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3 Tips to Protect you from the Office Vent


We have all been there, the day was a challenge and things happened that pushed our buttons. Maybe a coworker was late, again, and you were stuck doing the bulk of the work; you end up unloading on the first person you meet. Maybe, traffic was bad on the very day you wanted to present your idea to the boss and now you are nervous, so you start complaining to your partner about everything that could go wrong. While it seems natural to vent…

Did you know… 

Complaining and listening to negativity can damage the part of your brain called the hippocampus. This is the part of the brain responsible for learning and solving problems. 

Research Confirms What You Feel

What? Research has found that complaining and negativity are like passive smoke; they do as much damage to those exposed to the toxicity as those who are doing the complaining. 

Negativity and complaining represent a victim mindset which is notorious for sucking energy and motivation right out of you and those around you. In a different study, it was discovered that it only took twenty minutes before everyone lost their enthusiasm and the conversation turned negative, even when there was someone inserting positive remarks into the flow of conversation. 

The Case of Self Fulfilling Prophecy

The more you complain and feel like a victim, the more it becomes true because of what happens to your ability to solve problems. In other words, you end up stuck.

This might explain the culture of a toxic work environment where complaining is the norm and nothing ever changes. As performance consultants, we have seen this happen repeatedly. The effort required to mobilize the few people who do want change requires herculean strength and the change is often not sustained. Not only do people lack the energy and motivation, their ability to think about possibilities has been compromised, and the focus is perpetually on what is wrong.

And as an individual, when one complains and vents to let off steam, it may provide momentary relief but how long does that last? And did it change anything?

3 Tips to Defend Yourself from the Office Vent 


#1 Just Say No

When someone comes to you and wants to vent,  you can hold up your hand and let them know you do care about them, and for that reason you want to stop them from abusing themselves. 

You might say something like, “I am so sorry you had such a bad time and I know talking about it helps to let off steam but did you know that complaining actually causes people to get stuck? Let me hear about your solution, or what you will do next time. I would love to hear that!”

#2 No Whining Challenge

If you know someone is a “Negative Nellie,” you can avoid situations where you know you have to interact with them. This is a temporary fix and does not help the complainer. 

Consider this, as the leader of a department you can start a “No Whining, No Complaining Challenge,” for 30 days. This opens up the conversation about how coworkers interact and provides everyone boundaries on what they say. You are indirectly setting new communication standards. 

Follow this with more training on emotional intelligence and active listening and you are on your way to a healthy workplace.

#3 Use Your Imagination

Your mind is incredibly powerful and too often it is engaged in rumination or resistance. Next time you are stuck having to listen to a negative litany of problems and complaints, imagine yourself surrounded by an impenetrable field so that none of the negativity sticks. You can even imagine a mirror so that everything bounces off you and goes back to the other person.

Visualization like this works well when you find yourself in any situation you can change. Instead of resisting what is happening or complaining about it, change it, in your mind. The brain does not know the difference between real or imagined events, it acts the same.

This is an empowering exercise because you will learn you can control your mind and your emotional reaction, even if you cannot control people or what is happening in your environment.

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