Ah “to vent or not to vent?” – we get asked this question a lot at Next Evolution Performance. So here’s some neuroscience to help answer the question, as well as some practical tips to avoid too much carnage for you or those around you…
Short answer – yes – venting is great to help you get over an issue and then move on with finding a solution. You know when something happens and you are trying not to get angry, so you say it’s fine, but it’s really not. Like when you get that email that makes you want to scream, “Just do your job!”.
Neuroscience suggests that if we try to suppress our emotions in these instances, we drain a bucket load of cognitive energy in the process. And that precious cognitive energy could, of course, be put to way better use, like actually finding a solution to the suboptimal issue which has caused the annoyance in the first place.
Not only does suppression take a massive amount of cognitive energy, it is impossible to keep suppressing for an extended period, which means your true emotions will come out. And if they have been suppressed they will come out way worse than if you had have dealt with them sooner. In addition, they will probably also come out at a less than opportune time. Therefore the carnage to you and those around you could be a little ugly!
So in short – it’s better than you control the vent than the vent control you – the latter will never end well. Pretty sure we can all speak from personal experience on that one.
So here are a few tips to vent in a way that will hopefully save the collateral damage:
- Recognise that you are not fine with whatever just happened. Don’t judge yourself for it. Show yourself some compassion.
- If you’re at work, pop yourself in a meeting room, or even grab someone else that you feel you can confide in and get them to just listen.
- Don’t dwell there – once you’ve vented, take some deep diaphragmatic breaths (definitely not chest breaths, they will do the opposite of calm you down). So about 6-7 breaths – around 45-90 seconds in total and you should have control back of your pre-frontal cortex and now it’s time to get constructive, dust yourself off and work through to a solution or at least find a workaround.
- Never direct your venting in a personal way. By all means once you’ve vented sit down and have a very rational conversation about what could have been done differently, but directing your venting to make it about the person and not the situation isn’t usually overly constructive.
So go forth and vent where required but keep the above tips in mind and you will save your cognitive energy, as well as the cognitive energy of those around you.
If you would like to know more about how to conserve your cognitive energy, why not come and play at next open workshop series, or check out our self- study online course on The Neuroscience of Getting More Done.