But, I’ve learned to respectfully accept it may not be the case for others.

          2. TootsNYC*

            I figure by the time I’ve done a little bit of commiserating, people who actually want advice will sort of ask for it.

            But to leap right away to advice? that’s not helpful.
            For one thing, by listening to them vent, you get more info from them, so any advice you give is better advice.

  10. guest*

    Requesting in a formal way to vent (with or without looking for advice) is a good tip. I will definitely try this next time!

  11. It's mce w*

    This is a great chapter. When people are venting, they seek a listening ear. Not always advice.

    1. Time to listen*

      Great advice for the listener too…you don’t need to feel compelled to offer solutions, unless you’re asked for it! Many times just listening and asking questions is enough.

  12. Abby*

    Venting is so important.. especially for us women! lol Sometimes we just want to be heard and not told how to fix our problems. But it’s good to get another perspective once in a while.

  13. Lucille B.*

    This seems like a great book, and the venting part will definitely come in handy at my office. We tend to fall into these vent-spirals that just go on and on and on… it will be handy having more options than saying “ENOUGH!!”

  14. Nep*

    The most important part to me has always been noticing if you’re repeating. There’s getting something off your chest and then there’s ruminating in your upsetness.

    1. KTB*

      I completely agree, and I realize that not only do I ruminate–I can tend to ruminate to multiple people. I cannot imagine how annoying that it, so time to stop!

  15. 3DogNight*

    These rules should be posted in every business place. Also, the 20 minute break after 45 minutes is one I’m going to use with my husband. We don’t argue often, but this would improve even that.

    1. Amy Sly*

      I’m a big believe in noting that the advice “Don’t go to bed mad” comes from the Bible verse to “not let the sun set on your wrath.” There’s an important distinction between those two: if the sun is already down, you have until sunset the next day to work it out. So go to bed and then sort out the problem.

      So many marital problems can be solved with a good night’s sleep and a proper meal.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Good point. I can think of several arguments that have been made worse by trying to have them when tired, hungry, or in a hurry to go somewhere.

      2. Marillenbaum*

        This is one of my personal rules: “If you feel like being a jerk, check if you don’t just need a nap or a snack first”. When I got engaged, the first thing my dad told my fiancé was, “I’m just warning you, she gets hangry!”

  16. Captain Raymond Holt*

    This was very insightful – I just placed an order for it at my local feminist bookstore!
    I teach communication courses at a local college and I intend to assign this blog post and/or part of the book as required reading next semester!

  17. Littorally*

    These are great rules. One of the other ones I’ve adopted in social media is to let people choose to engage — like, to put up a post that starts out by saying “Hey, this is venting, I appreciate it if you can jump in and provide emotional support/advice/whatever” — and then let people choose to engage or not, and not to pressure people to jump in or ask why they aren’t there. And it gets good results! My friends who jump in want to be there, and my friends who don’t know that I’m not going to hold it against them if they stay away. And, of course, I reciprocally jump in for them when they put up similar posts.

  18. Mina*

    the 45 minute insight is really useful too: it helps me think about how tabling discussions in meetings that over-run their times might be the best option. Sounds like a great resource!

  19. VARecruits*

    I love everything about this. Especially asking for permission and specifying if you want/don’t want advice.

  20. kiwidg1*

    The 45 minute rule is interesting and probably smart for a multiple person session. I have a personal “two-hour rule” for obsessing over something. After two hours of pretend conversations, righteous indignation, and pity parties, I make an effort to push the whole thing to a back corner of my mind. If I find myself thinking about it again, then I make myself think/do something else that will require enough of my mind to fade the bothersome thing.

    I don’t know if a psychologist would call this displacement healthy or not, but if I can’t change it, or do anything else about it, and I’ve processed it to death, then I think it’s less healthy to continue to obsess about it.

    1. Miraculous Ladybug*

      I have a similar rule for myself! I’m allowed to just feel my feelings about something for about an hour, maybe vent, maybe just validate that it’s okay that I’m feeling this way. After that hour or so, any more thinking I do about it has to end in a concrete solution / some action to fix the thing that upset me in the first place. Even if that’s deciding “just being upset about it was all I needed to do” and declaring it over. It’s a good rule, and you’re the first person I’ve seen use something similar!

      Hopefully this is a healthy mechanism that we are using.

    2. Marillenbaum*

      I think that’s a good point. I have a boss who is…exceptionally bad (incompetent at the substance of the job, bad at managing contributors, racist, routinely suggests illegal stuff). I have reported what I can to the people who are supposed to be in a position to fix it, and I know for a fact I only have until next summer to deal with him before my gig ends (unfortunately, I can’t leave this gig without leaving my job altogether). So for now, when he gets too terrible, I vent to my coworkers who get it (mostly, the one other Black person in my office), document what I can, and try to write off the rest: “Classic Craig, what a dipshirt.” And then move on with my day, because Craig is bad enough without letting him steal my peace when I’m not working.

  21. Miss Muffet*

    I think it’s important to be selective with whom you vent to (be sure it’s someone you can trust) and also that you aren’t ONLY always venting. If you start to get a reputation as a negative person, who is always complaining but not ever seeming to find the good in anything, it can drag your career down. And others will rightfully avoid you so you don’t drag them down with you!

    1. The IT Plebe*

      Agreed. I would especially be wary of to whom and how often you vent at work because the stakes are higher there — for both the reasons you mentioned and also because there’s going to be more of an expectation that you take action to fix whatever’s actually bothering you. If you’re venting about work stuff to a friend who has no horse in the race, it’s not going to potentially reflect poorly on you from a career perspective.

      I think as a general rule it’s best to vent to someone you trust but also fairly neutral.

  22. Molly Coddler*

    This looks like a really useful book! If I don’t win I’m definitely buying it. Thanks for introducing it! :)

  23. Steven Holben*

    One of my strategies to prevent venting towards people in emails (I sent out monthly report emails and so many people didn’t either read the subject line or the body of the email) was to step away and ask a coworker to help me de-angrify my emails. I would do the opposite for them when they were frustrated by someone not doing things properly or by not reading/following emails.

  24. Cordoba*

    I really like item #3 above.

    If you’re going to dump your problems in somebody else’s brain it’s reasonable for them to then discuss ways to solve those problems.

    If you don’t want this, it’s only fair to clarify that *first* rather than getting upset about it after the fact.

    Honestly, if somebody doesn’t want to talk through potential solutions I’m not real interested in hearing their problems. Knowing that a person wants a sympathetic listener (rather than a practical problem solver) gives me the opportunity to suggest that maybe I’m not the right audience for them that day.

    1. Ray Gillette*

      Knowing and understanding your capacity to help is very important. Acknowledging the legitimacy of a person’s need does not mean that you personally are responsible for meeting that need. Sometimes suggesting that you aren’t the right person for what they’re looking for is the kindest and most helpful thing you can say.

  25. qtippyqueen*

    I think the idea of being explicit about what you need to talk about is great advice. If a friend told me, hey, can I call you at 7pm to vent about the Llama situation, I can be a little more mentally prepared. Versus if a friend calls me and I am cooking dinner and doing a million other things, and they really do need someone to talk to, I feel like a crappy friend because I am distracted, and they are not getting the friend they need.
    Clear expectations is so important in any relationship.

    1. Blue Eagle*

      I really like your idea of knowing in advance that it is a venting call so that I would be prepared for it. It is always a dilemma when I’m in the middle of something and a friend/relative calls wanting to vent – – do I listen politely which means I can’t finish what I’m in the middle of or do I fluff them off the phone so I can finish, but then I’m not much help to them.
      Also, I plan to request this book from my public library so that they know people are interested in the book and will order it – – which also means it will be available to others who may be interested.

  26. Windchime*

    I actually have found that, for me, venting doesn’t really serve a purpose unless it’s just a brief comment and then done. I find that the more I complain about a situation, the more I become focused on it and it’s easy for me to blow it up out of proportion. So in general, I’m not a huge fan of lots of venting.

    1. irene adler*

      This is my sentiment too.

      Move on and focus on something else. Don’t let the venting issue become larger than it is.

      I wish I could impart it to the office complainers who just go on and on about things. They don’t want advice, or remedy. And it seems that the more they complain, the more upset it makes them. It’s almost like a sport.

      1. Jen in Oregon*

        Hear, hear. Over the course of the last several years, I’ve been making a concentrated effort to not take things personally. Even when things are *meant* personally, and they are on the rare occasion, I can realize that it’s more about them than me. The better I get at doing this, the less I need to vent.

        When others vent to me, I tend to ask questions when I can, rather than offering advice. It seems to help those that really want to figure out a solution, and it discourages those that just want to ruminate, which is good, because complaining is a really crappy spectator sport.

    2. Timothy (TRiG)*

      I don’t think I’ve ever vented for longer than five minutes about anything. In fact, my usual limit is probably closer to twenty seconds. Partly because I think I’d just bore myself if I went longer.

      1. HR- Occam's Razor*

        I’m with you Timothy. I don’t think I can go further than 3 lines.
        If someone is pushing past 5 minutes on me then I’m redirecting or ending that conversation.

    3. Claire*

      Yeah, I don’t vent. I do my processing internally, I don’t need to say it to someone. If I want to talk about a problem, I just want to discuss solutions. I’m never doing it just to vent.

  27. Ashley*

    Wow, this resonates with me. I found a very friendly ear at work (who often has good perspective, insight, and recommendations), but I think I was falling into a trap of always venting to him. I’m going to keep these in mind one day when we are back in the same space. I value him as a colleague and friend and don’t want to burn either one of us out!

  28. Squigs*

    This is so real for me. I’m a venter and I get worried that I do it too much and that the venting will get back to other people who I might be venting about. I’ve started a new job remotely during quarantine and its been nice to not be able to vent to anyone. I know it doesn’t make me look good to constantly be doing it and I hope that this WFH time will allow me to rein it in big time. I also love the other topics that this book covers so I might have to get it myself if I don’t win lol

  29. A Frayed Knot*

    I’ve gotten better at not jumping into problem solving mode immediately. (It is a big part of my job, so it’s kinda second nature.) If I can’t distinguish between a request for help and venting, I have learned to ask the speaker. Sometimes they know exactly which it is.
    Sometimes it makes them think about what they want and gives them the opportunity to express themselves more thoroughly.

  30. raaaleigh*

    This book looks so helpful! I have one friend in particular who’s been having a perpetually rough time at her job (it really is awful) and I think she’d benefit from this, even though she’s generally a respectful vent-er… Personally, I find it really helpful to type out emails (with NO ONE in the subject line! lol) instead of journaling, per se, if only because I’m faster at typing and when I’m mad I want to go FAST…plus my hand cramps up from writing pretty quickly. The nice thing about doing it as an email is after I’ve gotten it all out, I have the option to save the draft or just go ahead and delete, depending on how I feel at the moment.

    1. Anon100*

      Kinda embarrassing but I still have a LiveJournal account, so I do my venting in privately locked posts there. I just speed type and type out all my feelings and thoughts, which is faster than handwriting.

  31. Justme, the OG*

    I am the type of person who is vented to often, so this post definitely reminded me to set some boundaries.

  32. chubalumpa*

    I love these tips! At an old toxic job, I was one of those negative nancy co-workers that vented too much, and it must have been such a drain on my colleagues. So blessed to have found your blog, its really helped me turn around my attitudes about frustration at work.

    1. Eleanna*

      This is my favorite one too. It’s really important not to add to stress by venting to the inner ring.

    2. LQ*

      This has been so useful to me on so many occasions! It’s something I pull back out in times of crisis. And it’s a little odd in the current crisis because it feels like who is in the middle shifts on some things. But I find myself drawing a little target to figure out who is in the middle ring on a lot of conversations right now.

  33. alldogsarepuppies*

    A few of my friends and I have two group chats for the same people – one for venting/petty complaints and one for everything else! easy to mute if you need it, but also a safe place. We all work in different places/industries and have separate friends out of the group so it prevents gossip and drama but makes venting work well!

  34. King Friday XIII*

    Thank you for the reminder to be specific when texting people to ask if they can talk.

    I have a hard time figuring out how to exit the conversation when someone else is ruminating and doesn’t want advice, because I’m really bad at sustained demonstrative sympathy in text conversations. I think I might try recommending something like the 45 minute rule in the future when getting to that point.

  35. knitter*

    Asking permission to vent requires the self-awareness that you are venting. This is something I’ve struggled with. When I vent, I feel like I want help, but if someone tries to help then I tell them all the ways their ideas are wrong. Also there is fun in describing something as insanely terrible and if I admitted that I was venting, I would need to be a little more productive.

    I definitely need to remember these rules…

    1. filosofickle*

      I feel this! I don’t always perceive what feels to me like “telling a story” or “talking something through” as venting per se. Everything in my life gets processed A LOT, both in my head and out loud, and I tend to think of it as more constructive/entertaining/neutral than the people around me do. I am aware of it, but it’s an easy pitfall for me. (p.s. if anyone is into Enneagram, I’m a full-on 5. I analyze the F out of absolutely everything to understand it. It’s just how I am.)

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        I also do it to get reality checks about something that’s upsetting me. Like, I think this thing that this person did was not OK. Was this as egregious as I think it is, or am I blowing it out of proportion? (Also known as a popular reason why people write to Alison.)

  36. JustMyImagination*

    Yes to the venting vs looking for advice! My husband was in a really toxic work environment for a long time and he would vent, I would give advice, he’d tell me I was wrong and not listen to my advice so I’d get mad. Then we were both mad at each other. So we made an agreement that we’d have to let each other know if advance if we just needed to vent or if we needed advice. Sometimes if I’m not sure now, I let him finish and then ask if he wants advice first before just diving into it.

  37. Not a Real Giraffe*

    The “asking for permission to vent” is so crucial. The other side of that is recognizing that just because your conversation partner is venting about something, you don’t have implicit permission to also vent on your end. I cannot begin to count the number of times I’ve texted friends and asked for (and been granted) permission to vent about something, only for them to turn the conversation to their own issues within 2 seconds. I wanted to vent! Not be *your* sounding board! Wait your turn! :)

  38. Aphrodite*

    Probably the most important lesson I have learned about venting is when to stop.

    I once had a very good friend but I was in (years long) bad space and apparently almost every conversation had me venting. I’d get out my anger and pour it on her. Then I’d feel better and she felt worse.

    One day she worked up the courage to tell me this directly. I quietly listened and while I was angry about it–I was angry about A LOT–but I also at some point started thinking seriously about it. And I changed my behavior. Not all at once nor even over a short period of time but I did, and slowly I became a much better person, much more cognizant of how I portrayed, felt and viewed myself.

    Alas, in the long process I also cut her out of my life for being the bearer of “bad” news. She tried once to reconnect but I refused. I wasn’t angry at the point. In fact, I was just the opposite, grateful and happier. But as I tried to explain to the therapist I was seeing I felt I couldn’t trust her or myself to find the proper boundaries, that I’d be fearful all the time of crossing over a boundry, never really being able to know when what I said might be too much.

    It’s sad, really, that I lost (or “threw away”?) what had been a deep friendship. I recognize it was my doing. I regret it in some ways but at the time it felt necessary since I didn’t want to walk on pins and needles around her. She deserved better. But I have never forgotten what a great kindness she did me by speaking up, and I am grateful to this day.

  39. Megumin*

    I really like that “no pre-venting” tip! I used to do that, and didn’t realize how much time and energy I was taking from other people. My mom does this to me all the time – usually right at the end of a phone call, when I’m ready to hang up – and it drives me crazy. I’m sure it drives other people crazy when I do it to them! (Mostly my husband, as he is my main vent-board.)

  40. ThinMint*

    I am guilty of pre-venting. Darn it!

    I really like the 45 minute rule and will be trying that one out.

  41. Jedi Squirrel*

    Really gonna second journaling. I put a lot of stuff in there that I would just love to say to people directly in the moment, but I know I shouldn’t because the moment will pass. But at least that way I get it out of my system.

  42. Meg*

    These are great rules! Last year my work life fell apart/blew up. One of my best friends from college had worked at the same place for a few years and we overlapped (in different departments) for about a year. I had to try really hard to catch us not spending all of a happy hour venting about the situation. It was so easy to fall into since she knew all of the people and personalities involved, and she had issues with some of them when she was there too. I tried hard to catch myself after a period of time and say out loud, “ok let’s talk about something else now”

  43. Cambridge Comma*

    I love these rules… but I also love the fellowship that arises from mild venting (and gossiping). It’s so therapeutic.

    1. filosofickle*

      Yeah, in small doses it can be a strong bonding experience but in large doses it’s unhealthy. Fine line!

  44. Anon Accountant*

    I think it’s best to say “just need to vent” when you don’t want well-meaning advice. Plus it helps the other person to know you just need to get it out via venting and I like the asking permission before venting also.

  45. Cupcake*

    I am a talking problem solver, sometimes just telling someone what my problem is leads to the solution, sometime

    1. Cupcake*

      I meant that the solution comes from the conversation. The 45 min rule sounds very smart. If the s olution doesn’t present itself in 45 mins, then talking is not the tool to solve it, at least not in that moment, with info and energy available!

      1. Treebeardette*

        When I vent, I try to express gratitude to the listener. It makes me more self aware of my interaction to people.

        1. Treebeardette*

          I’m sorry, I don’t know how it added a comment to yours! But I agree with you, Cupcake.

    2. Thankful for AAM*

      I am also a “talking problem solver” for some things. Thats a helpful reminder for me to add to this!

