Venting & complaining: What’s the difference?

By | 2022-02-23T17:48:07-05:00 November 14th, 2013|0 Comments

It’s near impossible not to encounter frustration when working in healthcare. Nurses come across difficult patients, challenging families, out-of-touch administrators, and pompous personalities — often all in one shift.


Sometimes you just need to vent!

But tread carefully, venters. Because the line between venting and complaining is a thin one. And here’s the difference:

Venting and Complaining: What’s the Difference?

Venting is a brief release, a cathartic tactic for blowing off steam. A good vent session can help you let go of anger and frustration and clear the way for your next plan of action. Venting can be a healthy expression of emotions that are often suppressed.

Complaining is passive. It keeps you stagnant and promotes wallowing in misfortune. It comes from a place of powerlessness and exacerbates the notion that nothing will ever change. While venting with coworkers can be a positive, bonding experience, complaining incessantly around coworkers decreases morale.

We’re all guilty of complaining from time to time. It’s a natural behavior leftover from our childhood days. Still, if you develop an anti-complaining plan now, you stand a chance at battling the complaining bug at its next onset.

How to Move From Complaining to Venting

  1. Get your heart rate up: Exercise has long been considered a useful tool for releasing pent-up emotions, replacing them with happy endorphins. It’s not a cure-all, but it’s a great first step.
  2. Address the problem: That might mean confronting a work bully or speaking up about unfair scheduling practices. It could mean seeing a counselor to help you with personal issues that might be contributing to your feelings. It might also mean looking for a new job, if there are truly things that could improve by moving to a new environment. The only wrong action here is to do nothing.
  3. Laugh: Laughing will help lighten the load and soften your judgments. There might not be anything funny about your work problems. You don’t have to laugh about that. But laughing about something, anything, might help boost your mood and see things in a different light.

Know a Chronic Complainer?

Chronic complainers are very skilled at dragging you down into their vortex. When you start to feel the pull, try these tips to wriggle your way out.

  1. Validate: Chronic complainers want one thing, to be heard. So give them what they want and get out!
  2. Avoid advice: Quite the opposite of validation, complainers do not want solutions. They want to complain. Solutions will just make them try harder to get you to see how bad things are. Go back to ‘Validate.”
  3. Change the subject: Validate first. Change the subject second. “That’s terrible you didn’t get Christmas off this year. Hey, did you book your cruise yet?”

Your turn

Do you think there’s a difference between venting and complaining? Is complaining holding you back from being happier?

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