Is Venting Really a Good Idea?
Someone or something really frustrates you. But your immediate response is to say nothing. On the inside, however, you are thinking, how can this be? It happens again and again. For whatever reason, you continue to withhold a response. And then one of your closest friends walks into your office.
It has become unbearable. So you unload. You are now very vocal about your raw feelings. You tell yourself, I needed that catharsis. I needed to vent, otherwise I would have said or done something stupid in front of others.
Is venting okay?
In our culture, venting is an acceptable release. We consider it normal. It’s even encouraged. The common thought is that as long as we are being judicious with who hears it, or as long as we vent alone, we should be okay. We should feel free to blow off steam as if we are a coal powered train, which must shriek and screech on a regular basis just to keep going.
So is venting a good idea or a bad idea? Neither, really. Venting is simply an indication of our maturity. It is an indication as to how many internal principles we have learned and put into practice. We usually become vocal if we don’t have the right mental framework to solve what is bothering us. If we can’t take what is happening to us and crush it into oblivion internally, then it will build up and have be spewed out somehow.
I remember several years ago, early in my leadership journey, I was traveling to New York for a conference. I was contacted by one of our managers that a doctor on staff had said something unbecoming of another medical professional. When I hung up the phone, I was infuriated. I raised my voice and was acting like a fool. I just could not deal with what I had heard. I did not have layers of wisdom and principles to apply to the situation.
I am a different person now, hopefully more mature and more measured. But that’s not because I have become more disciplined, as much as it is that I have learned several life and leadership principles that I can now employ. I will share a few of those with you below.
Venting in Leadership
Great leaders are not the type to react, scream, and act like a fool, even in a “safe” environment. Why? Well, it’s not because they have become so disciplined. Rather, it’s because they just don’t need to. They have seen it all. They are simply not surprised, frustrated, or annoyed anymore, because they understand human nature. They know people are not perfect. And they have learned how to respond without over-reacting.
As a leader, one mistake I have made with people on my team who vent all the time, is to tell them to deal with the issue, to simply “grow up,” like I needed to. While it is good to put the responsibility on them to focus on what they can do, I missed the fact that slow internal growth is key. It’s not an instant action to take to squash all their frustrations. Many life principles must be learned and adopted before a person can “deal with the issues.” As for myself, occasionally, some things still make me want to vent. But as I grow, I am finding that I feel the need to vent less and less.
Principles to Help Us Deal with Frustration
So, if you find yourself needing to vent and explode often (internally or externally), let me share with you a few thoughts to help. First, acknowledge that we all must grow and mature. Recognize where you are on that path, and own it. Be more intentional to grow. Frustration is one of the key indicators that we have room to grow before we can be effective as leaders. Let me give you examples of the principles I had to learn so I could effectively deal with things that would potentially frustrate me.
- When others don’t do what they are supposed to. When people don’t do what they are supposed to, that problem is squarely yours as the leader. | You hired them, trained them, evaluated them, gave them raises, and are keeping them on your staff. So relax, deal with the issues at hand calmly, because it is all in your court.
- When we feel betrayed or taken advantage of. Get over it. And don’t take it personally. The person who betrayed your trust is doing the best they know how to handle life. This principle is illustrated most clearly for me in an experiment done once, where people in prison for serious offenses were asked, “Are you a bad person?” Not one answered yes. Even when we do wrong, we think we are doing right.
- When we fail to achieve what we want. We must commit to do our best in life. Do what you can. Anything beyond that must be let go. Such a simple lesson to understand, such a hard lesson to apply.
- When things don’t align in our favor. We must learn how to adjust our expectations. Sometimes you have to persevere for longer than you anticipated. This is life. And as my friend, Lanette, reminds me often, “Sometimes we don’t get what we want in life. We must grow up.”
Venting is the vocal expression of internal combustion. It is that internal combustion that indicates where we must grow and mature. That is done slowly by building life wisdom. So remember that when you vent about something, you most likely don’t have the mental understanding to neutralize it internally. That shouldn’t depress us, but motivate us to grow in these areas.
Our level of maturity is measured by the degree it takes us to hit the boiling point. A leader that needs to vent about everything that goes wrong, is not a leader who has acquired the mental skills to deal with these issues. It is an ominous sign when I meet leaders who gripe and complain about everything. It tells me that what’s on the inside is not very deep or wide.
The question for us today is this, “In the areas that make us frustrated, what life principle(s) do we need to learn so we can solve these issues internally and successfully?”
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