We’ve all been there. We meet up with our friend and they had a “crazy” day. They give us the blow-by-blow update—more like, “dumpdate”. It’s clear they are hogging the mic and there’s nothing you can say or do about it. They hash it out, air it out—they “vent.” As if we hadn’t had enough, to them our undivided attention quietly chants, “More! More!” So off they go—just one more time. And when they are all done talking, they leave, and conversation is over. We are left stunned and feeling run over, wondering, “what the heck happened?”
It’s almost comical isn’t it?! We’ve all been that friend too—hyped-up on the stuff of life, talking about every detail going on in our world, not caring what’s going on with the other person just fixated on what we have to say—venting.
And then there’s the double “dumpdate”—venting on full blast where each person takes their turn off-loading their gripes, troubles, and offenses. We both walk away feeling cheered on to keep thinking and doing the same things. Often these “venting sessions” encourage the harboring of trivial judgments. It goes something like this:
“I mean, who does that?! Can you believe it?”
Yeah! How dare they! The same thing happened…
“They talk to me at church but not anywhere else. I’m not going to be the one to initiate anything!”
Yeah! They should be initiating with you! I never…
“I shouldn’t have to tell them, it was so obvious that what they said hurt me!”
You are so right! The other day I…
These kinds of interactions keep us stagnated, circling around negativity, and dis-empowered to be all of who we were made to be.
What if we did it differently? What if instead of venting, we decided to get to the heart of what’s really going on with each other? We could have meaningful conversations where we inspire each other to live courageously, honestly, and lovingly.
Exciting and scary huh?
We all have those post-conversation thoughts about what we should have said instead. We think someone is doing or saying something “off” but we don’t say anything. We just let the conversation take its course, take our turn, and move on just to repeat it with someone else.
We drift farther and farther apart from our friends and family when we choose to vent instead of connecting in meaningful ways.
Perhaps there’s something even deeper going on. Perhaps we are so afraid to be vulnerable, seen, known, have a voice—that we use venting as a way to keep people from getting to know who we really are.
It’s safer to gossip.
It’s safer to repeat stories.
It’s safer to talk about nothing.
It’s safer to keep the conversation shallow.
We talk about things and about people instead of talking with each other.
Venting keeps things impersonal. When we long for personal, intimate—heart closeness.
The truth is that it can be better!
The time we invest in each other has the potential to make our lives better, richer, more joyful…We just need to make the decision to take a risk and try something new: to be honest, speak up, or presenting another view.
It sure beats feeling stifled, frustrated…and even falling into the trap of just pretending to be friends with someone.
Here are some ideas for how to make a conversation more meaningful. Why not give it a go?!
- When you meet together ask a different question. You could try, “What’s inspiring you these days?” “What was a proud moment you had as a parent recently?” “How are you experiencing God?” “What’s helping you through this tough time?”
- Pause before you jump in with a response. Give yourself a moment to consider what you are really thinking and say that thing.
- Bravely start the conversation by saying something like, “I really like you and I’d like to get to know you better. I’m trying some new things and it might be clumsy for me. Is this ok with you?”
What do you think would happen in your relationships if you connected more and vented less?