• Nancy Mendelson

To Vent or Complain? That is the Question

Happy New Year! How’s it going so far? For me, it’s been a mixed bag, but I can’t complain. Well, I could but over time, complaining lost its luster: I didn’t like the way it felt when I did it… small, petty, helpless, victimized. Although maybe I was doing it wrong, because isn’t it the squeaky wheel that gets the grease?

Conversely, I didn’t like the way I felt when someone complained to me…I saw them in the same light as I saw myself. Psychologist Guy Winch says, “we are afraid to voice complaints, and for good reason: It often doesn’t go well.” Because of how people typically present complaints, Winch says, they put their loved ones, friends, and co-workers on the defensive—and as a result, they often don’t get what they want. Winch has a better way and shares it in a piece in Atlantic.


Somewhere along my life’s trajectory, venting––and the occasional rant––became my preferred method for expressing frustration. It wasn’t a conscious decision, rather more of an evolution, and infinitely more satisfying because once I vented, it was out, over and I could move on.

Once I vented, it was out, over and I could move on.

I also found myself encouraging others to vent, especially over the past few covid-colored years, where frustration and confusion are the order of the day. Turns out there are right and wrong ways to vent, too!


“We all need a good vent every now and then,” writes Robyn McLeod for the Chatsworth Consulting Group. “Creating space for your team members to vent and helping them to manage the need to vent so that they don’t get stuck in negativity is important. And recognizing when there is a call for help in the form of complaint allows you to get to the heart of the issue and reach a solution together. When handled correctly, venting can be a healthy and productive part of creating an effective team environment."

In the Times of India, Dr. Rajendra Singh Kunwar, psychologist and mental health researcher, offers up the concept of a Vent Buddy. “A vent buddy is a friend who you can share anything with, vent at, or complain about, without fearing judgment. They are your safety net.” Dr. Kunwar says that everyone needs a vent buddy, especially in the pandemic. “You release your pent-up frustration and anger and feel calmer when you share. This, in turn, helps improve your emotional well-being,” he says.


I’ll leave you with the words of former First Lady, Michelle Obama, who knows a thing or two about the value of a good vent: “When I'm unhappy with something, people know, because I don't want to hold on to it. I'd rather deal immediately with the stuff that bothers me, so using my network - my girlfriends, my husband, my mom - I talk a lot, I vent.”