Venting Vs. Vulnerability – Communicate More Effectively
Picture this: You’ve just had a long day, so, naturally, you call your best friend / sibling / parent / partner after work to get the irritants of the past 12 hours off your chest. Your boss was frustratingly non-communicative, you made careless spelling mistakes in important emails out of anxiety and haste, a colleague was rude and snappy with you, and, last but not least, you definitely aren’t getting enough sleep and might be getting sick.
However, after hanging up the phone, you still feel irritated, stressed, and exhausted. The pros say to “talk it out” in order to feel better… So, why didn’t it work?!
THE IMPORTANCE OF SWAPPING VENTING FOR VULNERABILITY
- Before telling the story, ask yourself how you want to feel after sharing it with another person. This will help inform the way you tell the story, the information you share, and, possibly, even help you recognize that retelling the story in great length and detail – if at all – simply isn’t worth the energy. This will support you in prioritizing where you want to put your energy in the future, and will prevent unnecessary burnout.
- Ask yourself what you need from the other person. Is it validation (i.e. They repeat back what you’ve shared like a parrot or mirror), advice, or their personal opinion? If you don’t make this clear upfront, you’re likely setting yourself up to be frustrated, disappointed, and to feel like either they “failed you” or you “bothered them” when they don’t respond exactly the way that you want them to.
- Consider if the person you’re telling is able to give you what you want. If you need someone to validate your feelings without offering an opinion, telling the story to a friend or family member who loves to offer feedback is putting you both in a frustrating situation.
- Take a deeper dive into the way the experiences made you feel, as opposed to focusing on the details of the story itself. You have zero control over the way your boss communicates or an irritated coworker, so, focusing on their behavior and how annoying they are is only going to rile you up. Turn your attention towards how their behavior might have affected you (i.e. Did it stir up feelings of inadequacy, concern about being “not good enough,” or mimic the way an abusive parent used to interact with you?).
By practicing these steps, you’ll undoubtedly start to recognize how to meet your needs and take up space more effectively. This will help ensure that you have the words to communicate your thoughts, feelings, and emotional needs to others, and to support loved ones in beginning to communicate their own needs more effectively. Remember, this is a practice, not a destination, so the final recommendation is to do your best to enter conversations like these with an abundance of patience, self-compassion, and flexibility.