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Do you ever stay up late because a friend continually calls you to vent? Do you ever spend valuable time during your work day listening to a colleague who consistently needs to vent?

Do you ever find yourself falling behind in your work, or losing sleep, because of listening to the same folks who continually need to vent? And if so, do you justify or rationalize your loss of time or sleep because, “I’m a friend and I wanted to be there for him.”?

If so, how often does this happen? And, even more, why do you continue to listen to these same venters?

Is it because, you say in response, “Isn’t that what a good friend/colleague does?”

I would ask, “So, how do you feel when you listen to this person, or these same persons, over and over?”

My guess is, “pretty stressed!”

So, then I would ask, “Do you see it helping her by allowing her to vent to you over and over?”

And, you might respond, “Well, he says he feels better after I listen to him.”

The dumpster

Of course they feel better! Why wouldn’t they? They’ve just dumped all their stress onto you. They go to sleep and you’re up with their stress. Or, they’ve gone back to their work and you’re still living in the aftermath of a stress-dump – foggy, overwhelmed, confused, upset – energetically and emotionally drained and exhausted.

BUT, do you see anything actually changing in their life as a result of your allowing them to vent?

In all likelihood, no.

So, I ask, if these same folks wanted to go out with you after work every couple of days and get drunk, or come over to your house a couple of times a week and get drunk at your house, would you allow this?

“No!”, is what I’m thinking you’re thinking.

Feeding the venter’s addiction

There’s no difference. These venters are using venting as an addiction to avoid taking responsibility for their feelings and their state in life. Notice, they are not spending the time with you exploring what their role is in creating their upsets, their pain, their suffering. They’re not learning about what they can do differently so they don’t reach the point of anger and anxiety and then feel free to dump on you. There is no learning or change happening, no forward, positive movement in their life. And, your stress, in response to the venting, is letting you know that listening to this is not good for you either.

What do you feel instinctively?

If you’re not an enabler, if you’re not dependent on dysfunctional relationships, if you’re a normal, healthy human being, then deep down you have got to have some gut awareness that: “I’ve had a feeling that this was not working well for me, but I don’t know what to do. These folks are my good friends and I don’t want to let them down. What can I say to them?”

The solution

Well, how about, “(name of friend and/or colleague), I know that when you vent and I listen to you, you feel better for a while. But I end up feeling worse. I like (love/respect/admire…) you and I want to be here for you, but it seems to me that your venting is not getting you anywhere – that it’s an addiction just like using sugar or alcohol to feel better for the moment but not really dealing with the issue. I’m here for you if you want real help in dealing with the issues, but I don’t want to be at the other end of your venting any more.”

How does this resonate with you? Do you feel you have the intestinal fortitude, the strength and courage (and self-love, and compassion for the other person) to respond in this manner to your friend or colleague? Is this something you’d be willing to say? EVEN IF they might get mad at you?

Yes, they probably will be mad at you. Most people do not like it when someone calls them on their stuff, on their addictions, and refuses to participate in enabling them anymore. So, are you willing to have them mad at you?

Loving yourself and the other

Truth be told, listening to their vents is not loving to yourself, and therefore not loving to them. It is far more loving and supportive to both you and them for you to stop enabling their addiction, even if they don’t think so.

And, suppose they decide they don’t want to remain your friend or close colleague?

Well, what does that tell you? Really, really tell you? What would this tell you about their perspective on friendship, about their care and concern for you as a friend or colleague? Right, a one-way street – in which they are simply using you for their gain and could really care less about true and real friendship.

If your friend or colleague pulls out of the friendship because you don’t want to listen to them vent, then, honestly and truly, they are NOT really a friend, a close colleague. What their reaction says is that they wish to go on continuing to act like a victim, choosing not to take responsibility for their self and would rather continue dumping their feelings onto you.

So, what do you think? Hang on and play the enabler of a co-dependent, unhealthy, enabling relationship, or have real and true friends and colleagues with whom you can learn and grow?

Some questions for self-reflection:

  • Are you someone others continually seek out in order to dump their stuff, to vent? If so, why do you think this is so? Is your relationship with a venter an honest, mutual relationship?
  • Do you enable others to be venters? Do you “get something” from their seeking you out in order to vent? Are you addicted to their venting?
  • Do you encourage and support others to seek solutions and move forward in their lives as opposed to simply allowing them to vent?
  • Does others’ venting cause you stress in some way, shape or form? If so, is this OK? Do you put up with it? If so, why?
  • Are you a venter? What would your close friends and colleagues say?
  • Are you afraid to confront close friends and colleagues about their venting, to tell them you will no longer passively listen to their vents? If so, why? What are you afraid of?
  • If you are a venter, what does venting get you? Really, really get you? Has venting changed your life for the better in the long run?
  • Are you more comfortable venting than you are seeking real solutions to your challenges?
  • What was your experience with others’ venting as you were growing up?


(c) 2014, Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. and True North Partnering. All rights in all media reserved.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this reading with you and I hope you find it insightful and useful.
Perhaps you’ll share this with others, post it on a bulletin board, and use it to generate rich and rewarding discussion.

What is the one thing that is keeping you from feeling successful, happy, confident, in control or at peace as you live your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship? Maybe you know what that “thing” is – maybe you don’t. You just have a feeling that something has to change, whether or not you embrace that change. And how would that change support you to show up as a “better you?”

I’m available to guide you to create relationships that reflect honesty, integrity, authenticity, trust, and respect whether at work or outside of work. I support you to focus on the interpersonal skills that enable you to relate to others with a high level of personal and professional satisfaction – unhampered by personal inconsistencies, beliefs, “stories,” and behaviors that create barriers to a harmonious, pleasant, conscious, compatible, healthy and productive relationship.

I coach by phone, Skype and in person. For more information, 770-804-9125, or pvajda(at)
You can also follow me on Twitter: @petergvajda.