In TRP workshops we often hear this question, “What about the need to vent?” It’s a good question. Let’s explore that “need to vent” with an analogy of a three-story building with a basement.
The basement is where we store things from the past. This is analogous to our attitudes and emotions. All of us have a basement; a place where we have bottled up feelings and held onto past grievances. Occasionally we’ll surprise ourselves when we discover the things we’ve kept that we didn’t even know we still had. Or perhaps there was a situation that was just never resolved and the memory has been tucked away.
On the first floor, we’re not so focused on the past, nor are we suppressing our feelings. We are more in the moment, often reacting to the tension around us. Pressures like deadlines, dealing with changes, or simply “keeping up” can result in a “need to vent” our frustrations. If we vent with just anyone willing to listen, there can be consequences. Not only does this not solve the problem, it can negatively influence others. This is the place where gossip and rumors get started creating more unwanted circumstances.
As we ascend the stairs to the second floor, awareness leads to more choices. On this floor we accept that forces outside of our control create challenges that we must face. More often than not, we manage these forces. For example, seeing how a process is inefficient and rather than remaining frustrated by it, we offer solutions that can improve the process. There are more solutions and our personal effectiveness grows rapidly here.
Ascending even higher to the third floor opens up infinite possibilities. It is like the rooftop where there are vistas to see, and open air to experience. It is on this floor where we move from being “bothered” by situations, pressures, and other people, to being keenly aware of how we respond to life situations. The “need to vent” becomes an opportunity to communicate and to think creatively. Creativity and resourcefulness abound on this floor.
While none of us “live” on any floor, we can learn to identify where we spend most of our time, and in which situations. For example, with certain people or in challenging situations, our default might be first floor. Learning how to climb the stairs to the higher floors where we gain fresh perspective, is a skill that can be developed. Once we’ve learned to access those higher floors, we can choose to descend to the lower floors to meet others where they are. We can help others learn constructive ways to use their energy, rather than the old ways of “blowing off steam.” By developing our personal ability to climb the stairs we can stay positive, productive, and effective – no matter what!
Here are three tips that can help when faced with that “need to vent.” For the quick version, you can share this two-minute YouTube video with the three tips.
1. When stuck in emotional tension ask yourself, what is this really about? If you can identify what’s going on under the surface, that’s a key insight. Sometimes we feel like we’re about to erupt without being quite sure why. Having a sense of what’s on our mind takes us to the next step. Rather than “venting,” try replacing that word with “consulting.” Ask someone you trust if you can consult with them and share what’s on your mind. Flipping the approach from vent to consult can shift our demeanor.
2. Do something physical. Get out and work in the yard or exercise. Let your brain work and see if that brings in clarity. If “venting” is still what you think needs to be done, be selective about who you do it with. Blowing off steam with the first person who is willing to listen is never a good idea.
3. Don’t go there. Spend quiet time with your thoughts every day. Be mentally prepared for the day’s challenges. Get a good night’s rest and approach the day with a fresh perspective.