February 9, 2012 – While reading an article today on breaking impasses in mediation, the question was raised whether or not venting helps people get past their emotions in order to reach an agreement. Although the author of the article suggests that venting is detrimental, it is an interesting question nonetheless. The crux of the issue is whether venting really clears the air to enable true communication, or whether venting exacerbates the emotional mindset thereby blocking communication. For without true communication, no agreements can be reached.
We’ve all encountered venting. The wife at a mediation session, after venting about how her husband never listens to her, concluding that if he only would listen to her they wouldn’t be getting divorced. The teenager venting about how her life is so awful because her parents did this or that, when in reality she is upset from a fight with a friend. You find yourself venting to your (spouse/child/employee/friend) and as your vent escalates, you begin heaping additional criticisms from past events and past conducts of that person.
The power of venting is all encompassing. In minds stuck in negativity, venting stymies all communication and progress because, by airing the grievance, venting keeps the emotional level high and fans the flames of the controversy while maintaining the distance between the two people. In more positively oriented minds, venting allows the dispute to be diffused by letting the air out of the sails of the controversy. The venting allows the person a platform to be heard. Having been heard, the person venting may enter a state of calmness. Then, and only then, is the situation ripe for a resolution.
Of course, both people need to be of a similar, positive mindset for progress to ensue. The ventor needs the platform to be heard and the ventee needs to actually listen and hear. Too often the ventee shuts down, at times accompanied by a rolling of the eyes, and ceases to listen. And when the ventor notices the ventee’s reaction – and I guarantee the ventor will notice – the venting gets notched up to the proverbial 11.
We are dealing with communication and as such both parties to the conversation must employ the appropriate mindsets to achieve a mutually beneficial, win-win, resolution.
(For simplicity’s sake, I’ve used an example of a two sided conversation. Remember, the same rules apply to our internal conversations. So when we feel the need to vent about some aspect of our lives we should strive to learn effective tools to enable the vent to be of actual assistance in our achieving our goals.)
However the issue is formulated, someone in the throes of an intense emotional state of mind is incapable of fully hearing the other person or of thinking clearly enough to navigate the intricacies of true communication. Incapable that is until the person effects a shift in mindset. The shift called for is threefold: calmness; awareness; and mindfulness. Calmness helps keep you focused even as you remain aware of your emotions or if your conversation partner gets heated and emotional. Awareness allows you to accurately gauge your staying true to your goals and values. Mindfulness allows you to keep tabs on the conversation’s staying on course and not getting sidetracked to irrelevant or ancillary issues.
Achieving the mindsets of calmness, awareness, and mindfulness takes time, practice, and patience. Old habits are being replaced by new, more productive habits. And as we discussed in previous blogs, developing new habits takes time and effort. It is easier said than done. Yet it is attainable.
Valentine’s Day is next week. Give your loved ones a true gift of love and work towards a mindset shift which will transform venting into a tool for effective communication. The key to effective communication is staying focused on achieving the goal of the conversation. Calmness, awareness, and mindfulness are the tools which will help you stay the course and, like the Dude, abide.
Consider the Possibilities.
Adam J. Krim www.driveconsulting.net