The Art of Emotional Expression: An Expert's Perspective

As an expert in emotional relief and expression, I have witnessed the power and impact of venting our feelings.

Emotional relief

is a common practice where individuals share their intense emotions with someone else in hopes of finding some relief. This can include feelings of frustration, anger, confusion, or fear, and the goal is often to calm oneself down and receive validation. For many of us, this behavior is learned rather than inherent. Growing up, I prided myself on being logical and rational in tense situations.

I believed that my ability to remain calm was a sign of strength and something to aspire to. However, over time, I realized that suppressing my thoughts and feelings was not always healthy. The pressure to “keep it in” can lead to outbursts of unfiltered opinions, emotionally-charged messages, and even tears. While I always regretted these moments of “venting off,” I also felt a sense of relief after expressing myself. As an adult, I have studied the physiological and psychological benefits of sharing our feelings and emotions.

I have made it a priority to learn and practice the skills necessary for healthy expression, and I have established trusting relationships where I can freely share my thoughts and feelings. And I continue to help others do the same. So imagine my surprise when I came across a headline that claimed venting out isn't actually healthy for us. In fact, research has shown that it can perpetuate negative feelings and even anger. VENTING is often associated with a release from emotional dissatisfaction and a high degree of unidirectional communication. According to an article published in Psychology Today, those who vent are typically more interested in being heard and understood rather than solving a problem or receiving advice.

This sets them apart from those who simply complain. Venting can look and feel different depending on the intensity of the emotion being expressed. If the emotion is less intense, venting may seem like two colleagues sharing stories of frustration in a calm and friendly manner. However, if the emotions are intense or have been “suppressed” for a long time, venting can come across as aggressive and physical. The person may have a raised tone and show signs of physical duress, indicating that they have elicited a stress response and are ready to let it all out. Since venting doesn't always involve someone “losing their cool,” I often wonder if there's anything wrong with an occasional venting session.

Of course, the answer is more nuanced than a simple yes or no. Scientists and professionals have long demonstrated the importance of expressing our thoughts and feelings. The challenge is finding productive ways to communicate them. Doing so in a way that helps us overcome our emotions, move towards clarity, respect the relationship, and honor the context is where the magic happens. While venting may not always be the best tactic for finding that sweet spot, being aware of our patterns and habits surrounding this behavior is a crucial first step in being more intentional in our actions.

Whether we are leaders, managers, individual collaborators, parents, siblings, or friends, we can all benefit from recognizing when we have crossed the line from healthy venting to the danger zone. So where do you stand in this debate?If the person you're venting to rejects your feelings or offers unrelated advice without truly listening to you, they may not be the right person to vent to. An example of healthy relief is calling a friend after a frustrating meeting with your boss to talk about how it went and express your feelings. However, it's important to balance venting with other positive interactions and use active listening to understand the other person's thoughts and feelings.

Asking for consent before venting can also be a considerate gesture. Sometimes, when we vent to others, we may receive more solutions and opinions than we bargained for, which can be overwhelming. Talking about our feelings with a friend or loved one in the form of relief can be healthy as long as they give their consent and we do so in a respectful and non-aggressive manner.