  46. Kristin*

    I really like the suggestion to ask before assuming you can vent. You just never know what mental situation someone is in. Venting to someone who doesn’t have the mental space to receive can be bad for both sides.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      My ex coworker had no concept of this. She also had a tendency to pounce on people if she saw them in the corridor about to leave and would start venting about her ex, and she couldn’t seem to understand that “X is on her way out the door = X might not have time for this conversation right now”.

  47. Dan*

    I like to find other ways to take out any work frustrations, usually by working out or doing something to take my mind off it. Ultimate goal is to identify and attempt to correct the sources of the venting.

  48. merp*

    I really appreciate this, this sort of thing became a personal project of mine last year because I was in a real weird place where I didn’t place boundaries for a long time. Thank you for sharing this! Adding my email below :)

  49. Jennifer*

    This book would be so helpful! For me, I have been working on asking people if I can vent to them instead of just venting to them and also not going into problem-solving mode when friends vent to me. I will also have to start telling people if I want advice from them or not.

  50. Mayor of Llamatown*

    It is SO IMPORTANT to ask permission before venting. I’m one of those people who other people like to talk at. I’ve had friends who, every time I talked to them, unburdened all their marital problems, work issues, and parental stress on me. It’s exhausting. If you need to vent, ask if it’s okay first. I once read about someone who would ask their friends “Do you have the energy for this? It’s okay if you don’t” and I think that’s important – acknowledge that it’s really okay if they can’t be that person for you right now.

    And definitely limit yourself – 45 minutes seems really excessive to me, I’d say 20 minutes before you have to be done.

    Definitely show appreciation for them holding space for you. Just a “thanks for listening, I really needed to vent” is enough.

    1. LitmagEditor*

      This x100.

      It is important to ask. I too have friends who unload blow-by-blow accounts of their work problems on me every single time they call. They don’t ask, it goes on for way too long, and it’s exhausting. I know what’s coming, every time I answer the phone.

      I do think that 45 minutes is way too long, even with permission — I’m a friend, not a therapist, and my time is valuable. These “conversations” tend to be very one-sided.

    2. epi*

      I totally agree. Saying thank you is important– it’s tiring to listen to venting! It also signals to the other person that you are finished now. And if you have to end the conversation before the other person has gotten an equal opportunity to talk, I think saying thank you is absolutely necessary.

      It also makes me feel better as the person who was just venting. It lets me hear that I’ve decided to stop venting now. And it sort of reorients me to feeling grateful for the other person and ready to hold up my part of the relationship.

  51. Yorick*

    My best friend and I will ask “do you have a second to hear me complain?” or “is the complaint department open??”

  52. Snark no more!*

    I have found great success with journaling. It allowed me to stop and think about what happened. I also improved my skill in stating things in a dispassionate way. I almost never re-read. It was enough to write it down and get it out of my head.

    1. Chili*

      Can I ask what you do with the journals afterwards? I’m always really hesitant to journal-vent because I don’t want anyone to ever read what I wrote when it’s so negative. Like, if I’m venting about my boyfriend, I would not him to ever somehow come across 3 pages filled with how annoyed I am about the way he chews or whatever.

      1. Sam I Am*

        I burn old documents in the fireplace or wood stove. I don’t keep much writing unless- it gets put off to the creative pile, or if it was a journal I wrote on a trip to remember the experience. These generally don’t include the things I write to process, I get rid of those pretty quickly. They go in an actual burn box then not too long later, into the fire.

      2. epi*

        It may sound counterintuitive, but you could also consider an electronic journal.

        I currently use Standard Notes, a plaintext editor that syncs between your devices using end to end encryption. The encrypted files can be backed up wherever you want. In addition to being tied to a password protected account, you can set a passcode to even open the software on your device. There is a free version that works great and is ad free.

        I’ve really enjoyed this solution because my journal is always with me, yet secure. Also, I do most of my work on a computer so that is usually where I am when I decide I need to get something off my chest.

    2. Sam I Am*

      I had journaling’s advantage explained this simplified way:

      Thinking to yourself requires one neural pathway.
      Speaking about the same problem will loop in regions required to transform thoughts into speech.
      Journaling will loop in regions that allow you to write.

      So, all in the same brain, these varied actions literally make you think about it in a different way. I’ve found it useful to process and then lay down problems that I no longer need taking up space in my day.

  53. bighairnoheart*

    The 45 minute limit sounds so obvious when you think about it, but if you really get on a tear, it’s easy to go over that. I’ll have to remember that. I try not to vent at work (it’s come back to bite me once or twice in the past), but these seem like good guidelines to start applying with my friends/boyfriend.

    1. MayLou*

      I really struggled with this with my ex – she wasn’t able to put down an argument or important conversation until she felt it had been resolved (which often wasn’t even possible) and I would be totally drained after crying and talking about whatever it was for two or three hours. I process my feelings by talking them out loud – which is why I’ve been having counselling for years – and she preferred to not say anything until she already knew how she felt and what she wanted. It was a fundamental difference in approach that essentially ended our relationship.

      Anyway! I like these guidelines for venting, and definitely need to keep in mind the tips about asking permission and not ruminating.

  54. Kate*

    Venting can actually be a serious problem in relationships. We assume our significant other will help us deal with emotional burdens, but always turning to them by default to vent is too much to ask. Balance out who you vent around – they can’t be expected to only get your “need to vent” self at the end of the day. They deserve to get good parts of you as well! I think too often we “bring out best faces to work” but our relationships deserve the energy of our best selves too.

    1. Tessera Member 042*

      I agree with finding your venting community! One of the unexpected side effects of joining a dissertation accountability group is that I had a scheduled opportunity to vent about my dissertation stress with someone other than my husband. And because the structure of our meetings emphasized reflection on our progress, ending in goal-setting for the week, it helped channel the frustration into positive motivation to move forward.
      Even so, my husband and I did have to have conversations about what I wanted when I was stressed out, which was to vent and be cuddled, rather than have him try and problem-solve, as is his natural instinct. He definitely got better as the process went on–and fortunately, I passed my dissertation defense last week, so we can mark this as a stage of life and move on.

  55. Jennifer*

    Yesss I love Rachel & I’m so excited for her book! For me, I’m usually fine if people vent to me (it happens semi-regularly in my role) but I prefer to avoid feeling like The Void… you know, when someone really just needs to “shout into the void” so they feel better & can move on. If that’s what they need, I need a heads up! Otherwise I’ll jump into action :)

  56. LO*

    I am very much a “fix it” type, so I can’ t hear people’s stories without wanting to offer some kind of solution.

    My husband sometimes gets frustrated with me because he just wants to vent and doesn’t necessarily want advice or to change anything going on with him. It’s new for me, so I’m just trying to adapt to being silent and listening to him and being like “wow yeah that totally sucks” without going into savior mode.

    Anyway! The book sounds awesome and I’d def be interested in reading it.

  57. Nessun*

    A lot of great advice! I’m interested to know of the book has info on how to end those conversations where an ending is required. Sometimes that’s the hardest part!

  58. GeorgiaB*

    I’ve had to get better about venting in small doses. I am usually the recipient of the vents and have a bad habit of not saying anything about what’s bothering me until it’s a huge blow-up issue. As part of venting instead of blowing up, I’ve also gotten better at saying that I don’t need advice, I just need to release it.

  59. notMichelle*

    So much of this. I do try to remember to always ask if I can vent to a friend/colleague. It’s usually about the same person and the colleague that I vent to usually sees what I’m talking about so that’s convenient.

  60. Let's Do This*

    I like this advice. The two points that stood out to me were “asking to vent” and the “45 min rule.” I have also found that I need to set a limit on how much and how frequently I vent. It got to the point where venting became a way of socializing and my outlook on things turned negative, just so I could have something to vent about. I now actively try to find things to celebrate instead of vent about. There still are times and occasions when venting is warranted, but not nearly as often as the habit, I had fallen into. My daily outlook is so much healthier now.

  61. M*

    This is excellent advice, and I’m eager to read this book. Thanks for sharing part of it here! The time limit was new information for me, but makes so much. And the noticing if you are repeating yourself is often a really good indicator for me that I’m reaching the limits of the venting being helpful.

  62. shhhhimhiding*

    I love these rules, and I personally have some similar rules about listening to people vent.
    My biggest one is when a venter starts ruminating, I make it a point to ask what they want from the conversation. I’ll ask if they want my opinion, for me to keep listening, or if they want a distraction. I used to be amazed by how many people wanted the distraction, but it makes sense, they don’t just want it off their chest, they want it out of their mind too. Some of the most aggressive vents I’ve listened to have ended with us swapping puppy pictures or chatting excitedly about new movies or TV shows.

    1. Pickle Pot*

      This is a great approach. I’ve taken to asking about the first two options when the person hasn’t already made their goals clear, but then don’t always know how to wrap it up and move on after providing thoughts or support. This will help, thank you!

  63. SWFgoesketo*

    I so, SO agree with both the telling people if you just want to vent AND being willing to accept advice.

    Seems contradictory, but not really: people who love you want to support you, so ask I g for what you need (be it a sympathetic ear or a solution) is vital. I also think it’s worth figuring out if you’re asking for too much but offering too little. Listening to someone complain is exhausting, especially if you really think they are suffering. Continuing to suffer and subjecting friends to your misery causes them to suffer. Be willing to do something to improve the situation, or give them more opportunities to tap out.

  64. Rhythm of the Night*

    I’m someone who would gladly hear the venting of others but does not like to vent to others–I’d rather solve my own problems and then report to those close to me about it. However I do think this is a difference between friendships and work places–I think in the workplace you should really be bringing your problems to those who can address them where a friendship or relationship is where you can use rules like this to responsibly ask for support.

  65. Vega*

    Definitely interested in this book! I think venting can be healthy, as long as it’s done responsibly. Recently I saw someone saying that venting isn’t a thing, it’s just some kind of bad complaining habit – but it’s definitely important to talk about stuff that’s frustrating you, and to process it in a safe place. I’m glad to see more people talking about how to set healthy boundaries around venting, though, after extricating myself from some friendships that were too focused on complaining and only talking when we wanted to vent.

  66. Saffron*

    I love practicing active listening, but I’ve definitely been affected before by friends venting a disproportionate amount. I can think of one past friend who, after moving away, dominated every visit with conversations about the problems she was experiencing having moved. We’d been friends for four years but I found myself frustrated, having the same conversations over and over. I cared about her, but it felt like nothing was going to get better because of the way she vented to me. Our friendship soon deteriorated because of, well, communication issues, a lot of it having to do with her not listening to what I had to say. Sometimes you’ll find yourself in an unequal friendship (and venting can definitely play a part in the inequality) and have no idea how you got there until you’re out of it and can look back with a different perspective.

  67. Information Goddess*

    I especially like the journalling advice. I use this technique just so I’m not always venting at my loved ones.

  68. Joan Holloway*

    I find that’s it’s so important to make sure the person you’re venting to is a (as much as possible) third party. Venting to coworkers about work can feel cathartic, but they might have their own feelings about the situation, and you might be putting them in an awkward or uncomfortable situation. I like to talk through things with my partner (who isn’t truly “neutral,” because he has my best interests at heart), or find other friends who are removed from whatever the issue itself is. Sometimes just expressing my feelings diffuses the tension of the situation.

  69. Kani*

    This is good advice. I definitely agree with giving explicit permission to vent (whether I’m the one giving or receiving). My friends and I make venting intentional by mutually agreeing to make a space for it (such as putting “Tea Time” on the agenda for the bimonthly group video call). This way no one is overloading any one person with vent material, and also providing a shared understanding that if at any point someone is feeling done with Tea Time, it’s allowable to express that to the group and we’ll move on the next agenda item together.

  70. Raine*

    That red line when venting changes from making you feel better to making you feel worse tends be be closer with coworkers. As in I can only vent about work to coworkers for a wee short time before it makes me feel worse.

  71. Kristi*

    Venting is normal and needed. Harder concept to accept once you move in to management. Everyone needs to vent once in a while. I like the 45 minutes and taking a 20 minute breaks. I have a problem with wanting to fix when people vent to me, so I started telling my kids to let me know if they a) just need me to listen, b) need advice or c) need me to get involved.

  72. Mike S*

    They seem like they’re good rules.
    One of the web sites I frequent has a long running set of threads for venting about work. Things tend to turn humorous, which helps. One member’s complaints about his job as a security guard turned into a long running subthread about officer Peanut (a raccoon) and the goose patrol. Being able to laugh at the idiocies at work’s really helpful. (Also knowing that you’re not alone’s good too.)

  73. Data Lady*

    I really like these recommendations, especially the part about allowing people to make suggestions, unless you clearly specify up front you are just trying to get something out of your system. I also think when venting it is good to apply “Ring Theory”. You only vent out to people less impacted than you. You don’t vent “inward” to a person who the situation impacts more than you. For instance in the time of covid, you don’t vent about having to do extra hours since there were layoffs to one of the people who were laid off. They have the worse end of that situation.

  74. AnonPM*

    I did way too much venting about things that I couldn’t control at my last job. I need to try harder to keep that in check going forward and find another way to shrug off work stress.

  75. blily*

    Love the advice! Definitely important to remember not to inundate your friends with too much negativity by venting all the time

  76. bunniferous*

    When I vent I try to make sure I am being positive about a solution to fix the problem I am venting about. Not always easy! I also try to live by the saying “fix the problem not the blame” which thankfully my boss does as well.

  77. Middle Manager*

    I really like the part about being upfront if you just want to vent, not to get advice. I think it might be really helpful on the listening end to, particularly as a manager, to ask something like, “Are you looking for my advice on this or just to vent your frustration?”

  78. MayMay*

    Definitely something I’m trying to find the right balance on! I’ve noticed it can take a lot of self-discipline to responsibly vent (by these guidelines)–it’s so easy to let our emotions get the better of us and override the logical (and healthy) need to take a step back and regroup internally and with friends/coworkers. I’d love to see what the book has to say about getting into a venting feedback loop with friends/coworkers, it seems like that’s a great way to foster a lot of resentment about work and life in general.

  79. Lygeia*

    As far as advice/problem-solving, I’ve found it useful to ASK the person before offering the advice. Like “That does sound frustrating. I have a couple bits of advice if you want to hear, or I can just be a sympathetic ear!”

  80. Sarah D.*

    Thank you for these! I’ve found it’s easier to limit my venting when working from home.

  81. Eeyore's Missing Tail*

    Venting can be helpful, but you’ve got to know your audience. I’d love to read this book!

  82. Houda*

    I had some people in my life only contact me to dump toxic thoughts or decompress. For some reason, I give off the impression of being up for it or something.
    I’d say make sure that the ratio of venting to non-venting is sensible so you don’t become “that” friend.
    There are life events and times when all you can do is vent, and friends will get it. But I also try to talk about something neutral, positive, or have them do the talking every now and then. It’s not too calculated but a conscious effort to be aware of what energy you bring along throughout the life of that relationship.

  83. crchtqn*

    This advice has come at a perfect time for me. I have noticed that I have become a negative Nancy, even more than usual with Covid, and want to stop being so negative and be a little more positive and less venty.

  84. Book Pony*

    At least for me, when I’m repeating myself, it’s because I’m circling back to a topic to address it at a different angle. Like, “Ugh, I’m mad Courtney told me I should go help to cut the lasagna even when I already offered to help and the host said no!” (An actual conversation, lol) Where the first round would be me going over how annoying that behavior is as a friend, round 2 would be more going over the microaggression of only telling the black enby to go do the thing in a room full of white people lol. But I’m also autistic sooo

    I think venting can be useful, and usually when I start endlessly circling/ruminating, I just say I’m doing that so my friends can peace out if they need to.

  85. Rational Lemming*

    I feel like a positive to venting is having someone else listen and point out if you are repeating yourself. In the past that has helped me isolate for myself the issues that recur over time or the things that REALLY bug me. Easier to address when you know what those issues are!

  86. Bex*

    This looks like really good advice but, especially if you’re venting about your job, nothing in writing! We can all tend towards hyperbole when our hackles are raised, and committing that sort of thing to writing can come back and bite us in the butt.

    When listening, I struggle very hard with not trying to immediately offer solutions, because that’s what I’m so used to doing when someone approaches me with an issue – immediately look for a way to resolve it. I know I do it and I try to stop. When people are venting to me now, I’ll tend to ask “do you want to talk it out, or do you want to look at solutions right now?” So I know what they want.

    Also. Never ever ever ever EVER vent over any sort of company chat program. It just doesn’t go well.

  87. Chili*

    I am so intrigued by this entire book and can’t wait to read it! I do really like all the advice about respectfully venting. My friends and I very informally have pieced together a lot of these rules over the years– it would have saved us all a lot of stress to have read these tips earlier. We did establish the playfully named “dump him” rule, where if someone was venting so frequently about one thing, we would only listen for fifteen minutes and our advice would always be to “dump him” (or dump it, if it’s a bad job, hobby, etc.). Because there is only a certain amount of one’s life you can spend listening to even the dearest friend complain that their love interest who doesn’t like labels brought another woman home for Christmas and sent the friend a (nonvaluable, not collector’s item) sheet of stamps as a Christmas gift.

  88. K*

    Recently I’ve started to get my anxiety under control, and with that I’ve noticed that I need to vent less, because I’m better able to recognize what’s frustrating me without going down the cycle of catastrophizing doom. In addition to making me a healthier human, I think I’m a less annoying coworker because I pester people less.

