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Venting: Taking out Your Energetic Trash

I was talking with a friend recently about a strange situation at work. Someone that many of us interacted with was displaying heightened levels of stress and emotional responses that were out of proportion with the circumstances. The responses and behaviors of this individual could have been considered venting; however, the audience and venue chosen […]

I was talking with a friend recently about a strange situation at work.

Someone that many of us interacted with was displaying heightened levels of stress and emotional responses that were out of proportion with the circumstances. The responses and behaviors of this individual could have been considered venting; however, the audience and venue chosen weren’t appropriate. It got me thinking about five tips that I use to take out my energetic trash.

What is Energetic Trash?

We all have days when we are a little bit off from our normal. For some, it could be feeling a little wacky or fun-loving goofy and for others, it may be feeling a little unsettled or stressed out. But really, when we get to what I'd describe as having energetic trash, it's where something is getting under our skin and causing us to do or say things that are not aligned with our core values. This energetic trash makes us act in ways that are not aligned with who we want to be and how we want to show up in the world. And this can be aggravated or caused by stress.

Five Tips to Taking Out Energetic Trash

We all get some emotional, energetic clutter. Sometimes it can be caused by something as mundane as another driver cutting you off, or someone being rude. At other times, a situation at home or at work can cause emotional distress and turmoil. But in the same way that you take out the smelly garbage at home, you’ve got to deal with the energetic trash too.

Here are five tips to taking out energetic trash:

  1. Take out your energetic trash by venting.
  2. Handpick your venting buddy.
  3. Take a break.
  4. Resist the urge to vent in social media or in writing.
  5. If you need to write it down, send it to yourself.

So let’s break these down.

I was talking with a friend recently about a strange situation at work.

Someone that many of us interacted with was displaying heightened levels of stress and emotional responses that were out of proportion with the circumstances. The responses and behaviors of this individual could have been considered venting; however, the audience and venue chosen weren’t appropriate. It got me thinking about five tips that I use to take out my energetic trash.

What is Energetic Trash?

We all have days when we are a little bit off from our normal. For some, it could be feeling a little wacky or fun-loving goofy and for others, it may be feeling a little unsettled or stressed out. But really, when we get to what I'd describe as having energetic trash, it's where something is getting under our skin and causing us to do or say things that are not aligned with our core values. This energetic trash makes us act in ways that are not aligned with who we want to be and how we want to show up in the world. And this can be aggravated or caused by stress.

Five Tips to Taking Out Energetic Trash

We all get some emotional, energetic clutter. Sometimes it can be caused by something as mundane as another driver cutting you off, or someone being rude. At other times, a situation at home or at work can cause emotional distress and turmoil. But in the same way that you take out the smelly garbage at home, you’ve got to deal with the energetic trash too.

Here are five tips to taking out energetic trash:

  1. Take out your energetic trash by venting.
  2. Handpick your venting buddy.
  3. Take a break.
  4. Resist the urge to vent in social media or in writing.
  5. If you need to write it down, send it to yourself.

So let’s break these down.

1. Venting: A Great Way to Take Out Energetic Trash on a Regular Basis

We all find ourselves in stressful situations where we need to get our frustrations out. And each of us needs a phone-a-friend to vent to.

I’ve got a lead on one of my projects who vents to me on a regular basis. Venting doesn’t mean I need to take action on what someone is telling me. It’s a safe, confidential space to get stuff out of your system. In this case, I check-in regularly with this individual so that they have the opportunity to get stuff off their chest. I also actively validate whether or not I need to take action on what's being shared (because I am in a management position after all). Because not everything being shared is necessarily just venting; I need to be sure I'm taking action on things that are beyond venting.

I’ve had a couple of situations on my project where I’ve been super frustrated and been fortunate to have a colleague I’m working with that I could call and vent to and she’d listen and offer advice if I wanted it. When I'm venting I always tell the person I'm talking with that I'm venting so that they know there is no action required on their part, I'm just getting it out of my system.

When Venting Goes Beyond Venting

In my definition, venting is venting when you can contain it to just one person. If I find myself needing to talk about it with more than one person, I’m no longer venting.

Sometimes this happens if I have a problem that is too complex to solve with one conversation - a problem that is not just emotional but also tactical and strategic.

If the problem is a straight up emotional reaction to a situation and I’m frustrated and annoyed with the way the situation went, I usually just need to say that to someone, and I already know what actions I need to take.

When the problem has more aspects to it, I might need to talk it through with more people. The discussion needs to move past the emotional, or perhaps not even be about the emotions, and move straight to actions.

And this is when I take stock and think about who I should (and should not) be talking with, and what actions I need to take.

2. Handpick Your Venting Buddy

When emotions are running high, it can be difficult to refrain from telling everyone you see about what’s going on.

This is the moment where you must apply your discretion.

Let me repeat – you must apply discretion.

You must HANDPICK your venting buddy.

Your venting buddy should be appropriate for the information that you need to get off your chest. It could be a peer, a supervisor, a friend, a spouse. But choose wisely. You should only have one venting buddy for the issue.

