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Need to vent? These 3 tips can save you from blowing off steam.
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.
Inclusive: Listens to others with Empathy
The newly revised competencies of a TRP include five key qualities. Each of them describes important aspects of our highest ethical character. This month we’ll explore the quality of Inclusive. You can see all five qualities here.
What we see with our eyes is quickly interpreted by our brains as “what is different” about each of us. We perceive differences and create biases without even knowing it, and then these perceived differences become our reality. He is tall. She is young. He is Black. She is Asian. She is disabled… We take information in so quickly that if we believe the surface inputs that our five sense perceive, we end up reacting to the world around us instead of responding to it. We have to go beyond and use our capacity for empathy.
To listen with empathy is to consider more than what others say. It is to consider who they are at their core, and what they yearn for in their hearts. Even the attempt to listen with empathy can be challenging when we discover how much of what we think we know and understand about someone else may simply not be true. Challenging though it may seem at times, the desire to connect with one another at deeper levels can drive us to discover our mutual gifts and celebrate not just our differences, but cherish how interconnected we all are. When we can do this well, what kind of world will we create?
In a recent TRP training we discovered a brilliant essay written by a young teen for a Rotary assignment. The author, Erin, has a disability that has caused her to re-think how other perceive her, and how she perceives others. You’ll enjoy this short essay and the wisdom Erin carries as she reflects on, “Is it the truth?” “Is it fair to all concerned?” “Will it build goodwill and better friendships?” and “Is it beneficial to all?” Erin’s essay on Parent2Parent.
Inspirational: Inspires others to be their best by setting the example.
The newly revised competencies of a TRP include five key qualities. Each of them describe important aspects of our highest ethical character. This month we’ll explore the quality of Inspirational. You can see all five qualities here.
What do you see in this picture? Here are a few things we’ve picked out:
Rodney and his team view their own youthfulness as a responsibility. Because they are young and able, they can and will give back and serve older people.
- People of diverse backgrounds can have meaningful, common connections.
His team mentors young men to stay “busy” with production and service.
When busy with the above, young men also learn to be focused.
They observed a PROBLEM with older people not being able to take care of their lawns.
They observed a PROBLEM with young people giving in to negative habits for a lack of positive opportunities.
They offered a solution to both problems that has an exponential impact. Not only does it solve the above two problems but it fosters hope and inspiration that can ripple out far beyond their neighborhood. On their facebook page, they end all of their posts with, “Making a difference in our community.”
Thanks Rodney and the folks at Raising Men Lawn Care for inspiring us to do our best by setting the example. To our readers… pass it on!
Freedom and Responsibility
America’s birthday this month marks many decades of growth and progress, and yet we have a long way to go towards fulfilling our potential.
Viktor Frankl once suggested that in addition to the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast, America should erect a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast. Perhaps by this he meant we cannot ever know true freedom until we are willing to accept full responsibility for our actions and our choices.
In these times of conflict where examples of negative behavior seem to exist everywhere, ultimately the only person we can change is ourselves. Mahatma Gandhi’s famous words were to “be the change you wish to see in the world.”
In a recent TRP workshop, this idea was illustrated for us by a participant. She shared her O-FLAG (Opportunity For Learning And Growth) story with us:
She had young children and came in early to get work done so she could leave early and spend time with them. However, her manager would typically come by her desk late in the afternoon and “check-in.” The conversations with her manager always seemed to stall her plans and nearly every time she’d be “stuck!” She was growing frustrated. She wanted her manager to change the routine… she wanted her workplace to change the rules for her… She wanted everyone else to change so she could get what she wanted!
Instead, she changed herself.
She slowed down and allowed the mornings to become quality time with her children. Instead of coming early, she would come to work on time, get her work done, and leave on time. When she came home, she was fully present and she didn’t feel guilty about it. She was more focused at home, and more productive at work. It was the personal adjustments she made – it was the freedom to choose how she felt and what she could do about it that made all the difference.
Exercising our power of choice is not insignificant during these times of tension and challenge. Let’s be the change that we wish to see in the world.
Road Trip! And Bonus O-FLAG
|We had traveled 450 miles with our three young kids in the back of the mini-van. When we pulled into the campsite a little after 5:00 pm I was worn out. The rustic cabin we were renting for the next several nights was as advertised. The kids ran around, eagerly exploring every corner of the tiny cabin. My wife tried to figure out how to eat dinner, realizing that we had not brought utensils, nor plates, and they were not furnished in the cabin. “I should have checked on that,” I said, a little frustrated that I’d forgotten about that important detail. I began to get irritated with the noise of the children, and barked out, “Keep it down guys!” The idea of getting back into the van and driving ten miles into town for dinner or a grocery store run was not appealing to anyone. Then I heard a loud thump and I realized the kids had discovered the bunk-bed and were jumping off of it. My irritation rose. I felt myself getting ready to snap. I knew that I was about to yell at the kids and make them miserable. I was miserable, and they might as well be miserable too!
Right then and there, I stopped.
I told my wife I’d be back. In the tiny cabin bathroom, I washed my face at the sink. I realized the kids were tired too; they had been in the car just as long as I had. I came back out, determined to put a different ending on this story.
She and I huddled and decided to take the kids to the playground, less than a five-minute walk in this idyllic campground. We decided to let the kids run and then just eat the travel snacks that were left from the day’s drive. I was astonished that the feelings of exhaustion I had experienced so keenly only minutes ago, seemed to just disappear.
