February 26, 2017 – To Each His Own

“Another has done me wrong? Let him see to it. He has his own tendencies, and his own affairs. What I have now is what common nature has willed, and what I endeavor to accomplish now is what my nature wills.” –  Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5.25

Venting. Oh, the beauty of venting. To get something off our chest. To let someone else know just how we feel about what they did. Justice for the soul!!!

Shelly DuBois writes in Fortune:

You can get a kind of warped satisfaction from talking about being angry without necessarily wanting to change the circumstances that trigger that emotion. But research suggests that venting anger doesn’t get rid of it. Instead, it amplifies those negative feelings.

Family events. Work. School. Any social setting can find one thinking that venting is the best way to release the frustration when someone “does me wrong”. But does it? Kristin Behfar, a professor of business administration at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business notes:

Most papers on venting find that it’s negative, but they stop there. They don’t find what the listener does.

Brad Bushman, an anger expert at Ohio State University’s School of Communication adds:

Listeners who agree are just keeping angry feelings alive when the key is to let them die.

So this adds layers to our situation. If we’re around others we may find their agreement does nothing to improve our state. If we’re alone we may find that voice in our head continues to validate our feelings and actions. But, there is also the situation in which we are the other. We are the one in the presence of the person “blowing off steam”.

The Stoic approach allows us to change our own thinking, as well as the thoughts of others. Why someone does something has its own reasons. I have mine. You have yours. Of what is your nature? Focused on letting the other control your thoughts, or focused on one’s own will?

Just today I had a conversation with my manager who listened to my venting, well maybe it was more honest dialogue (a matter of perspective), and then shared with me more detail around the situation. The disclosure created a better understanding of the why. It reminded me I don’t have all the information.

Let’s all work at not keeping angry feelings alive.

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