I handpick a different venting buddy for different things. For an issue at work, I might pick a colleague – could be on my current project, or could be someone else that is not related to the project. Personal issues, you’d probably choose a friend or spouse to vent to.

But one of the rules of venting is you can only vent to one person about the issue. If you find yourself venting to more than one person, then you’re not venting. You either need to go and tackle the issue with the people causing the problem – you need to go and resolve the issue. Or, you may not be venting – you may be trying to figure out how to tackle the issue, how to solve the problem, by discussing it with more than one person.

There’s an important distinction between problem solving and venting. Only you know your true intent.

So handpick your venting buddy wisely. They need to be a safe, confidential space to share. They need to be what you need from the process: could be an empathetic ear, could be someone in your corner no matter what, could be to listen and help you problem solve. Whatever the outcome, make it a conscious choice: handpick your venting buddy wisely.

3. Taking a Break (If You Can)

If a work situation gets me really fired up, I create checkpoints with myself to see if I’ve calmed down about it yet. If I have not, I know I’m not ready to have a civilized, constructive conversation about it. And usually, at work, you have the luxury of taking a break from the situation and waiting for the emotional reaction to die down.

Sometimes, however, even at work, you don’t have the ability to take a break. Once, I felt like I was not treated respectfully in a meeting in front of colleagues by my boss. I decided I had to have a conversation about it the very next day.

I felt like I needed to provide the feedback promptly and constructively because I was not (and continue not to be) willing to be treated this way. In this case the timeliness was more important than being in a place where the emotion had abated.

The conversation wasn’t pretty. It was raw. And it might have made my boss uncomfortable because I was upset when I was talking with him on the phone. But I did it anyway.

And you know what?

He apologized. In writing. To everyone who was in the meeting. It took him a few hours to do so after our conversation. But he did it. And it was meaningful.

In personal relationships, it can be harder to take a break. The issues are right in front of you every time you interact with your partner or family members. And the relationships are fundamentally emotional. But the expectation at home is that your family and friends will handle your emotions. So it is a different expectation and environment than a work environment.

But in personal relationships, emotional conversation still needs to be kind. They still needs to be considerate of other people's feelings. Sometimes the emotional conversation needs to be reined in so at times there may still need to be checkpoints to provide yourself with the space to calm down and get your emotions in check. But there may be more opportunities to deal with things sooner since emotions are more acceptable in personal situations.

4.     Resist the urge to vent in social media or in writing

So you vent. And when you do be sure to vent in person or on the phone.

You might be tempted to vent in an email or series of text messages to a trusted friend. But in this day and age, that is risky business. And you should certainly NEVER vent in social media or a public forum in writing.

I’m a big believer in being extra careful about what goes down in writing.

When you say things to someone in person or on the phone, your intent and emotions can be interpreted by your body language and tone of voice. If they are unclear, there is an immediate opportunity to clarify what you mean during the conversation.
When you write something down, there are so many ways it can be interpreted.

In fact, here's a whole article on how intonation changes meaning. In this example, the author uses the phrase "He isn't flying to Paris tomorrow" to illustrate how emphasis changes meaning.

The challenge of this is that the reader is the person who interprets how anything you write will be read. Where the intonation will be applied. And it can very much change the meaning from what you intended it to be when you wrote it.

When it comes to the written word, be sure that your intention is clear and that you want what you’re saying to be permanent.

5. If you need to write it down, send it to yourself.

In the digital age, the permanence of writing is a new dynamic that I didn’t have to deal with as I was growing up.  So it takes some careful thought and consideration to learn to deal with now.

There have been all kinds of examples of celebrities and athletes, people who we may consider live in the public eye, who’s social media tweets have come back to haunt them.

There’s a permanence to printing your thoughts and comments that didn’t used to exist before. And comments made in jest, sarcasm, emotional moments can have severe repercussions. It’s a reality of the world we live in today.

So when you're feeling strongly about something, resist the urge to send the email, or the text message, or comment on a post, or reply to a tweet. Know that your public presence is permanent.

When in doubt, don’t write.

If you need to write it down, send it to yourself.

When I’m feeling strongly about something and I have the urge to send an email, I will write an email and leave the To line blank. I write a whole response to the situation and I get it all out.

And then, I send it to MYSELF.

I sit on it until I don’t have any more emotion about the incident or topic. This can sometimes take a long time. And I usually find I can just delete the email.

Or, sometimes, I grab a page in a journal and just start writing. I enjoy the process of putting pen to paper - of just letting the words and emotions flow out. It helps me to feel like I've purged the issue. And one nice thing about writing it down in a journal is you can either leave it there and read it later. Or you can rip the pages out and burn them - this is also so cathartic.

Constructive Ways to Take Out the Energetic Trash

It's important to take out your energetic trash but here are five key tips to do this in a way that will keep your personal and professional relationships intact and healthy:

  1. Take out your energetic trash on a regular basis.
  2. Handpick your venting buddy.
  3. Take a break.
  4. Resist the urge to vent in social media or in writing.
  5. If you need to write it down, send it to yourself.

You'll be glad you did.

Do you have any tips or tricks for managing your energetic trash? This post was originally published at www.possibilify.com. Please comment here.  We’d love to hear from you.

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