Is venting good for you?

Posted on January 18, 2021

 

Venting, good for the soul? A nice way to release anger and frustration? The satisfaction in the moment; getting what is in your head out into the world and letting someone else have a share in your feelings sounds good doesn’t it? But is it actually good for your long term wellbeing or is this a negative selfcare tool?

There was a point in my career when I would have been very much on the side of venting as a good thing. The job would be weighing heavily on me and something would just be tipping me over the edge. I’ be on a call to my dad and after the general niceties he’d ask me an innocuous question; ‘how’s work this week?’ Or maybe a not so innocuous one; ‘did you see X in the newspaper?’ and away I’d go. He would listen, empathise, sympathise and quite often get angry and frustrated on my behalf. Sometimes he would make me more frustrated as I had to explain something to him as an segue as he isn’t ‘in the field of education’. I’d then run out of steam and talk to my mum about something totally innocuous (a bird in the garden or something the neighbour had done) and I would laugh and move on. And I would be feeling better(?)

Sometimes it would be a teacher friend I would be venting to (and it might become a joint vent on the same subject, both adding the fuel to a raging burn) and then we’d realise we were on the tram, or in the pub and maybe this wasn’t a ‘safe space’ to be having this vent. Or it would be a teacher friend at a different establishment where we would end up almost in competition over who had it worse. Urgh.

Later it also became my super other half (not in the education sector at all) and he would get it full barrels at times, and just look at me with sympathy then go and get us both a beer and try and help me make sense of what I had just said. I am not sure he signed up to that at all when we moved in together!

I then started being coached and coaching ‘properly’. I think I came to it ‘late’ and we had been doing a kind of ad hoc muddle of coaching over the years from reading about it and the odd seminar. But, for me, finally attending some meaningful training (Thank you Paul Simmons at Independent Coaching and Oldham LA who provided this free to new heads) really made me realise how dangerous venting is:

  1. Was I venting in a safe space?
  2. was the person on the receiving end able to deal with the venting in a good way and were they emotionally equipped to deal with it?
  3. (Crucially) was it actually making me feel better longer term?

At this point I also went back to a very good friend who is an outstanding play therapist. She worked in my school leading filial play therapy and, (as she now lives in Australia) I sent her a message along the lines of ‘Remember when you were muttering about me needing Supervision and you were trying to get me to sit down and talk and I didn’t really get it? Well I do now!’ But still, supervision isn’t on the general radar of education folk. Coaching definitely is, and coaching will definitely reduce the need for the venting. So, why is supervision better (and safer) than venting?

  1. There is a safe space created where there is just you and the supervisor.
  2. The supervisor has no emotional attachment to the situation (especially when they are external to your organisation) or, if they are a line manager who has received supervision training, they know how to deal with their own emotional attachment to it.
  3. The supervisor will be equipped and ready to deal with, and address the need of, the supervisee. It is a planned and structured event.
  4. If the supervisor believes that medical intervention or specialist therapy is needed then they will advise the supervisee to seek this out (and if necessary stop the session so that this can occur).
  5. The issue/case/situation that is being discussed will be examined, addressed, thought about and some steps to move it on will be decided by the supervisee.
  6. If the supervisee is bringing the same issue/case/situation to sessions, then the underlying issue regarding this will be addressed.
  7. Supervision will have a long-term positive effect on your wellbeing and job satisfaction

Is venting good for your soul? When it comes to work I would argue no, not in the long term, and it can be dangerous in the short term depending what space it is done in and who with. Supervision and coaching are far better tools to have (and, I believe, they should be part and parcel of your wellbeing offer at work). However, don’t get me started on the current preferred playing style (that means they win) of the England rugby team…

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