It may feel momentarily satisfying to complain, vent and kvetch, but research shows these behaviors don't actually help.
According to a Stanford University study, 30 minutes of complaining physically damages the hippocampus -- the part of your brain critical to learning, memory, and problem solving -- by peeling back layers of neurons. Unfortunately, that happens whether you're on the giving or receiving end of the venting. Offering a friend a shoulder to cry on may well bring you down rather than cheer your friend up. Even if you set aside the long-term physiological impact, complaining won't even make you feel better in the moment. A study published in the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology found that complaining actually makes you feel worse, both in the moment and for days after. That's because negative emotions are more contagious than positive ones.
Moreover, co-ruminating with a friend or colleague won't blow off steam, but rather cement the incident in their mind. But how can you avoid co-ruminating with a friend or colleague? Shift into problem-solving mode! Listen carefully, understand what happened and ask, “What can be done about it?” That's the kind of proactive conversation that will be truly helpful.
Has someone vented to you lately and did you proactively handle the situation? To join the conversation, click "comments" above.
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