  89. August*

    Love all of this, especially specifying whether you want advice or just to unload before you start venting (makes it easier for you AND the person you’re venting to!). I also like the 45-minute rule, although personally I’ll also mention that I have now had to make a rule for myself not to vent about one issue over multiple days, to multiple people. It’s gotten worse now that I’m isolated in my apartment – this past weekend I was just stewing in one interaction and taking breaks to call and complain to my mom, friends, brother, whoever would take any interest. It helped lessen my dread about taking on the issue on Monday, but also. I spent my whole weekend on that, which is just sad.

  90. London Calling*

    I’ve been keeping a diary during lockdown and using it to vent, and it’s become more and more obvious over the weeks how I feel about my job. I’ve been venting my feelings about it and my managers in a way that I just couldn’t to anyone at work, because years in the workplace has taught me that there’s no such thing as a trustworthy colleague.

  91. QCI*

    I”m mostly of the mindset that if I can’t fix it or do anything about it, there’s no reason to waste time and energy complaining about it.

  92. Laurel*

    I love the idea of the 45-minute rule, it’s going to be really interesting to pay attention to that in the future.

    I really appreciate it when people ask permission to vent.

  93. Actuarial Octagon*

    I’m guilty of some non-productive venting to my husband about work. For a long time I figured it was better than saying something to my co-workers but it usually just kept it on my mind longer than if I had just let it go. Now that I’m managing someone I’m working on clear direct communication.

  94. Pennalynn Lott*

    Is it terrible that I read all of these great suggestions and immediately thought of my ex? It’s funny how the people who need certain information the most are the ones least likely to read it or implement it. Every. Single. Thing. that happened in his day was something to vent about. From how someone parked in the lot at the grocery store (off by a few inches but not even near anyone) to a client not being home when he showed up 20 minutes early. EVERYthing was vent-worthy and set him off. It was so exhausting. I either tuned him out completely or stopped him and asked, “Has even ONE good thing happened to you today?”

    1. New Senior Manager*

      On another note… I’m watching Gilmore Girls. Episode ‘Ted Koppel’s Big Night Out’ which has the Pennalyn Lott situation.

  95. Carrie*

    I really struggle with venting about work. It feels kind of satisfying at the time but I immediately regret it when the conversation ends.

  96. Chronic Overthinker*

    Oooh, I could definitely use this book! My husband is a “fixer,” meaning he loves to offer solutions immediately, instead of just listening. So instead of just letting me say what I need to say, he will offer solutions and I don’t feel like I’m being heard. Sometimes that’s what venting is, just the “airing of grievances” without judgment or solutions. I feel like I should preface my venting with, “I’m just looking to vent, I don’t really need help with this.” But then it just feels like complaining I guess.

  97. Elizabeth W Kidd*

    Don’t forget Ring Theory- “Comfort in- Dump out” Select the audience carefullu

    1. Tableau Wizard*

      the ring theory was a revelation to me – and put to words the complaint i had about my mother’s behavior around tragedy.

    2. Might Be Spam*

      Right. The Ring Theory has been a big help to me. I’m working on my social skills and I struggle with knowing when to vent and with whom. It helps me figure out the appropriate direction to send any venting.
      Also consider your listener. Some people are not safe to let down your guard around.
      I need to look for this book if I don’t win it.

  98. Tableau Wizard*

    I really love these, because I feel like your venting habits are not something that you often get feedback on. I’m always looking for indications if I’m breaking social etiquete or annoying people, and this is a great framework to check against. Also really helpful boundaries to set.

    When I know I’m about to vent, or even just complain, I’ll preface a text exchange with: can i complain at you for a few texts? you can ignore them if you want, but i just need to get it out!
    I have several friends who I might do this to, and it’s honestly so helpful. And often they’ll respond when they can, but either way, I’ve gotten it out!

  99. Lori B.*

    I’ve always been a “verbal processor” in that, I need to talk things out to untangle them in my mind. These are good tips, and consistent with what I’ve learned over the years in therapy. Excited at the chance to win a free copy!

  100. MED*

    Making sure you mention if you only want to vent and don’t want advice ! and ask if it’s ok at that moment before starting.

  101. XtinaLyn*

    It’s ironic how good advice comes along just when you need it. These tips are awesome–I’ll bet the book is, too!

  102. Lilac*

    I find that setting a time limit, asking explicitly if it’s okay to vent (and accepting “no” gracefully), and saying up front if I want advice or not really helps everyone involved not feel drained and wrung-out.

  103. AngryOwl*

    Waiting to be asked is a good point. I’ve definitely been in a place where I’ve venting too much, but I didn’t even realize it was happening because I was too deep into my stress. The reminder to wait to be asked can help check impulses and pull us back into reality.

  104. humans are weird*

    This book looks really good. I really like the bit about rumination – I am often on the receiving end of rumination and it really is tiring. Like, are you getting something out of repeating this?, because I am getting really tired of hearing it. (I also ruminate but it’s something I’m trying to interrupt).

  105. Emilia Bedelia*

    I am not naturally an external processor, so I’ve had to learn how to vent/share my feelings in a productive way. Breaking it down into the stereotypical “When she says X, it makes me feel Y” helps me to actually transform a thought instead of letting it sit. The book “Getting Things Done” has a great line that I love – paraphrased, “there is no reason to think a thought twice if it is not a thought you enjoy having”. In context this is about stressing about to-do lists and work, but the principle is helpful to me for short circuiting that venting/rumination circuit- I ask myself “Did I already think this? What am I adding here?”
    For me, identifying/naming the feelings is really important when venting, instead of just rambling on about what happened to me. Usually, the way I feel about a situation is more a factor of my own insecurities and hangups (and the outsider is coming in with their own perspectives as well). When someone else starts offering advice/perspective that doesn’t match mine, it only adds to my frustration, and makes them more impatient because I won’t take their feedback.
    “Someone interrupted me in front of the CEO today. This situation makes me feel insecure and bad at my job, because I am unsure about what I should have done” or “Someone interrupted me in front of the CEO today. This situation makes me feel disrespected and angry, because I know I am correct and this person is not” will generate extremely different responses from the person I’m venting to.
    I do this when I’m being vented at as well- I ask how the person feels about what is going on. It feels like a cheesy therapist move, but often I am very surprised at how the person is reacting, and it really does help me change my perspective. The emotional context is important if you want to give/receive helpful feedback.

  106. Hotdog not dog*

    I prefer to vent to my dog. He’s a great listener! It also saves my family and colleagues from having to help carry any extra angst.

  107. History Chick*

    After listening to a friend complain about her job for about 5 years now and rejecting all advice about it I can definitely relate to “Don’t outright reject all suggestions and attempts to problem-solve.” It’s absolutely exhausting to the point where I don’t ever want to talk to this friend any more and/or walk on egg shells hoping the topic of jobs won’t ever come up!

  108. Sleepy*

    I love these rules. I didn’t quite realize how toxic venting itself could be until I fell into a major pattern of it at work.
    My coworker and I we would schedule legit meetings but then end up venting for most of the time, almost daily. At first it was cathartic, but then it became toxic and made me feel worse. After several months, we insisted that our manager address the poor working conditions and eventually she did. I really think if we’d put like 10% of our venting energy into problem-solving, we could have gotten it addressed much sooner.

    1. Chili*

      It can be really helpful to vent a little bit to coworkers to establish that you are both concerned about the same thing, but if both parties continuously complain without taking action, it becomes toxic and makes it easy to forget that you actually have agency to make changes. I’ve instituted a new rule that anytime I vent to a coworker about something, I must take action on that item in some way. I don’t necessarily need to resolve it, because some things are just outside of my control, but I need to bring the issue up to my manager or make some small effort to address the thing. It’s actually been really helpful to realize I can be more effectual than I give myself credit for.

      1. ad hominem*

        I’m recognizing that I too use venting around work both as a form of validation and a verbal processing mechanism: are things really as serious/problematic to you as they seem to me? Is my path forward a way out or is this out of my control? I’m completely guilty of ruminating in the sense of simmering on a concern until I feel like I have enough ammunition to warrant it being actionable.
        However, I have a hard time knowing what to say when colleagues veer down the road of personal feelings – I’m watchful to steer conversations away from personal attacks that breed toxicity and resentment, but sometimes it is really a personality clash causing friction and I want to validate his/her concern without fully approving of the delivery.

  109. IL JimP*

    Totally agree with the last point. You can’t just vent then leave the conversation, that’s not a good way to maintain healthy relationships and you just build up distance because the person you’re venting too feels used up.

    Also, make sure that your problems aren’t the only things you talk about with this person.

  110. It's All Elementary*

    I have a childhood friend who lives elsewhere and has no ties to anyone but me and she and I regularly “vent” to each other. It feels good to get it all out without fear of it coming back to bite us at some point. Then, we just move on.

  111. Robert*

    I’ve tried journaling to help myself vent in the past, but I just personally don’t journal well. I wish I could. I don’t vent enough though, so I’m going to try some of these techniques. Thanks for this!

  112. Val*

    These guidelines are really helpful because I tend to vent too much to the point that the situation feels way worse than it really is. But also sometimes the situation just isn’t going to change and its helpful to have someone point that out and realize its time to move on.

  113. A.C. Stefano*

    “If you aren’t looking for advice, say so.”

    This is so important. Venting’s important, but I was actually getting in a lot of fights with my mother because I was venting, and she wanted to fix it. So now, whenever I just need to yell, I straight up start the call with “Okay, this happened, and this is your script. I don’t need advise, I need to yell.” And it’s helped a lot.

  114. EvilQueenRegina*

    For me, it’s not so much that I don’t want advice, it’s that I don’t want distraction. I can say something once to get it off my chest, I only need a few minutes (45 does seem a lot to me) then I’m done with it and can move on to something else. My SO sometimes has tried to distract me, thinking distraction will cheer me up, except the problem is, this will only really cheer me up AFTER I’ve got it off my chest, and I have been known to say “Can I just vent about my coworkers sending 90 messages of arguing over this leaving lunch, and then I’ll be able to talk about what X did on The Flash?” (true story. Don’t ask.) because if I have to just shut up and be distracted, it’ll still be festering at the back of my mind long after it would if I’d just got it off my chest. But I will still apply the “don’t want advice” thing in the form of “don’t want distraction”.

  115. It's All Elementary*

    I have a childhood friend who lives elsewhere and has no ties to anyone but me and she and I regularly “vent” to each other. It feels good to get it all out without fear of it coming back to bite us at some point. Then, we just move on.

  116. NotaPirate*

    I think asking before venting needs to happen consistently. I know for me personally, there are times when a normal level of venting I would have been fine with listening, is just unbearable due to other life events. Especially since I may not want to share (friend’s miscarriage) but I definitely don’t have the ability to listen to you complain about your boss mispelling your name while trying to process that. If asking is normalized then its not a big deal to say “hey I cant listen to you vent this week.” sometimes.

    My other thought is in addition to a total time limit for venting consider setting one for turns during venting. A former coworker and I still do that when we get drinks. 15 min tell me how much you hate your coworkers then I get 15 min and you listen. One sided venting can become really toxic to a relationship.

  117. No Regerts*

    oh, this is such helpful info (I’ll be buying the book if I don’t win!). Especially the 45 minute limit, which goes along well with our family rule of “you get 48 hours to wallow” for intermediately-bad news, then you have to move on to thinking about solutions/next steps. So when I was laid off years ago, I got two full days to just feel my feelings, then at the two day mark it was time to add in working on productive next steps. Obviously it doesn’t apply to seriously awful news (like a death in the family) and you don’t have to fully get over it in 2 days, you just have to mix your venting with productive actions. :)

  118. CanadianUniversityReader*

    This is great. I have always associated venting with complaining from a previous job. But sometimes it’s nice to vent. I love these rules.

  119. Triumphant Fox*

    Being quarantined with my in-laws right now makes me realize how much mindless office tedium my MIL has had to listen to and commiserate with over the years. This last week consisted of someone leaving FIL’s company and him getting that work so we heard every detail about the transfer. I don’t even have the brain power for my own office tedium right now.
    I’ve been trying to be better with my partner at cutting off things when they are boring and edit out the details that are not important. My partner is genuinely interested in some of the shenanigans, especially recently, but overloading them is not what I want (especially since they really don’t process things that way at all).
    The only thing I miss about my last job was that it was such a circus my stories were always so outrageous. Now anything related to work feels so… tame.

  120. Laufey*

    I’m a big fan of the “Can I vent to you for a moment question” as sometimes people just don’t have the oomph to listen to your problems on top of theirs. That said, you also have to make sure you respect the answer to the question. If it’s no, go vent to your dog instead.

  121. Pie Man*

    I really love the suggestion about asking for permission to vent. I often keep everything bottled up until I inadvertently dump it all out (often in less than ideal circumstances). As someone who struggles with the give-and-take balance, I recognize that I should lean on people a little more, and the idea of asking if I can vent to friends who would probably be just fine with me doing so, seems like something that could work well for me. Thanks for sharing this!

  122. Brandee Winstead*

    I like to identify something that I know one of my employees wants to vent about and start venting about it myself. Then it will open up some trust and allow them to let loose some steam. This can immediately launch into a problem solving and solution setting which can be really healthy in the long run. Venting doesn’t always have to be a negative!

    1. Triumphant Fox*

      If I have the power to change something, I’m all for it. I’ve been doing this lately with the COVID-19 stuff because my company has issued almost 0 communication about how we are handling it, what’s happening with our events, etc. and I feel like the only thing I can do to help is be like “I am also concerned and I will voice those concerns if needed – tell me what is worrying you and we will figure it out.” I got my company to do several things in response to feedback I’ve gotten from just telling them “yes this is frustrating that we don’t know any of company’s plans. Tell me what’s worrying you specifically.”
      One of my employees though will vent in real time about computer issues and I’m just like…I cannot help you. “Oh, I know, it’s just so weird…super specific problem details.” I find it so frustrating because in work mode I’m all about solutions, so I genuinely do not know how to respond to someone’s real-time frustration of whatever email/server/internet connection/phone/software is happening. It’s like listening to someone describe their dream, but without the teeth falling out/math tests/chasing dragons.

  123. KamJHug*

    I think it’s important to ask for permission to vent, especially if the person you vent to is a dear friend. I have had to learn that, especially since I don’t want to take my friendships for granted. I think sometimes people fall into the trap of always venting without realizing the person on the receiving end may not be in the space to hear it.

  124. school of hard knowcs*

    I require dark humor for successful venting… okay, I require dark humor for all general living situations. Dealing with my mom and her dementia is difficult. I start some conversations with ‘nobody died this weekend’, until the weekend someone did. Right now, all tips for surviving are great.

  125. Taylor*

    Great advice. I’ve become careful about not venting too much as it tends to drag down my mood. Vent, get it out, and move on if possible

  126. old curmudgeon*

    This one really, really resonates with me:

    “Don’t outright reject all suggestions and attempts to problem-solve.”

    My late parent had a modus operandi that I referred to as “getting more out of having their problems than they did out of solving them.” Every single conversation was a protracted gripe session, and any suggestion or idea that was offered was rejected out-of-hand in order to return to griping. It was exhausting, and it really created a barrier between me and the parent, because really, who wants to sit on the phone for two hours listening to someone wallow in misery?

    I think I need this book, and I think some of my nearest and dearest do as well. Thanks for the tip, Alison. (Not adding my email address because I am happy to purchase it and do not need to be included in the drawing.)

  127. Lucia Pacciola*

    I like venting. A lot. But I’m probably not very good at it. I’m definitely not mindful of those rules. As I get older, I realize I’ve probably inherited these bad habits from a parent, whose own approach to venting really gets on my nerves. I guess it’s true what they say: We do grow up to be our parents, at least a little bit.

    Anyway, I’m not a big fan of self-help books in general, but this one looks interesting. Some rules are nice, and I probably could do with some regular journaling.

  128. CK*

    Oh I love these! So helpful to have things to consider about productive venting. My friends and I have started to casually implement the “can I vent about [X]?” in our text conversations and it’s been so helpful in taking off pressure I didn’t realize was even there to respond immediately.

  129. Posie*

    Great advice. Additional advice for listeners is to not try to downplay the person who’s venting. I’ve often noticed that when the ventee is trying to minimize the situation (often because they dislike conflict), that the ventor responds with increasing emotion. I often cue my husband with a simple “I need UPPERCASE mad right now” when I feel minimized, to which he responds with a very exaggerated “that’s so crazy!” and then it gets us to both laugh.

  130. Jessica*

    I really like the idea of the 45 minute rule.

    Venting is so tough. It helps to talk through things and/or blow of steam, but do it too often and you’re just getting mired in negativity and paradoxically making a bad situation worse. I’ve yet to find a good balance.

  131. Fancy Owl*

    This is great! I wish I’d had this a few years ago. One thing I try to do when I’m venting about something that was mainly an annoyance and isn’t too serious (like someone cutting me off on the way to work or a coworker missing deadlines) is that I try to make the rant entertaining for the listener by adding jokes or obvious exaggerations. Often I find that in the process of trying to make it funny for someone else it becomes funny to me too. I don’t do that for more serious problems though, because I don’t want to undercut the issue with humor.

  132. Pliant Platypus*

    This is great. Not only rules for yourself but it also hit the nail on the head for how to address situations where you are trapped by others and don’t know what to say. I need 18 copies of this to hand out please.

  133. George*

    So much good stuff there! Stuff I wish I hadn’t taken 20+ years to figure out!

    I like to help, so imagine my surprise when someone told me, “Stop trying to fix it! Just listen!” I’m still working on that!

  134. Arya7*

    This is great advice! I especially like the idea of letting someone ask how I’m doing, as a way of starting a conversation.

