I talk a lot on this blog about how local friends are especially necessary for venting. I’d always rather blow off steam with a pal in person than over the phone. And I’m the type who likes to vent. If something’s on my mind, I want to talk about it. Always.
Recently my mind has been working overtime. Which, in turn, means my vocal chords have been doing the same.
Here’s the thing I’ve noticed. All the venting? It hasn’t been helping. It doesn’t make me feel better. In fact, it just exacerbates the problem. It gets me all worked up.
“Contrary to popular notion, aggressive ‘venting’ doesn’t relieve bad feelings, but fuels them,” she writes. “Studies show that blowing up, punching a pillow, yelling, or slamming doors makes you feel worse, not better.”
That is not to say, however, that friends can’t make me feel better when I’m in a mood. In fact, good company is just the ticket. But instead of venting, I’ve found the best thing friends can do is talk with me about everything else. To take my mind off the supposed problem. It helps me to get perspective, take a breath, and get my bearings.
Now that I’m thinking (and writing) about this, I realize I must have already had this venting-is-destructive theory in the back of my head. Why? Because I think it was the cause of one of my most recent fights with a friend.
A few years ago a close friend was upset about an upcoming work situation. I thought, mistakenly, that she wouldn’t want to talk about it. I assumed distracting my friend would help her. It would take her mind off things and all that good stuff. So I started talking about something stupid and unrelated.
This was a bad idea. My friend felt I was being unsupportive, that I was changing the subject because I didn’t care. There was a fight. Blah, blah. We got over it.
It was a good reminder that it’s not my place to decide what will help someone else cope. I may be with Gretchen Rubin on the venting-as-coping-is-a-myth bandwagon, but imposing this view on a friend is probably not a good idea. At least, not when she is in the throws of a pissy mood.
So moral of this post: Venting may be bad, distracting may be better. But listening to a friend and giving her what she needs is most definitely best.
When you’re having a rough day, what do you need from friends: Someone you can sound off to? Or someone who’ll take your mind off things?