The Difference Between Venting & Complaining

Ever have a friend or coworker that repeatedly shares how frustrated they are with this, or how irritated they are by that?

I’ll be honest — sometimes I find that the person exclaiming about the same problem over and over again is . . . me. (*whispers* Is it sometimes you too? No judgement, let’s figure this out together!)

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Photo by nappy on

On our journey to becoming more self-caring and having healthier relationships, its helpful to differentiate how the act of venting and how the habit of complaining show up in our lives and in our relationships. And in all reality, a lot of us get on a complaining rant every once in a while.

We can define venting as giving free expression or providing an outlet to a strong emotion.

Venting is a natural and quite healthy way to release. Typically, we vent when we are experiencing heavy emotions and need to express ourselves as a way of coping. Venting can help us begin to deal with conflict and can lead to self-regulation and problem-solving.

Complaining, on the other hand, involves expressing dissatisfaction, pain and/or uneasiness for an extended period of time. While venting can be seen as a natural way to release emotion, complaining takes it a step further. Complaining is a habit that when done often, can become an unhealthy coping mechanism.

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Photo by on

Complaining is no longer a release — complaining can in itself contribute to a problem or create new problems. And again, complaining is and feels repetitive in nature. When we complain or hear others complain, we may feel a sense of dread rather than relief. This is especially important to recognize when we practicing self-care and managing boundaries in our relationships.

It can be difficult to be on the ‘listening’ end of a loved one who often complains. When venting becomes complaining, our loved ones can feel drained, impatient or even take on your feelings when listening to the complaints. Not to mention that when we are ourselves are complaining, sometimes we actually make ourselves feel worse, exhausted or even defeated in the process.

Try to be mindful of when you are venting and when you are complaining by asking yourself:

  • How long have you been talking about this problem? Does it feel like you’ve been talking about this problem for a long time?
  • Is your current way of talking about this problem helping you solve it? Or, is it keeping you stuck and making the problem worse?
  • How do your loved ones feel about you talking about this problem? (If you don’t know, ask them!)

It can be difficult to make shifts in the way that we interact with each other and with ourselves. Increase your awareness of self by noticing how you talk about your problems: are you releasing with the hope of problem-solving or are you in a habit of complaining?

What do you feel are the differences between venting and complaining?




  1. Cheyenne says

    Nice distinction between venting and complaining. I’m definitely guilty of complaining about certain things but hesitate to vent when I need to because I know I do complain about things. I don’t want it to be my schpill or sound like a broken record…even if I am just venting.

    • Michelle says

      That makes sense to me Cheyenne! It can be really be hard to tell the difference and give ourselves permission to vent — it’s been helpful for me to stay mindful how much and how long I’ve been talking about a problem. Thank you for reading!

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