  135. Tera*

    This is great advice! It reminds me of the difference I learned about venting (which is healthy) and ruminating, which is not healthy and involves only and repeatedly complaining about the situation and having no interest in improving it, which has been found to be bad for the mental health of both the person ruminating and their listening partner.

  136. LunaLena*

    This book sounds excellent, if I don’t win a copy I’m definitely putting a hold on it at the library. The stuff about venting is especially timely for me because I know someone who vents to me about a particular subject constantly (in fact they called last night at 10:30 p.m.; I suspect they wanted to vent because that’s about the time that particular subject comes up), and although I want to be sympathetic and try to offer advice or make things better, it gets harder and harder to listen to the same complaints while knowing that they’re never actually going to do anything about it. The “Don’t outright reject all suggestions and attempts to problem-solve” section sounds particularly appropriate for them, because that’s exactly what they do so they can keep wallowing in self-pity and misery. Having the words and understanding to explain why this isn’t helping and it’s straining our relationship would be immensely helpful.

    To be honest, this entire book sounds like it would be helpful for that person (they have HUGE boundary issues). I’d love to read it, and if it turns out to indeed be good advice for them, I’d love to get them a copy.

  137. Rusty Shackelford*

    Oooh, this is interesting. There are a few people in my life who could really use this advice. And me too, probably…

  138. ElenaA*

    I would very much like to win. And the topic about venting is gold. I miss work-related venting! I think venting VERY OCCASIONALLY, can really help build up the energy to actually make change. At my previous job and also while at school there were people I could vent(or hear them vent) with about 30 min, and then we would all be like: “Okay, thats out of the system, now what shall we do about it!” But obviously you need to know your audience and all the advice above is great to keep it in moderation and not tire your colleaugues.

    At my current job, the topic is always about personal stuff, which is really exhausting, since these people are not my close friends, and it is very hard to react approbiately.

  139. Atlantis*

    This is such good advice, both for venting about work and for other things too! I know I’ve dealt with times where whenever I talked to certain family or friends they would vent to the point where I didn’t want to reach out due to the constant negativity. I love them still but it’s hard when it always comes up and there’s nothing I feel I can say.

    These strategies are great and I can say I will be looking to use them in the future!

  140. ArtemisPrime*

    My husband and I work together (I know) and often vent about our respective days. Hubby is frustrated with his job right now and wants to talk about it on a daily basis. I’ve learned that I need to ask him early on whether he just wants to vent or if feedback is welcome… saves a lot of hurt feelings in the long run.

  141. Robin*

    I love this. as a coach, and having had a long history of working in EAP, I have historically had to keep a tight watch on my capacity to listen to people and vent. at particular times I’ve even had to TELL people that I don’t have the reserves of energy to listen right now. Now is one of those times in fact.

    I really want this book please.

  142. Raine*

    Just that list alone touches on so many things that have utterly exhausted me as of late. I can handle one vent session, but when we get to the tenth I just want to scream at them to shut up and move on! How can it be called venting if nothing is actually moving? I need to read this book just to figure out how to respond to people without driving them away entirely. -_-;;

  143. Mandy*

    This is great advice for managers and employees. I think people tend to either over-vent or to hold it all in, neither of which is good!

  144. MedLibrarian*

    These are very practical rules to follow around venting. I definitely think there’s a line between a healthy amount of venting and going too far, making yourself actually feel worse. I also think, from the listening side, I need to ask if someone just wants me to listen or wants constructive advice–two very different things.

  145. Allison*

    I love this! We’ve started using some of these techniques at my office, and they’ve made a huge difference. We now always specify up front if we need to vent or need help solving a problem. I’ve realized that I listen differently when someone needs help solving a problem than when someone just needs to be heard, and it does help me show up for them in the way they need me to.

  146. Perpetual Student*

    I really like these! I used to be a strong proponent of venting (and I do think it can be useful/cathartic), but after too many experiences with people venting badly, I’m strongly in favor of a more thoughtful approach like this one.

    (I’m thinking in particular about a former roommate who would corner me in the kitchen for hours-long vent sessions about her boyfriend — nearly always the same complaints, endlessly, and showing no interest in me or my life/problems.)

  147. FaintlyMacabre*

    So agree with writing things down. While I was breaking up with my ex, it felt like my brain kept going over fights and bad times in order to remind me that the relationship was not working and I needed to get out. Writing them down really helped break the exhausting brain repitition. It was like I was telling my brain, yes, this is important, I won’t forget, but I need to have that brain space for other things.

    1. Argh!*

      As I look back on the times I’ve vented too much, it seems like I was in impossible situations with no solutions. A little venting usually results in some insight. It’s hard to give up on a situation when there’s a lot of investment, so I get that.

  148. Argh!*

    Great advice. I crossed the line from fact-checking to venting to ruminating a few years ago and have been paying a heavy price ever since. The essential issue was that I worked for a supervisor who wouldn’t or couldn’t empathize, and who wasn’t honest with me about expectations — then slammed me for not meeting them. I was in an impossible situation with no way out, but it took a few years of hitting brick walls to realize it.

    I now report to a new supervisor who reports to my old supervisor, and the toxicity in the management approach has been magnified, not reduced, but in my new position some of the frustrations that were due to being set up to fail are now in someone else’s job description. I wish her well in managing the unmanageable and coaching the uncoachable.

    It’s virtually impossible to get over a toxic relationship while you’re still being triggered, devalued, and gaslighted, so my 2 cents is to pay a therapist whatever it costs to channel the venting there. Besides saving your job, it saves your other relationships. There are no shelters for people being victimized by a toxic boss, and jobs don’t grow on trees. Keeping it in created all kinds of health problems for me, and I had to decide not to let my horrible boss kill me. Killing my motivation was enough.

  149. Retired Prof*

    I’m a problem solver. At some point, I discovered that I could just ASK someone if they need to vent or if they want solutions. That was a game changer! I’d love to see all the tips and ideas in this book, because I’m sure I still have plenty of room to improve my communication and relationships.

  150. Pam*

    I am a ventee, not a venter. I do my own processing of issues, and have a pretty low tolerance of people continually venting/complaining, and not making changes.

    My particular peeve is the housemate who vents over the phone, in my hearing, to a series of friends/coworkers, and then wants to vent more to me. Big NOPE!

  151. TootsNYC*

    In general, our loved ones want to be helpful and offer solutions to our problems . . . but jumping right to solutions can inadvertently communicate “I don’t want to hear about this anymore; I want to fix this so you’ll shut up about it”—which is maybe not what you want to hear in that moment. So if you know you simply need to vent, or that you aren’t in a place to consider what to do next, tell the other person that up front.

    I came to this realization just a few years ago, and it completely changed me.
    Not so much as a venter, but as a vent-ee.

    When people tell me their troubles, I don’t rush right to reassurance, and not to problem solving. I just commisserate.
    I visualize it as:
    -not standing opposite them and looking at them, and addressing them, but
    -standing next to them, shoulder to shoulder, at looking at their problem.

    I just say stuff like, “that sucks,” or “man, that’s hard,” or “I’m so pissed at the universe on your behalf,” or “well, crap, now you’re going to have to always worry about your kid’s safety at birthday parties!” or “And so now it’s going to be hard to tell whether he’s sincere or not, that’s going to be frustrating.”

    That last one may seem a bit catastrophizing, but when I say things like that–a realistic naming of the actual logistical or emotional problems–that’s the moment that I see people release some tension.

    I told a work colleague about this change in tactic, at the time that I had decided it. A month later, she comes in and tells me that her son is allergic to peanuts, for real. I almost started to say, “it’ll be OK,” and “people are really aware of that allergy; you’ll be fine,” and I stopped myself and did the “aw, man, that sucks” thing.
    About 15 minutes later she said, “Hey, did you just do that thing you were talking about? Because it actually helped. It felt good.”

    But I hadn’t thought about tapping into that as the person venting or seeking company or sympathy.

  152. Bob, Your Uncle*

    I think this would be very helpful. I’m the go-to venting person for people outside my department at work. It can get very exhausting when they really don’t want me to put on my manager hat and FIX things. They really just want to vent. But the sacrifice is my own job satisfaction, usually!

  153. Ann O. Nimitee*

    Oh gosh, I need to abide by all of this venting advice. I’ve been in a toxic job for years and so many people I love have had to pay the price of listening to me go on and on.

  154. Anastasia Krupnik*

    I need to get better about explicitly saying I’m not looking for advice when I just want to vent. My husband always wants to problem-solve, but a lot of times, I just want to vent.

  155. Natalie Pasquenza*

    This was really helpful. I would also like to know how to respectfully stop a rant once it has started – especially if I haven’t given permission for the rant. Sometimes rants just show up in the conversation (work and personal) before I even see it happening and I don’t always want/need to hear it.

  156. Sara*

    Venting is why good friends are imperative. Not that I vent every time we get together… but one of certainly does.

  157. Lena Clare*

    This is so great! I can definitely attest to journaling as a healthy form of venting. Too often, as an empathic person, I have been the recipient of someone else’s venting…not good. This looks interesting for ventres and ventees to set boundaries around what someone is willing to say and what someone is willing to listen to.

  158. Elyse*

    I feel so seen. Venting inappropriately, or enabling inappropriate venting, was one of the biggest mistakes I thought I might be making as a department leader in my last job. One of my goals moving forward is to learn to balance discretion, transparency, venting, and connection better so I can be a great leader one day.

  159. Jessie*

    A friend told me years ago to launch into a complaint with “I just need a poor-baby…” if I didn’t want to receive advice from my intended vent audience. It worked quite well – it doesn’t work with all audiences, but the person in question responded exactly as I’d hoped, and I stopped feeling like all vents opened me up to ‘fixing.’

    1. Turtlewings*

      I’ve done something similar with “I need to have a pity party for a minute!”

  160. JustHereToRead*

    Good advice, not something I have heard before in many cases. Excited to look into this book

  161. Unknown Caller*

    It’s always really helpful when you set boundaries with friends and family- knowing whether someone is looking for advice or just looking for an ear really changes the game.

  162. Sarra*

    I like the journaling one – sometimes one of my friends will do this, but in a really restricted Facebook post – and it won’t actually be in the post; it’ll be in the comments. The post will say something like “I need to vent about XYZ. If you want to read it, everything will be in the comments. I do/do not want advice”. then the comment section will be a pretty free-form stream-of-consciousness vent. I appreciate the option to not read it if I don’t want to (but I usually do).

  163. Iron Chef Boyardee*

    I’ll pick two winners at random (or rather, random selector software will).

    I feel much more comfortable about my chances of winning, with the knowledge that the winners will be selected via this method.

    Please note that I’m not trying to imply any funny business on Alison’s part, and none should be inferred. It’s just that, when it comes to contests where the winner is randomly selected, I can’t help but think that an early entry will wind up in the bottom of the pile because of later entries piling up on it, and even if they all go in a rotating drum… well, to my layman’s mind, I’m thinking the entries won’t be as truly mixed up as they ideally should be.

    That being said, I have absolutely no idea how online drawings usually work. Maybe random selection software is the usual and customary standard, and it’s just that Alison’s specifically mentioning it here, I don’t know. So take my venting with however many grains of salt as you wish.

  164. Eyeball*

    I used to have a coworker who was a Supreme Master Venter and hated (HATED) his job and seemingly everything about it. You could walk past him on the way to the bathroom and it would be difficult to escape the Vent. The worst part was that his vents were always SUPER LOUD, like he wasn’t able (or willing) to modulate his voice. I mean, gosh, dude, we all know the job is bad, you don’t have to actively make it worse for everyone.

  165. sara*

    This is great advice – I particularly love the markers for recognizing getting into rumination territory. I’ve been on the receiving end of rumination cycles, and surely have been guilty of that myself. It’s helpful to consider that there are ways of identifying the shift and learning when it’s time to move on.

  166. Georunner*

    This is such great advice! I think venting can be extremely helpful, and I definitely have coworkers that I vent to and let vent back to me. I always make sure to give them time to talk about their life, and like to cut myself off when I’ve said what I needed to say and move on to “happier”/non-venting conversation. Constant venting gets old fast for all parties involved.

  167. Josephine Beth NotAmy*

    Excellent advice. I find I’m getting better at setting some limits with people around topics for venting, especially when I’m at the end of my own rope!

  168. Kaitlyn*

    I like venting, but I try to use it systematically: what are my patterns? What are my pain points? If I notice that the same people or topic comes up over and over again, I get bored (with myself!) and try to use it as a picture frame to see something about me and what I can control about the situation. Sometimes I can get real insight by just processing, but it can’t be endless: I feel like I can and should move from A to B.

  169. Colorado*

    This is great! I’d love a copy of the book. I read this somewhere along time ago and it stuck, Carolyn Hax I think, I try to offer advice in only two situations:
    1. when I am asked directly to
    2. if it’s a life or death situation
    Otherwise, I try to keep my advice to myself and let the other person vent.

  170. Turtlewings*

    This is all really legit advice. In my experience, it also really helps people tolerate your venting if you can make it FUNNY. Obviously not everyone can or wants to do that, but if you can turn your frustrated rant into a hilariously sarcastic frustrated rant with over-the-top facial expressions and weird voices, people are willing to listen to you a lot longer! Plus it helps you reframe things in your own mind into a source of laughter instead of merely negativity.

  171. Formica Dinette*

    This looks great! If I don’t win a copy, I’ll probably buy it. Her journaling book looks pretty good, too.

  172. Jackie*

    Venting to release frustration and not wanting any advice is the best way to just get rid of what is weighing you down in the moment. It’s healthy but for the listener, they might need an ear later to release what they were just privy to :))

  173. frostipaws*

    I need all the help I can get. Will definitely be asking my library to consider ordering a copy!

  174. BunnyWatsonToo*

    I need this book! I’ve always felt that I shouldn’t vent to anyone about anything regarding work.

  175. A Good Egg*

    I have a direct report who has been venting a lot lately, and plenty of us are concerned. When I circle back with her, she says “I’m just venting.” These rules would be a good starting point for a deeper discussion.

  176. Ruth*

    Such great advice! After being on the wrong side of venting sessions I’ve unknowingly tried to apply these to myself, but I know my venting could do with some work. Thank you for sharing Alison!

  177. Aquawoman*

    I like the specific points about how to tell the difference between venting and ruminating, because the behavior can be similar, but one involves getting things off your chest and the other is just letting things run laps in your brain!

  178. Newly Hired*

    Love the 45 minute rule. I know I can be guilty of not taking a break when it’s needed. I’d love to read this book.

  179. somebody blonde*

    I have one more rule for venting. If you find yourself venting a lot about the same topic over and extended period and nothing is changing, venting more is not going to help. At that point, you need to either decide to accept the situation or find an actual solution.

  180. OfficeNinja*

    These are great tips! I(‘d like to) think I’ve come a long with with venting. I used to do it all the time and it quickly escalated pretty much all the time. I’m working hard on not taking everything personal and hence not becoming upset all the time. This book sounds great.

  181. 30 Years in the Biz*

    Here are my thoughts on venting at work:
    1. As a rule, don’t do it.
    2. If you must do it, vent to one (only) work friend who has earned your trust over at least a year and request confidentiality. If you don’t have one, see #1.
    3. Listen to that work friend in turn when they have to get something off their chest. I always make sure they understand they have my promise of confidentiality too.
    4. As mentioned in the book excerpt, in most cases your friend does not want you to solve their issue or act on the information. Let them express there feelings, be sincerely sympathetic (what if this was you?) and move on.
    In my case, I became a person multiple people quietly vented to because I was tight -lipped. It helped me in the end because so many people came to me about a (possibly psychopathic) director in another department, I was ready when he unexpectedly became my manager. I worked carefully, documented and took notes on everything. When he retaliated and laid me off, I had evidence of what he was doing. The legal process has taken several years, but I’m hopeful for a fair outcome.

    1. TootsNYC*

      Re: your 2 & 3.
      I have a couple of colleagues that I am paired with for this.
      And neither of us vent very long, so it turns out to be a nice safety valve. Neither of us ever needs advice; we just need a place to complain where we will be understood and valued.

      1. No Regerts*

        I have a work buddy for this too. We refer to ourselves as our department’s Statler and Waldorf (although we don’t actually heckle.).

  182. Princess Zelda*

    This advice would have been helpful to me a couple years ago (although, whether I would have taken it is a different question…). I was pretty miserable with my job and my life, and my poor friends took the brunt of it. I’ll definitely try to take this stuff into account if I’m ever in a similar spot again, especially the time limits.

  183. HollyPhoenix*

    Number 3 and 4 definitely resonate with me. Unfortunately I’m the type of person who has to make it known if I’m not happy about something! Often this is just venting – if I think the person with power to change the problem will actually do it, then I’ll go to them, but I’ve been in situations quite a few times in the past where that just isn’t the case. In those scenarios I’ll vent to whoever I’m with at the time, but I’m not usually looking for advice in these cases – it’s literally an ‘I’m not happy and I need to say so’! Trouble is, because I don’t always make that obvious, I then get suggestions, but that puts me in immediate ‘well that won’t work because…’ mode, which just makes me sound whingy if I’m honest.

  184. Union Alexander*

    Man, this book sounds really useful!!

    As far as venting, I try to be really cognizant of the intersection between the person I’m venting to and the object of my vent. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve looked back on a venting session and thought “‘Man, I wish I didn’t tell this person that.” Especially since I’m in a pretty small community, I try not to put anyone in an awkward position where they know more than they want to.

  185. Steve*

    Good advice.

