What to Do When Someone is Venting

Sometimes people need to vent. It is a fact of being human. When someone is ranting we often do one of four things:

We agree and join in. Taking this route will wind the other person even tighter as we start spiraling with them; completely defeating the purpose of venting.

We listen silently. When we aren’t involved in the conversation at all the other person may feel like they might as well be talking to a brick wall.

We try to fix it without listening to the whole problem.

We discount their concerns and feelings by telling them to calm down or it isn’t that bad.

Unfortunately, those options aren’t very helpful. The whole point of venting is to release the pressure to avoid an explosion.   To encourage productive venting, engage in active listening by using the following questions.

  • What bothers you the most about the situation? Listen for and help put words to their feelings… disrespected, embarrassed, overwhelmed, disappointed, confused – having a label to put on it is the first step to dissipating it.
  • What is making you the most…?(whatever feeling you have identified) Listen for things that can be address and fixed or need to let go because there is nothing that can be done to change it (LISTEN – don’t comment on them yet).
  • What worries you about this? Listen for the things that will be the “Yeah, but…” when you get to the solution stage and try to understand the emotion around them.

As you move through the conversation it is important that you keep your emotions under control. If the person venting feels like you are negatively judging them they may become defensive or shut down. And if you allow yourself to become hooked into their anger, you might start feeling negative too.

With the progression of the conversation the person venting should become less agitated and more able to have a focused conversation about the problem rather than the feelings surrounding it. When you realize they have reached that point you can then ask:

  • Would you like to work together to come up with ideas for a solution?

Helping someone vent allows them to work through the emotions they are feeling and move on to addressing the problem.  Being a leader means knowing how to actively listen until the time is right to help solve the problem.

What kinds of situations do people vent about most to you? Let me know in the comments.

As always, I wish you the MOST from your potential!

Doc Robyn

PS – My second book The Ultimate Guide to Handling Every Disagreement Every Time is now available on Amazon

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