Venting a Problem Won’t Solve It – but This Will

A couple of weeks ago I was on the phone with a friend and at some point I said, “I just need to tell you something.”

geyser shooting 100 feet in the air, blue sky

We can let off steam in a spectacular display of force and, while venting feels good inside, do nothing to change the cause of our problem.

I then proceeded to tell her about an issue I was having that involved someone else.

After I had shared my frustration over the situation we went on with our main conversation. Afterwards, I wondered why had I done that in the first place?

After a bit of thinking, I realized that while she wasn’t part of the problem, in fact she was an important part of the solution because she had acted as a trusted advisor. She listened well, she empathized, and she helped me explore the situation with the intention of resolving it.

I do believe venting has its place. In speaking to my friend, I had a chance to consider whether my frustration was caused by my own assumptions (How could this person do this to me!), or a piling up of the tremendous trifles.

I also had a chance to look at the situation from the other person’s point of view, and to realize he had not inconvenienced me intentionally and would no doubt be open to making a change if I gave him the chance.

Most importantly, airing the problem as I did gave me the opportunity to focus on how the two of us involved in the problem might stop it from recurring.

When we’re convinced the solution requires another person to make a change, then there’s really only one thing we must do. We must screw up our courage, go speak to the person who is causing us grief, and respectfully ask for that change.

It can be hard to do, but do it we must. Otherwise, all we are doing is gossiping.

Telling a third party about something instead of dealing with it directly with the other person can help us feel better, but it does nothing to actually effect a change. Nothing changes when nothing is changed. 

To really fix the situation, we must put our thoughts in order as I did and then speak truthfully with the person with whom we are displeased.

We can find it hard to take this second step when we lack confidence that speaking up will make a difference. This is where using “I” statements that keep the conversation focused on the problem have a great advantage over “You” statements that focus on the other person’s behavior.

The simple three-part I-statement formula of

I feel…. when you …because I…

keeps us focused on what we need and why. By being open about our needs and showing respect to the other person, we greatly improve our chance for success in bringing about the change we want with business colleagues, with family members, neighbors and friends.

Venting a problem is a good first step, as long as we use it as an opportunity to clarify our thinking and separate the parts of the problem that we own from the parts owned by someone else. To get what we really need, our second step requires us to actually speak to the other person for the purpose of finding a mutually agreeable solution. When we can state what we need and why we need it, we establish a foundation for collaborative effort to resolve the problem. And once that happens, we won’t need to vent again.

Life Is Honest, Open and True:  Venting has its place but if we only blow off steam, we do nothing to change the future. The next time you feel frustrated by the actions of another person, will you prepare for a conversation by identifying your feelings and what you need? You have the choice to ask for what you need in a way that addresses the activity, not personal behavior.

Related Posts: A Better Relationship With Ourselves

Living Like a Puppet on a String

Do You Live in Courage?

Ever Feel Really Frustrated?

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