    There is an added one that I have learned from an expert in peer support groups, which is to always try to end on a positive. It doesn’t have to be a false sense of hope, rather when having a difficult discussion with a friend or colleague I might end it with “How is your pet / child?” or “Have you been able to do recently?” or even “How is the weather forecast?” so that they can get out of their difficult mindset and hopefully not continue to ruminate on the problem. This doesn’t apply to small problems, but when the venter is emotional and especially if they are distressed it is good to bring them into a better mindset before leaving them.

    1. LQ*

      I’ve heard this phrased and put together with anticipation. “What is something you’re looking forward to?” Since anticipation of a good thing can often be weirdly better than the thing itself you’re sort of triggering that positive emotional state, as well as pointing to the future which has value when you are venting.

  186. New Senior Manager*

    At my previous company , a coworker and I used to mildly vent about upcoming dreaded projects, a coworkers excessive absenteeism with varying creative excuses, and not being off on some holidays. My coworker actually vented twice as much as I did due to general anxiety, she often joked. One day she said I hope no one calls out this weekend because I’m on call. I joked back I know right, good luck with that. Within a split second she had a horrified look on her face and said no one likes negative people! I was shocked, but that was the end of venting with her and anyone else I worked with. A few days later she commented on how quiet I had been lately. I told her I was focusing on the trajectory of my career from now on. Now my husband gets to hear it all. Lucky him.

  187. Deanna Troi*

    This is so incredibly helpful. My best friend has spent the past couple of years venting to me about something, and going on 5 hour crying jags. I visited her for a few weekends, and she literally talked about nothing else for the entire weekend. We don’t out anywhere anymore, not even to get something to eat. We just sit in her bedroom for 48 hours straight. Last time I saw her, not once did she ask me one question about my life. I told her that I can’t take it anymore and we have spoken since February (after being best friends since second grade). I am going to send her this link – it explains why I don’t want to interact with her anymore under these conditions so much better than I possibly could. I would love to have a copy of this book. Thanks, Alison!

  188. Alternative Person*

    I like to get my story straight before venting. Nothing too fancy, but I’ll sort the myriad of work politics, cast of characters and context points out beforehand so when I start telling the story it makes sense to the person I’m talking too and hopefully doesn’t include too much superfluous information.

  189. HermioneReid*

    I have actually been thinking about this a ton because I feel like my recent depression has made me super irritating to the people around me so it’s nice to have the rules.
    I’m also the kind of person who really encourages others to vent even when they sometimes don’t want to since I think it HAS to be helpful, which I’m aware is not the best practice.

  190. TechWorker*

    Interesting read!!

    Some work related add-ons I’ve come across:

    – if you’re venting to your manager, be clear about whether you want them to do anything about it. (Sometimes I get IM messages along the lines of ‘urgh x task is really annoying’ or ‘I hit y annoying problem’ and it’s not obvious whether they’re just telling me what’s going on (which is fine in small doses..) or want some help fixing it!

    Don’t use group ‘what’s everyone working on’ meetings as an opportunity to vent. Ok so I have one colleague who does this & it can’t be common but it is bizarre! They would save them up like ‘ooh I’ve got some really good rants for the team meeting this week’ (exact wording) and then spend their 5 minute update telling everyone about how they’d been really delayed due to team x being rubbish or y process not having proper documentation. Like, sure those things are annoying… but it’s worth at least a veneer of professional positivity – especially if (as was normally the case) there were no solutions offered and the meeting audience weren’t really the people who could solve the problem. I found it honestly so odd!

  191. Daisy Avalin*

    This book sounds like a really good read!

    I vent to myself on the way home from work if I need to (I walk to/from work, so I can mutter to myself and it looks like I’m singing along to music!), and occasionally I’ll meet up with a colleague for drinks and we’ll mutually vent about certain colleagues – but only for 5 mins or so, then we get on with the business of drinking!

    At home, OH and I limit ourselves to no more than 5 mins of venting about work per day, because if it’s more than that, we need to speak to the offender/boss and get the problem sorted.

    1. ElenaA*

      OMG, I love venting for myself too (I do it in the car :D) It’s the perfect audience.

  192. Miranda*

    I love this. Jobs can be frustrating and sometimes we need an outlet to listen and help us through, or recognize it’s time to move on. Another piece, as a manger, never vent down. Know who you can vent to that’s at your level or a step up.

  193. the one who got away*

    I really love this advice and am looking forward to putting it into practice.

    I wanted to add too that while I used to journal a lot, I had to stop because I had developed a terrible habit of going back and rereading the things I wrote and then reliving them and feeling sometimes worse than before. My lovely therapist had me start bringing my journal to sessions and then she’d have me tear out entries and give them to her to throw away, which was oddly very helpful.

    And now I’m better at throwing my own stuff away if I need to after I write. Might be helpful if you’re prone to picking at old scabs like I am. :)

  194. ADB_BWG*

    Venting is a self-licking lollipop. The more you vent, the worse you feel. The worse you feel, the more you vent. To break the cycle, I try to separate my vents into a 2×2 table: Things I can impact/change and things I can’t and things that impact me (or my direct reports) in the way we do our jobs and things that don’t. The don’t/can’t box should really get the least attention.

  195. Jolene*

    So many of our “venting” sessions recently at my work have devolved into someone finally saying “well just to be gossipy,” which isn’t healthy. We try to hold ourselves and others accountable, but finding that it is increasingly hard with working from home and enhanced stress. We don’t have the same human connection that made the little irritations seem trivial and instead things are escalating and festering. Consciously working to shift patterns and habits as a team.

  196. All Hail Queen Sally*

    Years and years ago, I was in the military and I had a friend who worked in the same organization (but we were in different offices) at two different bases (a total of 4 years). We would vent to each other, complain, crack jokes, etc. constantly. We would laugh and laugh. It felt so good to get it all out. Then we were reassigned to bases on opposite sides of the planet, and the venting stopped because we didn’t know the same people anymore and it just wasn’t the same, even though we still kept in touch. When I look back at my life, I realize that was when the stress levels in my life began to elevate.

  197. Eponin*

    These are great thoughts. I also think that, even if you ask permission to vent, make sure you thank the person who listened to you for allowing you to vent once you’re done. Even if you’ve forgotten to ask permission, or you didn’t realize you needed to vent until it all came out, it can make the listener feel better knowing that you appreciate them.

  198. TM*

    I definitely need help figuring out when venting about my work situation has crossed over into ruminating!

  199. workerbee*

    One of the most useful things I learned is to ask myself am I just venting or am I trying to be constructive? Sometimes it’s useful to let myself know I am in a poor mood and upset about what is going on and that that is a different thing from taking stock and figuring out how to solve the issue.

  200. themuse*

    I don’t mind listening to people vent, up to a point–but like many people, I’ve found that venting can really get you stuck in a negative loop. So I try to be aware of when I’m venting and keep it to a minimum. It’s hard to redirect other people though! I need a polite way to say “Look, I really don’t think this is helping you anymore…” I love Rachel’s tip of putting a time limit on it, and calling it out as ruminating.

    I think most of us have a need for commiseration to some degree, which can take the form of venting, but it’s important not to take it too far.

  201. Case of the Mondays*

    I would love a copy of this book. I am so guilty of pre-venting and many other issues here.

  202. Von Schmidt*

    “If you aren’t looking for advice, say so.” I use this all the time as a preface to venting, as in, “I need to vent and I’m not looking for you to solve my problem, just be an ear.” Works great with my spouse too!

  203. LGC*

    I’ve gotten myself in trouble quite a few times for venting (especially earlier on) – although I’ve gotten much better now.

    I think the other thing I’ve learned is that…like, if you vent too much, people will just automatically assume everything is toxic. Like, I actually had to think long and hard about telling my friends that I had to return to work because they just jumped to the conclusion that my job wants to kill me and that I should fight it like I’m fighting for my life – like, it’s not an ideal situation, and I’d rather not return to work now, but it’s a phased return and I’m going in two days a week out of five. And I can’t be too spoiled – I’m a supervisor, and they’ve already given me a lot of leeway in letting me WFH most of the time. But when I was much more actively miserable with my job, I vented a lot, so people just assume, “YOUR JOB SUCKS THEY’RE EVIL” every time I mention anything about it.

  204. abbey carlson*

    Venting can be a great way to relieve stress but I think it’s important to not dump all your feelings onto one person. That can be a big emotional burden.

  205. CantStopVenting*

    I’m definitely one of those people who vents too openly sometimes. It’s usually just around coworkers I’m closest to, but then if they don’t join in on the venting I always feel awful and regret that I ever said anything. It makes me feel like I’m the only one who can’t keep their mouth shut and everyone else is composed and unbothered. Really need to reign it in :( On the other hand, I usually don’t mind listening to other people vent unless it’s about a problem they’ve made no attempt to fix.

  206. Jojojojojo*

    Loved these! Now how do I find a way to gently forward this to a couple friends? Lol. Pretty sure I’ll buy the book it I don’t win! I particularly loved the part about repeating oneself meaning you’re probably ruminating …

  207. Yet Another Consultant*

    I love this list, especially the not repeating yourself. A few years ago I started dating someone and realized he rarely talked about work in the evenings. I had just left a very toxic work environment that I felt had taken over my life (which it had, but that’s another story). Once I realized how different I felt having a few hours a day not talking or thinking about work/coworkers, it was a revelation! We could still lean on each other if we needed to talk through something, but as soon as it turned into obsessive rehashing, the conversation was over – amazing!

  208. Sharon Hessong*

    I need this book! I do always ask if they are available for venting but I repeat myself too much. I tend to wallow in the venting which is not good.

    I’ve just pulled back on venting at all but I find myself more stressed. I need to find a balance.

  209. 2 Cents*

    I like the asking for permission part. I’ve been in several toxic workplaces (or ones that grew to be toxic for one reason or another), and even though I’m Venter #1, some days I just didn’t want to do it. Or, I saw my usual partner in venting was having a (rare) good day, so I didn’t want to ruin their mood. Honestly, the venting runs a fine line for me between “healthy” and “destructive.” It’s stopping it before it gets out of control that’s hard for me.

  210. Rockin Takin*

    I struggle with venting to my husband. He always wants to fix everything, but I just need him to listen for 5 minutes and then say “yea that sucks”.

  211. queen b*

    I used to be someone who vented very often. I always thought there was something wrong with my life, lol. I have since – hopefully? – turned a lot of that around but now when I need to vent I always just ask a quick “can I vent?” before I start unloading on my friend. I am also very cautious about venting at work, I don’t want my coworkers to get an image that I’m ungrateful for anything.

  212. RomeowThePersian*

    This looks like something my fiance and I could use to read together. Definitely some great points in this excerpt.

  213. Alex*

    My best friend and I definitely use the, “Hey, can I vent to you about ______” before launching into whatever is bothering us. Of course, the key to that working is that we both have to be on the same page where we know that “I”m sorry, I’ve got stuff going on right now so I can’t right now – can we talk later?” If you ask, you have to be able to accept “nope” as an answer, or it doesn’t work.

  214. Bye Academia*

    This is really great advice. I definitely struggle with wanting to blurt everything out and end up oversharing. These boundaries are really helpful to think about. Can’t overshare with a journal!

    I’d love to have a chance to win the free book and read the rest of her thoughts.

  215. edbteach*

    I love all of these suggestions. Thanks for the chance to win a copy of the book!

  216. Meg*

    Oh this book looks so good. I’ve definitely learned that I want to offer solutions ALL the time when friends are venting. I’m working on being more mindful and ask if they need me to listen or do they want any ideas.
    It’s hard though!

  217. StudentLife4Life*

    Fantastic advice about venting! Will certainly pass along to my team of Student Employees. Working on a small team, especially with young employees who sometimes see each other more as friends rather than co-workers, meetings often divulge into impromptu venting sessions. Thanks for sharing!

  218. Nick*

    My number one rule on venting: Never vent to the same person about the same topic more than three times. At that point, you either need to focus on solutions or discuss other things. That regular returning to the same vent over and over tends to only heighten the emotions related, rather than resolve them.

  219. CV*

    This sounds like great advice!
    My partner and I often act as sounding boards for each other, and over the years we’ve learned to ask “do you want advice, or just an ear today?” It’s especially helpful for me, because I am a serious ADVICE-GIVER.

  220. Lisa*

    This is wonderful advice! I fully stand by texting someone and saying “can I talk to you about (insert thing here) when you have time?”

  221. City Planner*

    I do the ask permission to vent part with my husband and it really helps me to be clear in my own head about what I need from him in our conversation. Sometimes I will realize that I don’t just want to vent, I do want to hear his ideas or suggestions.

  222. louise*

    I’ve backed away a little from a friendship in the last year because the friend repeated and repeated the same complaints without ever being willing to address the parts she could…at some point I couldn’t keep hearing the same things over and over. I realized my strongest relationships are with friends who follow up their venting with action and who spur me to do the same.

  223. NowWhat?456*

    This is such great advice, especially during this time for both personal and professional reasons!

    In my professional life, I try and categorize my venting into one of these two categories: Nacho Venting or This is An Actual Issue Venting. Nacho Venting is for when you coworker is driving you nuts, your boss is overworking you on this project, or this other team was responsible for a deliverable that was not done correctly and now you have to fix it. It’s the stuff that typically blows over in a week, if you just go out with a friend to lunch or drinks (and since I work next to a TexMex place, nachos) vent about it and blow off that steam. Whoever decides Nacho Venting is required should buy the first round of food or drinks (ex: you need to vent and are forcing your friend to join you, or you recognize your beloved colleague needs to let it out before she cracks). I try to put all vents into this category first before seeing if it needs to be in the latter.

    This is An Actual Issue Venting is for when things are an actual issue. So many of us are calm, cool, and collected when presenting issues to our managers that they don’t recognize it’s an actual problem. In my experience, when I’ve presented an issue in the past they thought I was just giving them an FYI that I would be busy with the project or that I was annoyed with all the hours I was working. It’s usually not until I break and give the 20 minute rant about “why This is an Actual Issue and I can’t do 60 hours of work in a 40 hour week when no overtime is allowed” that they clue in and realize this is a problem.

  224. leslie*

    The 45 minute rule is such a good one – it would prevent a lot of spirals of complaining in my current group of friends-who-are-also-coworkers. Would love to read the rest of the book!

  225. Magikarps*

    Ooo, what a cool book. I have a specific co-worker who vents to me about work related stuff – I try to mostly just listen, or ask questions, because that’s how I like the response to be when I want to vent to say, my husband. He’s more of an offer solutions/look at things more analytically than I often want, so we’re working on that.

  226. Drtheliz*

    Don’t forget “defensive venting” – I spend a while during my undergrad and Master’s (when I was in a pretty bad place without a lot of options to rest and recover) answering “how are you?” somewhat too honestly because I was a. tired of pretending to be okay when I wasn’t and b. wanted then to be embarrassed and stop asking. It largely worked, but it wasn’t kind and I wouldn’t recommend it.

  227. not that kind of Doctor*

    I would love to win a copy! I try to keep work complaints to a bare minimum because other people’s venting stresses me out!

  228. Bagel Enthusiast*

    I’ve found that I’ve been venting a lot more in the past couple of weeks – this is really helpful!

  229. The Babiest Babyface*

    That piece about not shutting down advice is so important! One of my friends has a nasty habit of directly asking for solutions, then immediately refusing all of them. I know I’m also bad about turning regular conversations into venting, so there’s things I definitely have to keep in mind as well.

  230. Janon*

    I cannot stress how much letting people ask has made a difference. I work in a small group within a much larger department and our small group has gone through A LOT in my time there. It got to the point that I felt like I just was complaining so I stopped talking about the things that happened when they did. People would ask how we are and what was going on and were a lot more receptive that way. It led to much better conversations and help from others, and I don’t feel like the one who is always being a martyr.

  231. Molly*

    Find myself venting a lot and sometimes calling it “debriefing” when it’s really more like “unloading.” This excerpt is helpful in retaining the sometimes seemingly harmless behavior (which is often not harmless!) Would love to read the rest of this book!

  232. So long and thanks for all the fish*

    I’m always a fan of rules that in retrospect seem perfectly obvious- those who are able to articulate them help out the rest of us greatly in saving time before we eventually muddle our way there. Thanks for sharing!

  233. Morning reader*

    I used to have a standing date to vent to a friend once a month after library board meetings. I’d walk directly to his place and he’d be ready with a bottle of wine and sympathy. “That one asked why the staff needs health insurance, can’t they all be covered on their husbands’ policies?” “This one thinks the library should get rid of all videos, libraries should just be for books!” Even now, looking back, I can’t even…. 45 minutes seems like a good rule, and cut the wine off when they start repeating themselves.

  234. MeaghanL*

    Great giveaway, i’d love a copy!

    I like the comment about about venting vs stewing. I think that’s something I try to be cautious of when I’m rattling on about work complaints to friends – it can be hard! I have a great co-worker who considers me a safe-space to vent and she’s asked numerous times if it’s ok to vent to me, she doesn’t want to burden me. Luckily I think it makes me feel good to know someone else sees the company’s annoying actions the same way I do :)

  235. snoopythedog*

    The advice to let someone know you are venting is veeery helpful. I have to do this with my partner often, because he pours his emotional energy into fixing right away. Sometimes I also need to tell him I just need to yell/vent and then I need a hug and away we go.

    I also have started to ask my mom “do you need a fix or a vent” because sometimes I can’t tell….

  236. Loves Libraries*

    I love the suggestion that says you don’t want advice, but just want to vent. I would love to win a copy.

