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We’ve all started a conversation with comments that turned into hour-long gripe fests—about our jobs, our relationships, our kids, or just our bad day. Mostly, we just want to be heard and release some stress. Sometimes, we want some feedback. But how often do we use our seethe sessions to resolve our concern or problem?
In August 2004, Tiffany Wynn faced a dilemma. She contemplated quitting a high-paying but unsatisfying branch operations management position in Chicago, taking a $20,000 pay cut, and moving back to her hometown of Milwaukee for a job in journalism—her true professional passion.
“Though I made good money, I was completely unsettled with my job because it really wasn’t leading me in the direction I wanted to go,” says Wynn, 25. “I had always wanted to [be] in journalism, and felt this was my big break.” She was also feeling homesick and longed to return to Milwaukee after a string of sudden deaths in her family.
Wynn approached a mentor for some advice, but also offered some solutions of her own. This kept her ultimate purpose in mind—and the content of her chatter in check. This should be the goal when we approach others to sound off, says Loren Ekroth, a Las Vegas-based business communications consultant (www.conversation-matters.com). “If you don’t make problem-solving the intentional goal, it is unlikely that you’ll resolve your concern,” maintains Ekroth, who holds a Ph.D. in communications studies. “Otherwise, you are just transmitting your frustrations, which serves no productive purpose.”
A failure to set this communication goal can result in unpleasant consequences. “Eventually, you will be shunned as a whiner and complainer. You’ll stay stuck in a ‘ain’t it awful?’ frame of mind,” states Ekroth. On the flip side, constructive ranting on your part can only help your cause. “Not only might you actually come up with a practical approach to solving your problem, you will be perceived as one who does more than merely dump frustrations on others.”
After speaking with her mentor, Wynn launched a plan to learn the business of journalism. Last fall she became managing editor of GUMBO Magazine (www.mygumbo.com), a bi-monthly magazine for teens in Milwaukee.
“The aim of your vent sessions is to acquire useful input,” and communicate your own answers to the questions you face, asserts Ekroth. “The idea is to help yourself think through your issues,” not merely grumble about them
Tips to Vent for Success
Your vent sessions would be more welcome if you used them constructively—as a springboard to find your own solutions.
Below are some helpful hints to aid you in having productive gripe fests:
- Identify your concerns up front and ask for help, if necessary, when approaching others. For instance, say, “Joe, I keep running into this problem with (fill in the blank). Would you help me think this through to see if there’s another way that works?”
- Pick an appropriate time to vent. This will assist you in scheduling a chunk of private time for this process, instead of springing it on a person. For example, try, “Are you