Complaining vs. Venting: Which Way Do You Lean?


in Health, Parenting, Relationships

Complaints Department

9 Strategies to Conquer Complaining

The dictionary defines the word complaining as to say or write that you are unhappy, sick or uncomfortable or that you do not like something; to express grief, pain or discontent. The example from the dictionary is, “If you are unhappy with the service you should complain to the manager.”

The dictionary defines the word venting as a way of expressing an emotion usually in a loud or angry manner. The example from the dictionary is, “She vented her frustrations by kicking the car.”

“Complaining to others is another matter altogether. It opens the door to deadly sins such as self-pity and rage.” – Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

The question is which way do you lean? Do you tend to complain or vent? Which feels better?

In his book The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, Eckhart Tolle talks about the effects of complaining.

“See if you can catch yourself complaining, in either speech or thought, about a situation you find yourself in, what other people do or say, your surroundings, your life situation, even the weather. To complain is always non-acceptance of what is. It invariably carries an unconscious negative charge. When you complain, you make yourself into a victim. When you speak out, you are in your power. So change the situation by taking action or by speaking out if necessary or possible; leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness.”

To Mr. Tolle’s last point where he says to speak out if necessary or possible I think of this action step as venting. In venting we tend to release emotional pent up energy surrounding the circumstance that caused such out of control feelings. Once the energy is released and we are calmer we can use a more clear way of thinking through the situation and make better decisions.

Complaining has a weighted, heavy feeling of negativity and adds nothing to the circumstance by way of a solution. Complaining just feels yucky. Complaining is also contagious. Think of someone you know who tends to complain about things but never takes any action toward a solution. If you are around that person long enough you will tend to pick up on the habit to complain.

I was visiting my mom recently and while we sat at the kitchen table talking and catching up I heard myself and the way in which my voice sounded and how I was retelling a story about my life experiences. It seemed to come really easy for me to sound like I was complaining about all the things in my life that I had labeled as “unfair”. Maybe it was just that mom has sworn to love me no matter what so I let it all out. My words sounded awful, like my life is so burdened and full of hardship and yeah right now things are not going the way I would like them to go and yeah at times I do feel like life is unfair but I hated the way I was sounding and speaking and realized that I needed to think of solutions but instead I just unloaded and complained.

I caught myself at one point and started to rephrase my answers while I was talking and when I heard those words back I realized that I did have solutions and I didn’t feel so heavy and negative in my chest. I felt a bit proud that I had come up with some solutions and for that brief moment I felt validated and empowered. I wasn’t just sitting with a problem and doing nothing about it, I was allowing myself time and giving myself permission to work through a problem at my own pace. Switching my mindset from that negative place to a mindset of just letting it all out and then getting into solution mind really made the difference. Venting seems to be so much more satisfying.

“What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”
― Maya Angelou, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now

So how do we go about changing our perspective and mindset enough to either complain effectively or just turn the complaint into an emotional discharge like venting and then move through the problem?

Here are a few tips that might help:

Define your feeling: Are you feeling jealous, heartless, unfairness, general unhappiness? When you can define and pinpoint where the complaining is being generated from you can begin to break it down in your mind as to how to go about changing your perspective.

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
― Aristotle

Surround and surrender: Whenever possible avoid the negative people in your life. I know, that is easier said than done but if you say no to those people before the complaining gets out of hand or can distract yourself away from the negative atmosphere you will feel so much better quickly. Surround yourself with people that do not use complaining as a way of dealing with problems. I used to work with a woman who would always complain. Her days were filled with people she held judgment against and didn’t like, foods she didn’t like, work circumstances she didn’t like. It took all my emotional and mental strength to block her negativity and not let it affect me. I surrendered to who she was and to my authentic need to distance myself from that person by reminding myself that I have 2 choices; I can either join in or opt out. I opted out and it felt like the sun came out from behind a very massive, gray, heavy cloud.

“Always work with/surround yourself with people who help make you a better version of you. Kindly avoid those who don’t.”
― Don Roff

Practice Gratitude: I have said this so many times but when the truth is the truth it can’t be ignored or said enough. For every complaint you feel yourself making promise yourself that you will also balance the complaint with something you are grateful for. Notice the difference in your emotional energy. Which way gives you a deeper sense of calm? Always try to ask yourself in those hard to handle moments, “What went right today?”

“Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.”
― Alphonse Karr, A Tour Round My Garden

Let It Go: I’ve recently come to realize that from the moment we are born we are cosmically being taught to let things go. What we hold tight to is usually not going to help us through anything. When you notice that you can’t solve the problem, let it go and find where you can be productive and solution focused. My solution through tough spots is to clean the house. It clears my head, it is physical energy being released and the end result is satisfaction because now I have a clean house and feel less likely to continue to complain. My mom used to count to 10. Whatever works for you find it but let go of what you can’t affect positively.

“The day I understood everything, was the day I stopped trying to figure everything out. The day I knew peace was the day I let everything go.”
― C. JoyBell C.

Take Action: Along the lines of counting to 10 or cleaning something, absolutely try all you can to solve the problem that you feel you are complaining about. Don’t let it sit there without trying to fix it. There are only 2 outcomes, you can either find a solution or you can’t so move on to the next thing. Empower your action steps toward a positive outcome. Staying in the status quo and making no decisions is a decision in itself.

“In the end, people should be judged by their actions, since in the end, it was actions that defined everyone.”
― Nicholas Sparks

Connect Spiritually: If you are like me then you are learning or experiencing the power of prayer. It’s more than giving your problems to a higher power. It is the act of letting go and releasing the emotion built up inside. By talking to a person or power you can’t see you reinforce trust and faith and a knowing deep inside of you that you can’t go this alone and in most cases you don’t want to go this alone. Faith does not allow for doubt. It accepts you for who you are where you are and allows humility to bring you down to earth.

“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

Lend a hand: I can’t emphasize this enough. Volunteer. Everyone on the planet is going through something. Help a brother out.

“The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the greatest intention.”
― Khalil Gibran, The Essential Kahlil Gibran

Don’t complain, vent: If the problem is unsolvable then just vent your frustrations. If the problem can, in time, be solved then get to work and find the solution sooner rather than later. Don’t waste your life minutes stuck in a nowhere place of complaint. Allow yourself to feel the frustrations and disappointment but then get up, get living, and get into solution mind.

“There was something peculiarly gratifying about shouting in a blind rage until your words ran out.” –Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Angel

Save your skin: Complaining causes wrinkles because it is by nature negative. It takes so many harsh, angry frown lines to really get the most effect out of complaining. Save your own skin by letting up on contorting your face into those ugly, unpleasant and permanent facial lines. Go for the laugh lines instead.

“It depends on you whether you want wrinkles or dimples on your face.”
― Raaz Ojha

Call to Action

The next time you feel a complaint coming on stop, right where you are, even if it is mid-sentence and really think about how you look to the person you are complaining to. Think about whether this is the impression, reputation, feeling you want to leave that person with when you walk away. Practice being your higher self whenever possible.

If you would like to explore more about personal growth, building and strengthening your success characteristics, or discovering what more you have inside of you please call for a free discovery session in my Art of YOU coaching program. Not ready yet? Please visit my website at You can reach me by calling 203-560-3061 or send an email to:

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