Opinion Blog

Ask a Psychologist

Helping Students Thrive Now

Angela Duckworth and other behavioral-science experts offer advice to teachers based on scientific research. 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.


School Climate & Safety K-12 Essentials Forum Strengthen Students’ Connections to School
Join this free event to learn how schools are creating the space for students to form strong bonds with each other and trusted adults.
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.
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Creating Confident Readers: Why Differentiated Instruction is Equitable Instruction
Join us as we break down how differentiated instruction can advance your school’s literacy and equity goals.
Content provided by Lexia Learning
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.
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
Future-Proofing Your School's Tech Ecosystem: Strategies for Asset Tracking, Sustainability, and Budget Optimization
Gain actionable insights into effective asset management, budget optimization, and sustainable IT practices.
Content provided by Follett Learning

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 Teachers Want Parents to Step Up to Curb Cellphone Misuse. Are They Ready?
A program from the National PTA aims to partner with schools to give parents resources on teaching their children healthy tech habits.
5 min read
Elementary students standing in line against a brick wall using cellphones and not interacting.
Student Well-Being Schools Feel Less Equipped to Meet Students' Mental Health Needs Than a Few Years Ago
Less than half of public schools report that they can effectively meet students’ mental health needs.
4 min read
Image of a student with their head down on their arms, at a desk.
Olga Beliaeva/iStock/Getty
Student Well-Being Download How to Spot and Combat Student Apathy: A Teacher Resource
A guide to help teachers recognize and address apathy in the classroom.
1 min read
Student reading at a desk with their head on their hand.
Student Well-Being Social Media Bans Alone Won’t Improve Mental Health, Say Student Advocates
Students need safe spaces and supportive leaders to talk openly about mental health in their schools.
4 min read
Image of hands supporting one another. In the background are doodles of pressures, mental health, academics.
Laura Baker/Education Week with iStock/Getty