How to listen when someone is venting

At altruWisdom, we promote having the tough conversations with your family and making sure feelings are spoken instead of buried. This practice can lead to a lot of venting. Check out how we recommend you help your venting teammates move forward.

In your pursuit of financial freedom, you will likely experience frustrations and exasperation. To be truly successful in life and reach your financial goals, you will need to have difficult conversations with your loved ones. These conversations can be intimidating, because they can involve a lot of venting, and many are unsure how to behave and react to it. Luckily, we have found an article explaining the best techniques to help those that vent to release their negative energy and focus on a solution.

The article explains that there are two common reactions from the listener:

Option 1 - jump in and give advice -- but this is not the same as listening, and the person doing the venting may respond with "Just listen to me! Don't tell me what to do."

Option 2 (usually attempted after Option 1) - swing to the other extreme, and sit there silently. But this doesn't actively help the person doing the venting to drain their negative emotions. Consequently, it is about as rewarding as venting to your dog."

Instead of using the 2 options, try something different:

  1. Ask the venter what they are most frustrated about. This question does not sound condescending, removes all judgement and allows the person to vent without any fear. After the initial wave of venting has passed, pick out the words that were said with the most exposed emotion. Then ask the venter to speak more about those words/issues.

  2. Ask the venter what they are most angry about. This opens up the floodgates for the second wave of venting. It is necessary for you to listen without interruption. Once again, once they are done, ask them to address the most emotion-filled words further. If you have a hard time listening to negativity without starting to feel emotional yourself, we have a trick you could try. Stare into the venters left eye the entire time they vent, imagining it to be an eye of a hurricane. This will allow the "wall of the hurricane" - the negativity, pass over you, without affecting you directly.

  3. Ask the venter what they are really worried about. Having listened to the first 2 waves of venting, you have earned the venter's trust and can now be rewarded by listening to the root of the problem. Following the final wave of venting, you can turn the venter's mind towards the solution, by noting that you understand why they are frustrated, angry and worried. You may mention that unfortunately, time cannot be turned back and that there is no way to change the situation, but a solution can be found. Offer your help in finding the solution, as you are now fully equipped with the knowledge of the real problem.

Employ these techniques when dealing with a venting friend or a family member. This will establish your empathetic status, and your loved ones will rely on you and your advice in the future.

Having the support, trust and empathy of your loved ones will assist you in reaching all goals you have set out for yourself in your personal and financial life. Check out Building Your Leadership Skills Checklist to learn how you can apply your newfound listening skills in building a better future for yourself.