  237. A Different Julia*

    I used journaling when I was working for the most toxic person I’ve ever known. I vented to friends for a while but I was worried about it being too much, so I started venting into a Word doc at home every Friday evening. I did this for 3 years, then the need to do it passed. I never read it, and made sure to remove it before I dumped that old computer. :)

  238. The Rat-Catcher*

    I am ready to pick a fight just to implement the 45 minute rule!
    Kidding, but I do love it and want to see how it plays out.
    I never remember to journal which is crazy because it’s so helpful when I do.
    I do have a friend who vents repeatedly about the same topics. I have come to find her exhausting and I didn’t even realize why. Here’s hoping this will help me not to become that friend.

  239. MR*

    The forty-five minute rule makes a lot of sense! I’ve definitely noticed (as both the venter and the sounding board) that the conversation becomes less and less productive and a lot more repetitive around that time.

    Asking permission is also a great piece of advice – when my friend and I need to vent we always preemptively say something along the lines of “something happened and I could really use a sounding board, if you have the bandwidth for that?” Which lets the other person object if they’re having a tough time of their own.

    I feel like venting is all about balance. Thanks for sharing. The book sounds really useful!

  240. SCORMHacker*

    Totally agree about journaling. It has been particularly helpful for me on things I tend to ruminate about in my head. I find if I can sit down and write it all down on paper, it almost sets it free in a way and my brain can move on. I do make sure I set aside enough time and just write until I’m done and I have it all out, sometimes that’s 15 minutes, sometimes an hour, just depends. It’s really helped me process a lot of things over there years, a valuable tool for my mental health, for sure!

  241. OwlEditor*

    Love this advice, especially about informing the person that you want to vent. I learned that the hard way… because people do jump into fix-it mode.
    One thing I try to do to “balance” these relationships is to make sure I’m not just using the friend for venting. I’ve had friends like that—who only contact you for help or advice— and it’s annoying. So I try to share the good parts of my life too with my friends so they don’t get all the emotional baggage.

  242. ian*

    More of a question than a comment, but I’m curious if anyone has any ideas about venting at work to coworkers, especially nowadays when conversations are all over Slack or similar? My coworkers and I have long had a practice of venting to each other about issues, but I find that nowadays it can come off as overly negative over Slack or distracting over a video chat. Anyone have any ideas of ways to vent that are still as professional as possible?

  243. Heat's Kitchen*

    I’m a venter. The biggest thing I’ve learned is to not act on whatever I’m venting about until the next day. I often am less stressed about it then.

  244. MA Teacher*

    I really like the idea of waiting until asked about something to vent–sometimes people try to be sensitive by avoiding asking about something tough, though, so it can be useful to text ahead “Remind me that I have an update on the X saga next time we talk.” Puts it in their court (if they don’t want to hear, they can “forget”), but lets them know it’s okay to ask.

  245. KWu*

    I’m…typically not a very good audience for venting. It seems very unproductive to me, especially when there isn’t any interest at all in considering different insights or problem solving. I’m trying to extend my patience for it, though, and it’s not like I never vent myself at all either.

  246. Amethystmoon*

    Journaling is normally how I vent. I live alone, so don’t have anyone to talk to except a plant, and well, plants aren’t very talkative. I do use an old-fashioned paper diary. I don’t risk putting anything online, because I’ve learned from this blog (and others) that it’s too easy for people to find and prove that it was you and send to your boss, even if you don’t put real names in.

  247. Marge*

    All good advice – I especially like the part about repeating yourself/ruminating because my husband and I are both guilty of this.

  248. Akbear*

    Learned a big lesson in venting appropriately this year. I have a manager that always vents about one of our projects and so I had started to vent about it as well, until it turned out as a negative on my performance review! Learned very fast to be careful who you vent to.

  249. Meghan Sherer*

    Just came out of a meeting that ended up being all venting, and I’m now thinking about my tendency to ruminate as a strategy to convince senior staff why I’m right about something – the old “wear them down” technique. I don’t know if I’ve ever realized that’s what I’m doing, and how that behavior could be viewed negatively by my coworkers, as it’s not a great use of their time.

  250. BeesKneeReplacement*

    Also, please consider your audience. This has been especially big during COVID quarantine. Just like I don’t vent to my friend who’s an ICU nurse about being constantly stretched too thin without a moment to hear myself think during quarantine, I’m really not the person to vent to about boredom or loneliness. Yes, boredom and loneliness are real and suck but all I fantasize about these days is running off to a remote cabin with a week’s worth of food and little else.

  251. NK*

    I love the point about asking permission! It gives people the option to say no, and you can read the room about what would be an over share. Awareness of body language is so key in this.

  252. Ananya*

    I never vent in public places. I work at a university and you just never know who’s listening! My friends and I keep things very low-key and like to be circumspect, so we won’t be talking about personal stuff in full view. It’s likely nothing will happen, but better safe than sorry!

  253. aepyornis*

    That’s great advice, thanks a lot! I’ve definitely experienced at work both the venting/debriefing that helps everyone process what happened and figure out how to be ok and the never-ending spiraling of complaining that completely traps your mind into a terrible mindset.

    As a chronically ill person, I’d like to add a couple of thoughts about the problem-solving part. I mention or discuss relatively openly my conditions for a variety of reasons (including wanting to not make it taboo, it being obviously affecting my mobility at times, and also simply being in a culture where discussing with my colleagues their IBS or syphilis at lunch is perfectly unremarkable). And very often people will suggest things to do, which rank from the absolutely bonkers (I’m from a culture that relies heavily on alternative/traditional medicines, the fringes of which are truly something) to the obvious stuff I’ve being doing for years. This stems from a very legitimate wish to help and how uncomfortable it is for people to feel powerless to help or make a difference. As long as it is done with care and kindness, I think it is important to accept it graciously – which does not mean committing to it at all, but acknowledging the help intended and validating the sentiment behind with something like “thanks, I don’t know much about this approach and I’ll look into it” and “that’s good advice, I’ve been doing this for years and it does indeed help” etc. Feeling powerless when difficult news/situations are shared is not easy, and validating a person’s wish to be of help is important I think, even though the actual help is the listening. Obviously this does not apply to people trying to sell stuff or being dismissive of my condition (“if you’d just you’d be sorted”) but these are rare instances.

  254. Heartvolunteer*

    I facilitate a book club at my work – and I’m always on the lookout for more books to present. We meet quarterly and switch between personal growth and business growth. We’ve been going strong for 8 years now. Not only will I be recommending this book to my group, but there are a couple of members that need some extra…love and attention. When we were just starting out at the beginning, we were a small group and really leaned on each other by work and personal venting. The different perspectives from different teams really helped us to give and take advice, as well as offering a safe haven for any venting that needs to happen. We’ve grown since then, but our small group still meets outside of the formal meetings to maintain that support. I’ll be sending on the link to this book a little early to those folks – though, since we read Alison’s book late last year and all follow this site – they may already know about it!

  255. PhyllisB*

    Very good advice, and I have been guilty of nearly all of them!! (Trying to do better as I’ve gotten older!!) One personal rule I’ve made for myself is, I give myself three times to vent. NOT to the same person each time!! Then I let it go. I mean, I try to come up with a solution, but I don’t blather about it anymore.
    One of the things that brought this home I read in AAM which is the response, “what do you plan to do about it?”
    I have, on the third vent, asked someone to brainstorm with me, but since making this my rule, I don’t usually need three vent sessions. I can do it once (maybe twice) then I either realize it’s not worth discussing anymore (does anyone really care that my husband throws his dirty clothes in the hall instead of putting them in the hamper three inches away?) Or I work to come up with a solution.

  256. MlleJennyfair*

    I feel only slightly bad about ending a couple of friendships because of venting: the vent-er would consistently shut down any cheering up and/or negate any problem-solving attempts by the vent-ee (…that would be me). Over time, it comes across as condescending and it was frustrating as heck. Granted, I know now that I could have ASKED if the vent-er wanted either of those things. I’ll certainly do that from now on.

  257. J. Bearimy*

    This is so useful and totally addresses a problem I’ve had that I’ve had no idea where to get solid advice about. I’ve clearly exhausted my partner with job venting in the past. And while occasional job venting feels great with friends, it’s always a little sticky – in the past I’ve helped friends get jobs or vice versa and there are definitely times I wish I’d been a bit more diplomatic (or that they had).

  258. Data Nerd*

    This is fantastic! I would most definitely be interested in a copy of this book. I am the office (totally unqualified) therapist, which often means that people walk in and start venting–for ages–and work becomes something I do while waiting for the next person to come in.

  259. costume teapot*

    I really wish I had learned the 45-minute rule before wedding planning! It was such a fraught and awful experience and has wound up with permanent family scars, and I know for sure I put people off by venting in times/places where it was inappropriate. >A< But I will absolutely keep this lesson in mind for the future!

    I love the "tell the listener you don't need solutions," but I find it useful sometimes as the listener to catch yourself when you launch into problem solving and ask the complainer, "Are you looking for advice, or just someone to listen?" Sometimes being asked that question can make you really take a moment to evaluate why you're venting, and make a much more productive conversation.

  260. Vent*

    I like the idea about asking for permission first. I’m a good listener so people automatically turn to me for venting sessions, but it can be exhausting some days. Work from home has been helpful lately!

  261. 36 Mc*

    I really appreciate the concept of asking for permission. It seems so simple and an easy thing to add into my communication when I’m feeling extra frustrated.

  262. Humble Schoolmarm*

    Great advice! I learned the “don’t reject all advice” rule the hard way when a new co-worker started doing it to me! I’ve been working on being, or at least seeming more receptive to advice ever since.

  263. Ronit*

    this is great advice. The pre-venting is such an easy trap to fall into and I’ve done it as well as having it done to me, and it’s exhausting! I really like the 45 minute rule, and also journaling. I’d love to win the book!

  264. Annie Porter*

    Don’t vent about everything to everyone, but vent about important things to your close people. This is something I think we all struggle with. Yes, I want someone to sympathize with me when the upstairs neighbors were singing and playing the guitar at 3 a.m. on a work night! Yes, I want someone to help me analyze the (maybe snide?) comment my aunt made at family virtual Easter. But these are tiny things, not big-picture problems, and they’re likely uninteresting to anyone on the outside. They’re maybe worth a mention, but you have to consider how you’d feel about someone else’s similar rants. Stay attuned to your audience – do they suddenly look like they need to escape? Are they uh-huhing and not really adding anything? If so, maybe it’s time to kill the subject.

    On the other hand, if the mental health of a close family member is a concern, or someone’s sick, or you’re sick, etc. then by all means, ask if you can unload on a trusted confidante! These are things your friends and family will care about and likely have a vested interest in. As others have mentioned, also check in with these folks! Maybe they have an important issue to vent about too. A conversation should always be two-sided.

    And, even in the worst of times, take time to be grateful for all which doesn’t suck. Studies have shown that gratitude goes a long way toward our overall happiness (source: The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos).

  265. Vee*

    This is such an important topic, especially now! I do think it’s important to get into the habit of asking people if it’s okay to vent to them about something, and to try to be mindful of their time as well.

    Reading the part about 45 minutes really surprised me…I can’t imagine talking to someone about something for 45 minutes straight and still have more to go on about!

  266. NomadiCat*

    I can’t wait to read this book! Venting is something I’ve had to learn to draw strict boundaries around– not for my own venting, but because there’s something about me that causes even random strangers on the bus to want to tell me all the worst parts of their story.

    Being the one constantly vented TO is exhausting! And when someone has built up a good head of steam and wants to let it all out, they’re not usually in a place where they handle boundaries being drawn gracefully. One of the best tricks I learned was getting a cute bluebird kitchen timer, setting it to 15 mintues, and saying “You have 15 minutes to get it all out before the bird dings. Go!” Having a set time limit (and a cute bird to glare at) seemed to help most of my chronic venters relieve their tension without giving them the time to go into a repetition spiral. It also taught me that if you have something to vent about that takes more than 15 minutes, you have a real problem that needs direct action, and no amount of venting will fix it.

  267. Sweatpants*

    I’m definitely on the boundary-challenged side of things, so this would be super helpful to me! I’m a huge fan of “ring theory”, the idea that your “ventee” needs to be one step further away from a situation than you are. Venting inward just makes someone feel worse.

    Thanks for bringing this book up, it will be interesting to read!

  268. Heffalump*

    I sometimes lead off with, “I’m just venting. Don’t feel that you have to do anything about the situation.” Often when I say this, there’s nothing the other person can do about the situation, but I want to be sure that they know that I understand that.

  269. Third or Nothing!*

    I like the 45 minute rule in particular. I think it would be useful to implement in my marriage. My husband is more of a cut-to-the-chase type person and doesn’t like hashing things out longer than maybe 10-15 minutes. I, however, don’t like to stop until I feel the situation is resolved, and sometimes that can take a while. Setting a timer of, say, 25 or 30 minutes would be helpful for us.

  270. honey honey*

    Rachel W. Miller is my lifestyle guru so I’m thrilled to see her excerpted here!! Everyone please buy the book! She deserves everything for her excellent advice.

    One thing I wish folks did more of is stop themselves from venting to people who have removed themselves from the situation. I changed groups at work because I was sick of the technical direction of the group being decided by extremely un-technical leadership. But my friends & former coworkers still tell me about alllll the bullshit that goes on there. They may never move on but I consciously chose to! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    1. Sarah*

      I find surrounding myself with the right people helps a lot with healthy venting. Also, saving certain topics for certain people.

  271. Wehaf*

    When I have to vent I also make myself do some gratitude-focused exercises and some problem-solving exercises; I think the negativity of venting can so easily stick around, so I actively try to counteract that with positivity and concrete actions.

  272. Amy Farrah Fowler*

    This is all such excellent advice! So much more detailed than my own thoughts on venting which boil down to essentially:
    Consider your audience – is it appropriate to vent to your mom/your sibling/your spouse? generally yes. Is it appropriate to vent to your subordinate at work, that guy you just met on the train, a random uber driver? no, not so much.
    Try to keep it (mostly) productive – limit the time you spend going “oh my goodness this sucks” and try to focus on how you can react to things beyond your control.
    Have a mantra – I’m a fan of “this too shall pass” when things seem overwhelming/frustrating.

  273. Chief Petty Officer*

    I wish I’d had these guidelines 20 years ago, mostly for myself, but also for some of my (former) coworkers!

  274. Lies, damn lies, and...*

    Such good advice. Always helpful to know when people don’t want solutions or to give someone the heads up. I try to solve my husband’s vents all the time and need to remind myself that it’s not what he wants.

  275. Ajps*

    Add me to the book contest. I feel like a big ol flake with most of my friendships.

  276. TJ*

    These are great! They also will be helpful in your personal life as well as professional. I’ve been lucky that I have one good friend at my current job but she is INSANELY busy while my day-to-day as lagged somewhat during COVID. So I definitely will be implementing asking if I can vent instead of just asking if she has time to talk.

    Also, I think it was said above many times but “Wanting to vent and be validated is totally fine. But only venting, and shutting down whenever the conversation turns to the topic of possible solutions? Not so fine!” is HUGE. Yes sometimes I want to be validated that my situation is unfair and crappy and I have a right to feel this way……….but reading this on the flip side I need to work on not shutting down when solutions are presented. GREAT tips!

  277. Jennifer Strange*

    Love the points about asking for permission to vent and being upfront about not wanting advice. The first one is important because while I’m happy to lend an ear, I’m sometimes not in head space to hear it at a given moment so it’s nice to have a heads up so I can reschedule. The second speaks to me because I know I tend to want a sympathetic ear without advice, but it’s in my best interest to be upfront about that so that I don’t end up creating more arguments within my venting.

  278. Thankful for AAM*

    I stopped calling my mom after listening to the same complaints once or twice a week for more than 2 years. Is it bad if I send the book to her as a late mother’s day gift?

    That was just me venting, no answers or advice needed.

  279. Nelle Jefe*

    I need to get a copy of this book, invent a time machine, and give it to my 2014 self. I went through a very toxic work experience then, and I could feel myself getting stuck in the useless rumination/complaint cycle, but I just couldn’t figure out how to break out of it.

    It turns out, the way to break out of it was to leave that job.

  280. Front Desk*

    After dealing with a current coworker who spends all of her free time venting (and has done so for the last 6 months or so), I’ve essentially stopped venting altogether. If I do have an issue, I’ve taken it up with the person who is bothering me, in a professional way, but I don’t vent to my coworkers anymore.
    I do, however, vent at home with my SO. He and I have a rule: we each get 15 minutes after we get home to vent about work, and then we’re done for the night. It’s easier to say to him, “Ron never tells us when he’ll be in, and Anne keeps neglecting to give me her work list so I can keep track”, and move on, rather than complain about it at work.

  281. Gumby*

    I liked all of these rules.

    I’d expand on the last one, or maybe it is something new: Look at your overall patterns of venting. Make sure that your entire communication with one person is not venting – not just for the length of one conversation, but do you only call your friend to vent about something or another? Do you ever have a conversation that is 100% venting-free? Do you talk maybe once a month normally but up that to 3 times a week if you are going through things and want to vent repeatedly? Also, maybe pay attention to your conversation partner’s cues. Does she vent to you? Does she vent in 5-minute increments while you go for the full 45?

    1. KLChica*

      +1 ! I have a coworker whose friendship I value, but who vents for most of the time we’re together. It’s very draining. I try to keep that in mind when venting to someone else.

  282. Cindy Tapper-Peralta*

    Great advice. I’m guilty of almost all of these things at one time or another. I clearly have some work to do! I also agree with the power of journaling – I started journaling when I began working remotely due to COVID-19 and noticed it really helped relieve a lot of stress and anxiety.

