Opinion Blog

Ask a Psychologist

Helping Students Thrive Now

Angela Duckworth and other behavioral-science experts offer advice to teachers based on scientific research. To submit questions, use this form or #helpstudentsthrive. Read more from this blog.

Student Well-Being Opinion

Why Venting When You Have Problems Feels Good—and Why It Doesn’t Work

By Ethan Kross — April 07, 2021 2 min read
Why shouldn't I vent when I'm upset?
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

When I get really upset, what can help me feel better?
Venting is something many people turn to, but it doesn’t solve your problems in the long run. Here’s something I wrote about the topic recently for Character Lab as a Tip of the Week:
Shortly before my wife, Lara, gave birth to our first child, we went through a parental rite of passage: baby boot camp.
For a full day, we sat in an auditorium with other (mostly) excited soon-to-be parents, listening intently to experts teach us how to change diapers, warm bottles, and swaddle babies.
Shortly before the session ended, the speaker turned to the topic of managing our emotions and the chatter in our heads. The first few months of parenthood will have lows, not just highs, the instructor cautioned. One piece of advice she offered for dealing with these difficulties?
Vent. Reach out to your spouse or a friend, she said, and release your feelings.
You’ve probably heard that advice before, too, and even practiced it. If a friend says, “Can I vent for a minute?” your response is likely an emphatic “Of course!” as you let them complain as much as they want.
But research shows that venting doesn’t help you feel better about your problems, and it can even make you feel worse over time. You keep talking about what’s bothering you, fanning the flames of your negative feelings and keeping them alive.
You may think venting works because it makes you feel closer and more connected to the person you’re talking to. That’s one of the reasons why so many people like to vent: It’s nice to know someone cares enough about us to listen and validate how we feel.
When we approach others for help, we need two things from them: support and perspective. Venting provides support but not perspective. The best kinds of conversations do both. They not only let you talk about your inner turmoil—especially in the immediate aftermath of a negative experience, when your emotions are at their peak—but also help you see the “big picture” and identify constructive ways to move forward.
Don’t rely on venting to solve your problems. Bottling up your emotions isn’t helpful, but sharing how you feel is only half the solution.
Do be deliberate about who you approach for support when you’re going through tough times. Whether the issue relates to work or your partner—or for your kids, school or sports or friends—different people may be better advisers than others. And when friends call you to vent, listen and be supportive, then give the outside perspective they need to reframe the experience—which can help them find their way to a resolution.

Related Tags:

The opinions expressed in Ask a Psychologist: Helping Students Thrive Now are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Stronger Together: Integrating Social and Emotional Supports in an Equity-Based MTSS
Decades of research have shown that when schools implement evidence-based social and emotional supports and programming, academic achievement increases. The impact of these supports – particularly for students of color, students from low-income communities, English
Content provided by Illuminate Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Whole Child Approach to Supporting Positive Student Behavior 
To improve student behavior, it’s important to look at the root causes. Social-emotional learning may play a preventative role.

A whole child approach can proactively support positive student behaviors.

Join this webinar to learn how.
Content provided by Panorama
Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Why Retaining Education Leaders of Color Is Key for Student Success
Today, in the United States roughly 53 percent of our public school students are young people of color, while approximately 80 percent of the educators who lead their classrooms, schools, and districts are white. Racial

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being What the Research Says New Research Shows How Bad the Pandemic Has Been for Student Mental Health
Researchers say the road to recovery will be a long one.
4 min read
2016 Opinion ELL 840293800
E+/Getty
Student Well-Being Letter to the Editor Policymakers Must Prioritize SEL
SEL is important both to help students overcome challenges caused by the pandemic and to build resilience in the longterm, says this letter to the editor.
1 min read
Illustration of an open laptop receiving an email.
iStock/Getty
Student Well-Being Opinion Grief Has Engulfed the Learning Environment. Here's What Can Help
Three strategies to bring grief-responsive teaching into your classroom.
Brittany R. Collins
5 min read
Conceptual illustration of a stressed and unhappy person under a storm of negative emotions and viruses
fedrelena/iStock
Student Well-Being How Bad Is Student Absenteeism Right Now? Educators Tell Us
More than 60 percent of educators say that student absenteeism is higher this winter than it was in the fall of 2019.
1 min read
Image of an empty desk.
Laura Baker/Education Week and kazuma seki/Getty