We laugh about it now, and also appreciate how simple it was to make a different choice. On reflection, making this choice led to a serious question for me: where else in my life does that sense of irritation sometimes show up? Several thoughts came to mind. In meetings I may ignore the contributions of others when I feel I have been working hard. I tend to shut down or quit when I believe I am tired. And when I think I am “at my limit,” sometimes I feel that I am entitled to being treated a certain way.
I realize now that my irritation that night had nothing to do with my children, or with the drive or anything else. It had to do with the perspective I was choosing, and a perspective that was changed when I was able to view it for what it was. The O-FLAG (Opportunity For Learning And Growth) was about making a choice to stop a reaction and turn it into a response. But it also provided another opportunity for me – a much deeper learning experience. Our O-FLAG’s teach us about ourselves. They give us the opportunity to look inside and in so doing, we can discover better ways to serve our families, organizations, and our communities.
Susan is fun to be around. She works for MEA (MidAtlantic Employers’ Association) near Philadelphia, PA. Last Fall, she got her TRP trainer certification and now she’s sharing what is powerful about TRP for their members in this youtube video. She’s enthusiastic! Watch her video and see if you don’t want to be in one of her classes after hearing her talk about TRP. It’s hard not to want to sign up for the class right away!
Enthusiasm is persuasive. It’s catchy. It lights a fire within. When I hear someone else talk about what they are interested in and they are enthusiastic, I become interested myself.
The quality of enthusiasm seems to naturally shift our perspective. It can take things from daunting to do-able, from boring to fun, and from hopeless to possible. It’s a trans-formative quality that boils down to a simple choice we make in how we look at any situation.
So if enthusiasm is this good, what could be better? More enthusiasm! Here’s a worksheet that is designed to reveal where I am strong and carry a can-do or enthusiastic attitude in life. It also reveals areas where I display less enthusiasm. Can I bring fresh perspective to those areas of life? Can I adopt a more enthusiastic attitude towards things that are perhaps boring, or challenging for me? What would be the benefit of doing so? Download a copy of the worksheet and see what insights can be gained from it.
An enthusiastic attitude is a choice. Some people seem to naturally be enthusiastic. They are fun to be around. Some display enthusiasm in out-going and verbal ways while others are more quiet in their display. One is not better than the other, and the point is not to become a high-energy extrovert. The point is to see where this quality may help me in my own life, and help me be of greater service to others.
Valentine’s Day is Sunday, February 14. This is a TRP reminder to let your loved ones know that you love them. Chocolates, Hallmark cards, sweet posts on their Facebook pages… all these certainly work. One of the best ways to say “I love you” though, is to listen. That’s right, listen.
“I could tell him how I think he should run the country, or I could accept the fact that he might see things differently than I do and try to have a meaningful, respectful, intelligent conversation.”
How to Be of Service Wherever You Go
We have often been asking ourselves, “what is the essence of TRP?” One of the ways we try to answer this question is to listen to what others say when they experience TRP and what they do with it, both at work and at home. What is emphasized again and again are certain qualities. They are the things that when practiced, can allow us to be of service to almost anyone, anywhere. We’ve put together these qualities in what we call the Competencies of a TRP. Let us know what you think!
One of the qualities you’ll see is Being Inclusive, which can be expressed by listening to others with empathy. A great example of empathy was shared by our friends at the University of Wisconsin Medical Foundation. While they did not create this video, they use it in training for healthcare professionals, and wow – it is meaningful. When you have five minutes to watch this powerful video on empathy, you won’t regret it.
May you and yours enjoy the blessings of the season!
The Peace Talks
The following true story was shared by Monique, during the TRP training she attended a few weeks ago.
I have three teenage boys. They are good boys. All of them are unique and have completely different interests from one another. They typically get along very well. However, they had been bickering with each other for several days. About everything. It was not characteristic of them and I was not happy with it.
One afternoon I decided enough was enough. I called them together for a meeting. I had to holler to get their attention and I said “Young men, we are going to begin having peace talks.”
We sat down in the living room and I explained to them that today was the first day of our peace talks. I shared that the values of love and cooperation are guiding principles in our family and that given the current climate, talks were necessary to re-establish our focus on the principles. I moved so fast they didn’t have time to react. It was all they could do to swallow what I was feeding them. I said that I would lead the first session.
I began with a question. What does peace mean to you? Each boy had to answer. The others were not allowed to interrupt or to comment unless the comment was complementary to what his brother was sharing. There would be no picking, no arguing. Their answers were as diverse and as thoughtful as they are. I was amazed at how quickly the hour long peace talk went. I ended the session by explaining what was to follow. That for the subsequent three days, each of them would lead the talk for his day.
My youngest volunteered to go first. He is the artist of the family and for his talk he had pulled a TED Talk from the internet that he had us watch and discuss our ideas. It was delightful. I saw his enthusiasm and natural joy emerge as he led his family into a remarkably enlightening conversation. The older boys were no exception to the quality when they lead their talks. My oldest has us talk directly about how we treat each other and what is and is not, acceptable treatment for family. My middle son took us on a “nature walk” where we had to look and listen to the sight and sound of peace in the natural world.
I learned some valuable lessons from the peace talks. Warring siblings quickly created much more than just harmony when given the chance. They needed a way to express their creativity and their passions. With just a little input from their mom, their hearts and minds were wide open. I also learned more about their talents and their challenges. What they came up with told me more about them than I can typically see in our day to day interactions. Those observations helped uncover what each of my sons are good at and where each of him are vulnerable. I can use that insight as I coach them into being the mature young men they are becoming.
Could the peace talks apply in your home? In your office? Have fun!