  283. Kate J*

    These are great tips, thank you for sharing! I think a lot of people may need some extra focus on this site to all the changes we are processing right now in our work and home lives.

  284. Acon*

    The 45 minute rule will be a game changer for me for sure! I can often feel myself starting to ramble, go in circles, or lose track of my point at around that point of an argument/debate/venting session. No good can come of carrying on after that. Its similar to the old saying that “nothing good ever happens after midnight”.

  285. Quinalla*

    Agree that it is SO important to be clear if you are or are not looking for advice. And lots of good advice here for catching yourself before you venting goes from productive to making it worse, from processing to ruminating, especially the repeating yourself bit.

    For me, the big thing I’ve recognized with some folks I’m close to is some people need to process verbally A LOT more than I do. I do it occasionally, but I tend to process internally and verbal processors confused me a lot at first as they seemed wishy-washy about their decisions until I realized they were making their decision by talking it out. It sounds silly to say it, but if you don’t do it, you don’t realize others do it that way right away :) Venting can be the same where some really need to talk it out a lot more that others and that can seem exhausting or strange if you are on opposite ends of the spectrum!

  286. Tax princess & sower of chaos*

    The Spousal Unit is a chronic venter, but isn’t very good at reading when I’m trying to vent. I’ve learned to preface my venting with, “I’m venting here, not looking for solutions.” Doesn’t always work, but I’ll remind him of that if he get’s too “helpful” with his feedback.

  287. Kate Henning*

    My fiance vents a lot and was a BIG help to my relationship when I learned to start asking “Are you interested in advice?” early in the conversation. Another question we like to use is “Do you want to solve the problem, or solve the feelings?” which helps me understand where to focus as listener without feeling passive/useless.

  288. Leo Rising*

    I appreciate this so much!

    I believe venting is healthy. For me, if I don’t air out my grievances, it festers and manifests itself in unhealthy coping mechanisms. Hearing myself talk outside of the thoughts inside my brain helps to put things in perspective. And I’m always a big fan of journaling, especially if I want to revisit a topic. I remember the first time I journaled; it was such a game changer!

  289. Nobody Special*

    While newlyweds my spouse and I struggled with this issue. Much of the problem for us was me(more extroverted) coming in the door after work and dumping my day on my more introverted partner. We agreed on a wait time and limits; his way of reminding me when I didn’t honor the agreement was to say wryly, “that’s why they call it work, honey”.

  290. Mid*

    I’ve been dealing with a romantic partner who tends to just dump without checking in first, and it made me realize how often I do it as well. So one of my resolutions for the new year has been to ask before venting to someone, and making sure that I’m “giving” as much as I’m “taking” in relationships.

  291. PersistentCat*

    I wish I had read these rules back in 2016/2017. I know I leaned too much on some friendships to express my frustration and confusion about a toxic workplace I used to have. I try journaling more now & it really seems to help.

  292. Elizabeth West*

    But only venting, and shutting down whenever the conversation turns to the topic of possible solutions? Not so fine! It’s frustrating to listen to a friend talk endlessly about the same topic, particularly if they are refusing to acknowledge their part in the situation or do anything to feel better.

    Oh this is so true. I used to have a friend who would call me up and vent endlessly about her relationship. Anything I suggested “I can’t; I don’t want to; but but but but but,” and she kept calling at times I’d asked her not to since I had a lot of schoolwork then. Still, I listened, because friends, and she was mostly there when I needed an ear. But it became more and more one-sided, and as soon as she was out of that relationship, she ghosted me. I haven’t heard from her since. *eyeroll*

    I learned not to let people do this, in personal relationships or at work. In the latter case, saying, “Gee, that must be frustrating. Have you talked to Josephina about the issue?” is usually enough to shut down someone who only wants to endlessly vent.

  293. Katelyn*

    I’m trying to get better at the “If you aren’t looking for advice, say so.” piece. I get frustrated when I want to vent & someone starts offering solutions right away. And on the flip side, I am trying to get in the habit of asking whether people want support or solutions when they come to me with a problem. I’m intrigued by The Art of Showing Up!

  294. Peace and tennis*

    I personally don’t like venting all that much. I used to at both of my previous jobs, oh boy did I use to vent. But I found it made me crankier, and more likely to vent again to my husband when I got home. Then it also made relationships awkward in the office because if my boss did something the next day that I had just vented to a coworker about, it made me feel so fake and gross to either smile and pretend like “this is all ok.” Either that, or I had to say something, but with the amount I was venting, I couldn’t say something about everything I had a problem with. Instead of venting now, I try to think about the other person’s perspective and point of view, and if I’m REALLY frustrated, I go running or something physical that lets me get it out. I never vent at work anymore.

  295. yourskrewely*

    This is very timely as my coworker just vented to me about an hour ago and I was the usual conundrum as to what to do.

  296. Turtleyours*

    I like to choose someone completely removed from the situation to vent to if I just need to get it off my chest and/or want advice, but not help. Not having a vested interest means that they aren’t impacted by the people involved (nor does it color their perception of people they might interact with in real life). I can vent to my mom in another state about my coworkers or to a friend about my family, but won’t vent to my mom about my husband/sister/etc.

  297. Machiavellian Manul*

    VERY good advice – and something I need right now. I try very hard not to vent, but I can fall into the habit of repeating myself. Or, stewing on something too long. I like the journaling idea and think this might be the solution I need! Thanks for posting this.

  298. MAC*

    I was at my previous job for 13 years and worked with some of my closest friends. I mean, my absolute besties, the ones I traveled with, picked up prescriptions for when they were sick and vice versa, etc. So of course we vented to each other. We also worked at the largest employer in our community, so there wasn’t a ton of risk that anyone outside our division would even know who or what we were talking about if they happened to be at the next table during happy hour.

    Now I’ve been with a small nonprofit (10 people) for a couple of years and I have to constantly remind myself that while my co-workers are great and we all get along, we are not BFFs, and I don’t always know where their loyalties might lie. Plus there’s just no way to complain about a policy or a stupid email without the other person knowing exactly who you’re talking about. It’s not the worst problem, just something I have to keep in mind. Fortunately, I can still vent to the above besties and my mom when needed.

  299. Mami21*

    My boss encourages her team to have a vent in the group chat – we work remotely so it really does make all the difference to have someone who understands and can empathise.

  300. Elaine*

    I’m in two different group chats that split the “I need to yell into the void for a minute” and “I would like help figuring out what to do with Frustrating Thing X” and to be honest, it’s nice to have that preset with channels and has made me more thoughtful about how I handle that sort of thing in modes and venues without it.

  301. Kimchi*

    The excerpt intrigues me, both for work and personal relationships as well as for self-growth and personality development. I’ve had to consciously focus on developing better social skills as I didn’t get a lot of guidance growing up, but have found moving into more senior positions in the workplace challenges me to interact with others with the sensitivity I’d like to receive myself. So far, my self-improvement been successful as I have received positive feedback about how I deal with stressful situations and how others view me as a true teammate, which pleases me no end.
    I’ve realized that I’m actually a polite extrovert, and unsolicited venting from others was a huge challenge before I had the acumen to gracefully cut someone off who was hogging a conversation by complaining. What I’ve learned from my former shyness is that sometimes those who are most affected by a scenario and really need to vent for their peace of mind are smothered by loudmouths.
    As a coworker, you can counteract the attention hogs by observing others for physical stress and quietly offering an opening by mentioning a mildly critical opinion, “This change is going to be challenging,” “This is unfortunate – just when we had the workload evenly divided up among us”, etc. By being part of the solution in letting everyone know that you respect their rights to vent too, you build comradeship that pays off in a better overall work culture for both yourself and your team members.

  302. NB1*

    This book looks amazing!

    I struggle a lot with how to set boundaries with others about venting too, without feeling like a jerk.

  303. Heather*

    This is great advice, I’m really excited to read the rest of the book. I am such a problem solver, and it takes real conscious effort to not offer solutions, but I’m working on it!

    1. Night Owl*

      I was just about to hit submit and then my internet went down for over two hours! :(

      Anyway…I’ve been on both sides of the equation when it comes to venting. I know there are times when I’m feeling good about a situation, and listening to someone vent about it makes me feel like I’m wrong and have to question my judgment. Sometimes it feels like an indictment of my viewpoint.

      On the other hand, I’ve been that person who’s wanted to vent and I struggled to find someone to talk to. Unfortunately, when I vent I sometimes go on long rants that burn people out because I tend to bottle things up until they make me explode. I’ve been working on this over the years and I’ve gotten better (according to some close friends), but I could still use a few tweaks.

  304. smh RN*

    I like the time limit idea….often I find me and coworkers just keep going and it winds up being unhealthy

  305. Katbag*

    I am feeling personally judged by this excerpt! I have certainly been an over-venter when I was younger, although I certainly hope I’m better now. I’d love to read the rest of this book!

  306. InternWrangler*

    I really love this and would love to reach more. I think venting can be dangerous because it releases the emotional energy that we might put into solving the problem. And I think it can also drag other people into the abyss with us.

  307. Lucidity*

    I am emerging from Lurkers’ Lair because I really want to read this book!
    I have struggled with flakiness, but the older I get (and the scarier/weirder life becomes), the more I understand how important it is to show up for others.

    I find when sharing my feelings with others that my female friends intuitively understand that all they need to do is listen, whereas my husband starts talking about my options. Venting to him ended up being a frustrating experience for both of us, since I’d react negatively to getting advice I didn’t want. Prefacing the vent with a disclaimer that all I need is to feel heard has helped a lot. I’ve also come to realize that when he vents, he’s looking to talk through possible solutions and have changed how I respond accordingly. It opened my eyes to how many assumptions we make when communicating.

  308. FionasHuman*

    I sometimes don’t even know what the issue is, and/or can’t think of a solution, until it comes out of my mouth during a good venting session. These tips for venting courteously are also seriously fantastic.

  309. Brave Little Roaster*

    This book sounds like something many of us need right now…I’ll have to pick up a copy and resist the urge to anonymously drop it on someone’s doorstep lol.

  310. Jeanne*

    I’ve had so many “ah ha” moments when I’ve been venting to a good listener, reflector – where I suddenly understand what has been happening and why I haven’t been making progress. A good listener / reflector can make a huge difference.

  311. Jamie R*

    Love these tips! I’ve definitely felt more burnt out and discouraged at previous jobs, when I vent too much and too often. Sometimes a way to help improve your own attitude, and relationships with other people, is to have more firm boundaries like these to define when and how you share negative feelings in the workplace.

  312. Becky*

    I am reminded of one method I have used in the past when I wanted to vent to my husband about work or just life in general, and he would have selective hearing. I took one of his old socks, drew a face on it, and then complained to my “sock husband.” At first it was funny because my husband thought I had gone crazy, but then it actually seemed to work for me if I only wanted to vent to “someone” and not want a verbal response.

  313. em_eye*

    As someone who can’t always resist the urge to offer advice, thanks for including the rule about saying whether that’s what you’re looking for! When friends do this it signals to me to turn my problem-solving brain off and just listen.

  314. Lucky McLurkerson*

    This sounds great! As a person with definite tendencies to problem solving, I try to remember to ask first whether someone wants to vent or have advice.

  315. Unique User Name*

    This is great, and perfect timing too! Was just thinking about a coworker and mines venting and if it helpful vs not helpful.

  316. mrs whosit*

    My venting in the last few weeks has all been while on walks… and venting and then just continuing to think while I keep moving has been kind of lovely. Quiet thinking to follow the venting is good for me.

  317. Say we ht*

    I try to make sure I let the person know if I do or do not want actual help. I love the break idea!

  318. Brown-eyed Girl*

    ‘Comfort in, dump out’ has been a great guideline which also transfers to venting, e.g. don’t complain about your marriage to the girlfriend who is single w/ no kids and a bit wistful about it; don’t complain about your job to folks who would love to  have one similar to it; don’t put down your own appearance in ways which slam the folks who are hearing you, etc. While you might not always get this perfect, it’s so important to try. All your issues may be absolutely genuine; you just want to find the right audience. And thank you, Allison, for your wonderful website!!!

  319. the Viking Diva*

    Like others, I recognize that clarity is important in both directions – whether someone wants advice or just wants to vent. I don’t find that the venter is always self-aware about that, though. Particularly in “serial venting” situations where there is always something wrong with the same boss or coworker…

    Newer to me is the idea of a time limit and the idea of pre-venting. I can totally say ways to use that as a ventee, to change the conversation or set it aside until later. Glad to know about this book!!

  320. HS Teacher*

    You have to be really careful about who you vent to. I have one trusted friend with whom I work. We vent to each other. We share a lot of the same cultural background and immediately bonded when we started working together. I have way too many knife wounds in my back from past “work friends” who’d get me to vent and then go tattle to the boss.

    When my current work friend retires next year, I’m not sure where I’m going to vent. But it’ll probably just be to my partner, who doesn’t work in my field or organization in any capacity. Even then, it’s important to be careful about venting to much, lest I come off as the miserable person I generally am.

  321. Night Owl*

    I once had a long-term roommate vent to me for over an hour while yelling at the top of her lungs. The venting was about me, and it was about all the things that she had been holding back over the course of some years, she said. She was so nasty and insulting that I decided then and there that I would move out (I had been debating moving out long before, but this was the last straw). The next day, she was so pleasant that it made me do a double-take. I still moved out, but the emotional whiplash was very disconcerting.

  322. littlelizard*

    This is great advice I could have used for like…most of my life. I am unfortunately very prone to venting, to the point where it messes up my relationships sometimes. I think journaling more is a definite step up. I used to write in a journal all the time and it helped me feel less lonely when I had stuff to share and not sure who I could share it with.

  323. Natalie*

    This book sounds amazing!

    I love the part about not jumping in to ‘fix’ it right away.
    That always felt a little bit condescending to me. I mean, I’ve been dealing with this situation for a little while now…long enough to need to vent about it at least! And if someone jumps in with an immediate solution after we’ve talked for 5 minutes, 99% of the time, it’s no good.
    Either it’s something I’ve already considered and rejected for good reason, or I haven’t considered it because it’s not legal or practical. If there was an EASY solution, I would have already solved it, and I wouldn’t be sitting her complaining about it!

    But she’s right, that it helps to make things clear at the beginning. I’ve opened a few conversations with my husband by saying some variation on, “This is me venting. I’m not looking for a solution from you, I’m looking for sympathy.” At the beginning of our relationship, he really struggled not to try to solve. I finally gave him 3 index cards and explained that they were his lines. They said, “I’m so sorry,” and, “That sounds really frustrating,” and, “Wow! That stinks.” I did it mostly as a joke, and it was kind of funny, but it did really help him stop compulsively ‘solving’ at me.

    I also try to be respectful of that when I’m on the receiving end of a complaint. “Do you want me to try to help you problem-solve here, or do you just want me to listen? I can do either, but I want to make sure I’m giving you what you need.” So many issues avoided by finding out what the other person is ACTUALLY looking for, and not just trying to guess…because boy would I have guessed wrong quite a lot of the time!

  324. Nonprofit Gal*

    Sounds like a great book!

    I like the point about making sure you’re not being one sided to your friends.

    In nonprofit fundraising, I spend my whole work day listening. I’m an extrovert so I do try to watch just how much I’m talking on calls with friends.

  325. Megan*

    I was only thinking about this today actually. I have a colleague who is pretty negative and vents but my new rule has to be to not let it affect my work. Yesterday I made a decision – a bad one – based on what she said. It was wrong and I should not have done it. I need to remember to separate her venting from my actions

  326. Mer*

    I usually vent to my family and not my friends. I don’t mind when my mom offers suggestions, but I feel like I still have a kind of childish older sister/younger sister dynamic with my older sister, even though I’m 38 and she’s 43, so she’ll suggest something and I’ll instinctively be like, “Shut up. What do you know anyway?” (Not in those exact words, but that’s the gist.) Then a couple days later I’ll begrudgingly realize her suggestions were good.

    This reminds me too of a Parks and Rec storyline where Ann’s pregnant and every time she complains to Chris, her baby’s father, about something pregnancy-related all he does is offer suggestions, but she only wants to vent. Ron, Tom, and Donna have to teach Chris to just respond with “that sucks” and not offer unsolicited advice.

  327. ..Kat..*

    As someone who has vented too much, too little, and to the wrong people, I would love to read this book (or win a copy!).

  328. Venturous*

    I’m afraid that if I journal, someone WILL read it someday. Maybe not until I’m dead, when my next-of-kin are cleaning out my house. But also maybe a nosy dinner guest while I’m still around to be embarrassed. So I just bottle things up.

  329. Dum P*

    Text venting can get very tiring when you are the one listening. Often I end up saying the same thing like “ok” or “oh no” because I want the person to know I’m still online but don’t really want to interrupt their flow :\

  330. Jess R*

    I really love the 45 minute rule — it helps me a lot to have a sort of concrete figure so that I can keep intense conversations & venting sessions from just burrowing so deep we can’t get out. I’d never heard it before but I’ll be utilizing it now!

    … It occurs to me that this is the length of a typical therapy session, and likely for that very reason. Huh.

  331. SR*

    I’ve really been working on checking in with my husband about whether he actually wants advice, since that’s my default. Even before all this nonsense we are both guiltily of using one another for an unhealthy amount of emotional dumping, and now that we are super-anxious and stuck at home always it has just intensified!

