Do you ever have moments when you want to vent, complain, bitch and whine without getting barraged by unsolicited advice? Yeah, me too. The problem is that oftentimes when we want to vent just for the sake of getting it off our chest we are hit with a litany of what we should do or need to do to make things better.
(Before I go any further let me say that I have no patience for chronic complainers. They are an entirely different species than those of us who need to vent occasionally.)
I realize most people are well-meaning but if someone prefaces an oncoming whine fest with, “I’m not looking for advice, I just need to vent”, this means to me that the person simply wants to get something off their chest. No more, no less. No need for advice they don’t want to hear to begin with. (If you fail to clarify that you are not looking for advice then all bets are off and you’re going to get a lot of it.)
I think some folks feel they have to say something, anything when a person vents. It’s probably human nature. But every now and then we have to filter what comes from our brain and out our mouths and just let the person blow off steam. It is not mandatory for us to give our opinion on every.single.thing we are told.
If little Bobby tells me he is tired of studying his spelling every day, I don’t remind him that if he doesn’t learn to spell he won’t be able to read and if he can’t read now then he won’t be able to read the senior citizen menu someday. Little Bobby doesn’t need my advice; he just needs someone who will listen.
There are people of course that simply must give advice. It’s part of their DNA. They live for moments when someone vents; it’s their opportunity to spew forth unwanted and unappreciated advice. These are the people I am least likely to vent to. When I complain about the dog eating the remote control I don’t want to be told that obedience school is the first line of defense in remote control safety. I already know what I have to do; I just want to complain about it.
I don’t want to sound mean but I guess I’m feeling a little bit mean about this. I appreciate advice when I ask for it but not when I tell you I don’t want it. Venting is something we all need to do now and then. The thing is if I want to let it all out, I don’t want a laundry list of what I can do/can’t do/should do/shouldn’t do to remedy the situation. I repeat…I already know what to do; I simply need to gripe about it for a bit.
I’ve learned that the most effective way to help someone who needs to vent without giving advice is simply to listen. If I feel I must say something then I tell them the truth…”I hear you. I understand.” That’s all we really need when we vent isn’t it? Someone who is listening.
Venting can help make us feel better but if someone adds some unsolicited advice into the mix it kind of takes the wind out of our sails.
If someone wants to vent and you get the distinct impression they are not looking for advice then don’t give it to them. Even if you think you have the answer, that answer may not be what they really need…which is someone to listen.
One of my favorite lines is from Joe Walsh’s song, Life’s Been Good…”I can’t complain but sometimes I still do.” And I do. And I’ll continue to complain, vent, lament, murmur and grumble on occasion. I’m doing it right now in this post and I feel better already. Thanks for listening, it was just what I needed. 🙂