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Switch from Venting to Problem Solving

A long time ago, I worked at a law firm as a technology trainer and I shared an office with the lovely gentleman who answered the Help Desk phone line. (No, he didn't just tell people to try turning it off and on again.) We were both in service roles and also happened to be two friendly people, so our coworkers often came to us when they had problems.

They had a lot of problems.

And after a while, it started to feel like our office was where you went when you wanted someone to listen to you vent. For hours.

It got so bad that we started to vent to each other about how much people were venting about other people to us. And nothing was changing, nothing was getting better. We were all stuck in venting.

So we made a rule: People could come and visit us as often as they wanted about anything they needed, but after five minutes of venting, they needed to shift to problem solving or they had to leave our office.

It felt so much better to have people leave feeling like they were in control of the situation and making progress instead of sitting in the green cloud of funk their venting left behind in our office.

An article I read recently from Greater Good Magazine talks about venting successfully, and suggests four tips for venting more skillfully:

- Be selective about when you vent

- When you vent to others, prompt them to offer perspective

- Consider to whom you vent

- Be careful around online venting

It can be difficult when you're the one venting to know when to stop and make the shift, but a useful key is to clarify up front to the person who's listening how long you want to vent and what you expect them to do as they listen. That will keep you present to your venting instead of letting you get lost in it.

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