  332. Maud Bailey*

    This is so timely for me since I recently received some feedback at work that made me realize that some people think I’m insubordinate and not committed to my work. At first I was shocked, but in thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that I was venting too much and to the wrong people. I’ve been in my position for a while and I’m getting a little burned out, and I work with some difficult people. However, too much venting will make people think you aren’t good at your job–especially when they can’t really see what you do as often as they can hear what you say. I’ve also been guilty of jumping in instead of waiting for people to ask, and of taking advantage of some friends by venting too much without talking to them. Those are both things I’m going to work on (and I’m going to try journaling).

  333. Sarah Gross*

    I love this piece about responsible venting, especially the part about asking for permission, and saying up front if you aren’t seeking advice. On the flip side of this, one suggestion for the ventee is to ask for permission before offering advice. If I have advice to give and haven’t been asked for it outright, I ask, “Are you interested in advice, or are you just venting?” or even, “Can I make a suggestion?

  334. Always Sciencing*

    This book sounds great! The advice I liked best was the idea of asking for permission to vent. Respecting your friend/colleague/spouse/etc. is integral to building a mutually beneficial relationship. Ensuring that your venting partner (venting recipient?) has the time, energy, emotional bandwidth, etc. to make space for you is one such way to demonstrate this respect.

    I have a few work colleagues who I mutually vent with on occasion over lunch. One “rule” that we have is to ensure that we stop venting at least 15 minutes before we return to work, this gives us time to switch to a more enjoyable/positive topic and return to work energized instead of frustrated – which I find is better for both my mental health and job satisfaction.

  335. RedinSC*

    I had a work friend who I ultimately had to stop seeing. She was always a little bit on the negative side, but after the 2001 dot.bomb era anytime she’d see me all she would do was complain about how shabby she was treated. She wasn’t treated any worse than anybody else, they didn’t actually treat anybody terribly, the company just went down and couldn’t continue growing, and outsourced everybody to India. Which was happening all the time.

    Even 10 years later I’d see her and that’s all she would do, is start venting about how terrible everything was there. Ultimately I just ghosted out of her life because I didn’t know how to deal with it anymore. Talking to her and asking her to move on just wasn’t working.

    So I try not to be that person. If I have to vent about something I do that, get past it and don’t bring it up again, especially not to the same people. It just got so old.

  336. NoLongerYoung*

    I so needed this advice…. either I’m venting, or someone is venting to me. Whew. And boundary setting? For someone who formerly had “welcome” stenciled on her forehead (the words are still slightly visible, apparently), that’s worth the cover price alone.

  337. Viva*

    Oh I think its hard to find a balance here. I either vent too much, or I do not talk about the negative stuff that’s happening at all.

  338. The Lurking Actor*

    Love this! That last tip reminds me of an old roommate. She would just start ranting when I got home for 20 or 30 minutes… no asking, no nothing. After a bit I started tracking how long it took her to ask me how my day was. She went over a MONTH. I had thought we were friends… guess not.

    And no, I decided not to bring it up. There are some things that you don’t want to have to spell out for people, and I was moving out anyway.

    (Also- hi! Long time lurker, first time commenter)

  339. Erica*

    This seems like an awesome book and one that’d be helpful in so many aspects of life. Thanks for offering!

  340. Frances*

    I’m lucky to have a patient partner who listens to me vent after frustrating days, and I suspect there’s a lot I could learn from this book to help me vent more productively/refocus that energy.

  341. MsSolo*

    Something I find deeply frustrating is venting on social media. If 2/3 of my twitter timeline is your current vent, and you don’t specify until the 23rd tweet that you’re ‘just venting’, I don’t think you get to be entirely shocked when people comment with things other than sympathy, especially if it’s the nineteenth time you’ve brought the topic up and haven’t at any point touched on the actions you’ve considered taking. “Not looking for advice” has to be the starting point, you have to let people opt out if they’re not in a position to undertake the emotional burden of your vent, and if everyone opts out maybe it’s time to consider whether venting is still a useful interpersonal tool for you.

  342. Harriet Vane*

    I’m having this problem with a direct report at the moment, I’m trying to teach him the distinction between coming to me as his manager when he needs to talk through a solution to a problem, and coming to vent at me because he has all the feelings. I approach as standard as though we’re in situation 1) where we can do some coaching and he’ll be empowered that he’s got his own solution to something. Inevitably we end up with him super frustrated at me because it’s situation 2 and he doesn’t want me to ask him questions about what tools he has to solve his problems, he wants to bitch to me about them and then have me solve them. It makes me feel the need to vent :P! These are useful boundaries though, and I can ask more clearly ‘are you here to vent or would you like a conversation about how we can improve things?’. Fingers crossed that helps!

  343. It's the little things*

    This looks to be a great book – venting has become almost a normal in the current situation, and with an increase of people working from home, as the permanent WFH’er I seem to be the comfortable place – it would be great to know how to handle it while having the ability to share myself, as there are definitely times I would like to have the same opportunity to talk about things (in an appropriate way!) as my friends/colleagues

  344. Andrea*

    A few others have said this, but knowing what you’re trying to achieve, and from there, who you can vent to and who you can’t, is key.

    When I’m venting, I’m looking for validation. I’m looking for someone to say “that sucks, and it’s absolutely not right that your company is doing that/that you’re being treated that way, and your reaction is valid.”

    So my coworker that I get along with but am not friends with? He’s going to defend the company. My mother? She’s going to explain how I deserved whatever happened to me. The person I’m friends with because they’re friends with my husband? They’re going to tell me I’m negative and just like to complain. But my best friend will listen to me, assure me that I’m not crazy, and once I’ve calmed down, ask questions that help me come to a solution.

    “Most people do not like you enough to validate you as a person” is a hard but important lesson that you have to learn as an adult.

  345. DrainedFriend*

    This looks like a great read! Now I have to figure out a polite way to suggest a friend read it. She says “hi” then immediately unloads ALL of her problems, whether you asked or not. It can be extremely draining, especially when she didn’t ask if you have time to listen or how you are doing. I think venting is so important and necessary at times but it can’t be the only reason you reach out to someone and can’t be so one-sided.

  346. Figlet*

    My work group chat is filled with “Can I vent about _____ ?” requests. Love thinking about these as rules of engagement.

  347. Ms. Elise*

    I honestly treat all venting as explicitly not requesting advice, and when I’m on the receiving end of venting I’ll offer “would you like some advice” if I have any (and I don’t often have any advice). If they say no, then they don’t want advice, and I shut up and just offer sympathy/empathy. I wish more people treated venting like what it is – letting off steam. By just listening, you’re helping. If you try to fix the problem being vented about, for me at least, you end up making me relive it over and over again as I try to mentally check your solution, which only makes me more wound up.
    But then again, that’s what other people can do. I’m very interested in this book’s perspective, though, and would love to get a free copy.

  348. Rachel S.*

    I definitely save my venting about work for a coworker I trust who does the same with me, or my parents who can give me their perspectives. Any at work venting is not about leadership or commentary on my boss, usually just constituents that we need to work with amicably who tend to get under our skin for good reason. It’s lovely to have 2 minutes to vent our frustration and then let it go with someone you trust who can commiserate.

  349. S*

    This is great advice! I think boundaries are important for venting. If my best friend wants to complain about something to me, she always asks “can I vent about something to you?” first, which I really appreciate. I’ve never turned her down, but I appreciate the heads up so I know what type of conversation is coming. It also helps to remind me to use that same respect for other people when I want to complain about something.

  350. MissBliss*

    I am definitely a “fixer” and so when people start venting to me– as hard as I work on active listening– my brain starts jumping to figure out solutions. A few years ago, I started pausing the person right after they start talking– I’ve gotten better and now remember to ask before they talk!– if they are looking for advice or to vent. If they want advice, I can try and help them figure out a solution. If they want to vent, I can try to help them feel better. My best friend in particular is very appreciative since they are not in a position to implement solutions, and they have started using the same approach when talking to me (which is great because, although I am a fixer, if we get to the point where I am venting, it’s because I’ve tried 99 things and none of them work– I am at full on vent mode).

  351. Megaloo*

    I completely understand the need to talk about fears right now! I agree with the point that you need to avoid repeating yourself- I myself find it exhausting when I’m trying to help employees and they just keep going around in circles. I try to remind them that I’m there to help, but sometimes you have to resume the conversation later.

  352. Calina~*

    My husband is the venter that keeps venter about the same two people at work for the last *sixteen years*. I have listened and offered up solutions and have told him I can’t listen to it anymore only for him to vent all over again the next day. Either do something about it, or stop! He says “but they won’t change and I just need to vent” so now, I mostly just tune him out, making ‘oh thats too bad’ or mmhmm sounds. I realized at some point he’ll never change. I think we could both use that book! Thanks for the opportunity to win.

  353. TK*

    These tips are so good! One that I try to live by sort of combines asking first and the time limit tips — I try to estimate how long I’ll need to say the thing that’s on my mind when I ask someone if I can vent to them. Since it’s often by IM, it’s often not a length of time, but more like “can I vent to you for a paragraph or two?” I also try to pay attention to how accurate my estimates are.

  354. jef*

    Great rules! When I vent I try to consider my audience ahead of my words. I’m not going to complain about working from home to the folks who are unemployed or have to go in to their high-risk jobs!

  355. Luna*

    These are really good! I’ve gotten into situations both professionally and personally where I’ve been the person that people seek out in order to vent. For me, the tip of planning a time to vent is super helpful! Rather than just word vomiting in the next conversation I have.

  356. Genderflux Capacitor*

    I really liked her advice regarding Journaling. If I don’t put a limit on how long I journal, I will end up in a worse state. Other advice I have gotten is to journal affirmations as well as venting.

  357. Elizabeth*

    Love the idea of giving a heads up before venting- helps the person receiving the venting prepare themselves to hear what you’re going to say

  358. Amy*

    I always like to give people an out. “Let me know if you need to be somewhere, I’d hate to talk your ear off” lets people know I’m not trying to trap them and may have done it accidentally without realizing it.

  359. Over Analyst*

    These are such good tips! I really like the last tip. I have a friend, arguably my best friend, who sometimes will just complain about her job ALL. THE. TIME. when we hang out. Sometimes we hang out with some of her coworkers, and the venting gets even more excessive, and I need to vent sometimes too! Or just talk about positive things.

  360. LalaLoopsy*

    I have never commented on AAM before, but this got me to! What a wonderful list of suggestions. I am going to have to check out this book

  361. Please Wash Your Hands*

    These are great suggestions! One thing that I’ve found really helps me is to have multiple people in my life who I can vent to at different times. I sometimes worry about dumping too much on one person, or asking one person to carry too much of an emotional burden from me. And, honestly, some people respond better to/have better feedback for certain types of problems than others. For example, my husband will listen to my frustrations about writing, but he won’t understand them the way one of my writing friends does.

  362. CG*

    These are really useful rules. I think venting is one of those things that happens mainly when we’re NOT thinking consciously (or doing too much thinking out loud), so I suspect reading rules like these and considering how they relate to our own actual behavior and experiences is the best way to internalize. It’s hard to vent excessively with foresight. (I’d love a copy of the book, but either way, love the tips. Thank you!)

  363. Motormouth*

    A sort of subset about asking permission to vent is to be aware of your audience selection. In a previous workplace I found myself becoming increasingly toxic because I actively sought out other unhappy people so we could all just air our grievances together, and we fed off of that negative energy. It should have been no surprise I ended up with a pretty unprofessional reputation despite the otherwise high quality of my work product. If you absolutely MUST vent, try to keep it out of the workplace even if you do have workplace friendships. As easy as it is to justify that they might see it firsthand, you’ll create a negative vortex around you and them. And also never, ever, EVER vent to someone junior to you. You might end up the antagonist in a story submitted to AAM ;)

  364. RB*

    I definitely struggle with knowing it is healthy to vent but then also not wanting to be continuously negative.

  365. BananaSalamander*

    These are great guidelines. My addition would be to consider if it’s appropriate to vent to the person you’re talking to. I’m a manager and I regularly get employees venting to me about things they shouldn’t. I want to hear work-related things and if they’re struggling in their personal life and want to give me a heads up, that’s great. But I’ve had to tell more than one person that it’s not appropriate to talk about their intimate relationship problems to me. (Yes, they REALLY went there.) I also think it’s important to consider what you know about what’s going on in that person’s life. I went through a rough patch recently with a significant health issue, multiple family members dying, a very close relative’s serious illness that turned me into a caregiver, work problems and more. I was falling apart and people wanted to vent to me about the most petty things. It was all I could do to avoid yelling at them.

  366. kelshek*

    Knowing how to vent constructively is so great and something I’ve had to learn over the years. So much worse to just hold things in and then end up with more issues in the end!

  367. reallifechaos*

    Trying to figure out how to vent now that I’ve been promoted to a manager and a lot of the people who I used to vent to are now my reports! I can’t vent to my friends or husband as much cause of the confidential nature of my work and even if I could, there is often too much context to vent peacefully.

  368. Ceestar*

    I think all of these helpful tips are great! To me, I try to focus on practicing more often is: “If you aren’t looking for advice, say so.” Sometimes, the other person isn’t looking for a brain-storming session for possible solutions! They just want someone to listen to them and provide them with their support. It can come off as being dismissive when the other person is not actively listening and/or busy coming up with ideas to problem solve.

  369. Keith Ketover*

    If I couldn’t vent with my colleagues that are in my same leadership position level I don’t think I could survive!

  370. Lindsay*

    I try to keep an eye on when my venting moves from venting to just unconstructive ranting. It helps to snap out of it.

  371. Sandan Librarian*

    I am fortunate to be surrounded by people who love me and want me to be happy, which means that for most of my life when I told people about my problems they leapt in with suggestions or, even worse, began trying to fix it without first running it by me. It started a lot of arguments, because in actuality I just wanted to vent and just have someone agree with me that the situation I was describing was, indeed, sucky, and then have some tea and move on.

    It took me until I gradated from college to learn to preface my venting with the disclaimer that I just want to vent and am not looking for advice or assistance at this time. With some people the preface still means nothing, and I tell myself it’s because I am so well loved, but it is also frustrating to be ignored when I’ve stated my intentions and needs so plainly. To be fair, I also have to make a concentrated effort to bite my tongue when people are complaining to me until I’ve determined whether they’re looking for a sympathetic ear or solutions.

  372. Spill all the Tea*

    This is very well-timed – I’m working a project full of frustration, and different views on venting has definitely increased tension with a coworker at times. I’ve learned I just can’t vent to some people even when they invite me to.

  373. Jenny*

    When I call my best friend/favored mutual ventee, we tend to announce if it’s a vent session at the outset and it’s not uncommon for the other one to say, “Sure, I’ve got ten minutes.” In reality it’s usually 1.5x the stated time but we’ve known each other long enough that setting parameters doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings. (We both process by talking out loud so a listener who doesn’t try to give advice is worth her weight in gold!)

  374. Jubilee*

    I feel SUPER fortunate–I have a coworker who I have a fantastic mutual venting relationship with (with all of these elements–asking first, genuine give and take, a lot of just letting each other know we’re seen) AND a couple of dear friends that I can exercise it with. But like a lot of people have said above, I give off an air of “please dump your problems on me!” and that would honestly be OK if the same people didn’t come back with the same problems and never note if they wanted advice, a listening ear, or something else–even when I ask! Once you’ve realized what it’s like to have a genuine give and take with someone it’s hard to go back the other way.

  375. Adalind*

    These are spot on and I’m definitely curious to know what else is in the book! I try to be mindful when I vent and make sure to ask my friend/coworker/family member what’s going on with them as well. My coworker called me to vent earlier today and I wish I had read this then. haha. I did give her some advice which she seemed to like so we shall see!

  376. SleepyInSeattle*

    Oh nooo… I got to the part about not pre-venting and felt my face turn red. This is definitely something I do. These are great rules! Especially the part about asking permission to vent, as well as setting the other person’s expectations (letting them know if you are looking for advice or not). I also find journaling cathartic, like if I’m really stewing over something, waiting to unleash a tirade to an unsuspecting Good Friend–if I write about my feelings instead, in the moment or soon after whatever has happened, I don’t get as upset/angry over it, and am less likely to vent.

  377. M*

    A year or so ago my sister and I were really struggling and one of the contributing factors was not knowing when she needed to just vent vs was looking for advice. It tended to end up with everyone’s feelings hurt as no one got what they really needed from the conversation. I know I need to work more on asking if the other person is ok with it before I start to vent…probably not helping my friends’ stress levels!

  378. Rachelia*

    This sounds like a fascinating book that hits all my interest areas! I love this list of advice – good to keep in mind whether you are the person venting or being vented to. In reflecting on myself, I realized the time limit and also not pre-venting (I think I am *really* guilty of that, gulp!) are important for me personally to work on.

    Also, long-time reader, first-time commenter (I think!) :)

  379. Colleen*

    I’ve been big on journaling, I think that’s a great way to vent but not to burden anyone with venting (hello, ruminating! guilty!).

  380. Amanda L. Williamson*

    I’m afraid I’m one of those “all right, you’ve got a problem? Let’s fix it” kind of people. I need to work on being a sounding board, and not a water-cooler therapist.

  381. Stephanie S.*

    Im a total fixer. I’ve been journaling all of my life and rarely feel the need to vent. I’ve found I emotionally process best through the written word. If i have an issue and genuinely need other advise ill ask but I’m not much of a venter. It goes along with my other deep introvert traits, but I’ve found its not good four my relationships. I process so much alone significant others feel left out or that I’m hiding something from them. I’m also not good at listening to venting. I just want to fix it. To me if you cant fix it whats the point of spending emotional energy on it. These are all good points to consider. I like the idea of scheduling it and putting a clock on it.

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