If someone is venting their upset at you, even if it's not about you, it's natural that you might react negatively.

After all, none of us like to be on the receiving end of someone venting at full steam! It can be uncomfortable, frustrating and even distressing.

  • You might not know what to say to them.
  • You might try get away from them.
  • You might get frustrated and debate with them.
  • You might feel responsible for trying to calm them down.
  • You might try to change their point of view.

You've probably already witnessed first-hand that when you resist or react negatively toward someone who is venting at you, or try to advise them of a better perspective, it can end up adding fuel to their fire and making things worse!

But it doesn't have to be that way. There is another path.

Someone in the situation can choose the path of peace. And that someone is you!

You can save yourself, and at the same time help to free them too. Here's how…

A Response to Venting – the Power of “Compassionate Listening”

Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh beautifully conveys the power of truly listening to each other from a space of compassion.

The next time someone comes to you wanting to vent – full of their frustration, upset, hurt, pain, worry, distress and you don't know what to say… remember the message in this short video.

  • Perhaps what you say to the other person in response to their venting is not important.
  • Perhaps saying nothing is best.
  • Perhaps what they need is not resistance, not judgment, not your advice, nor a new viewpoint. Sometimes all they need is compassionate listening.
  • By being a space of compassionate listening for them, you allow them to empty themselves of pain. That may be all that is required.
We need someone to be able to listen to us and to understand us. Then we will suffer less. - Thich Nhat HanhClick To Tweet

Share this video with people in your life, and together let's create relationships where compassionate listening is the normal practise – a reflection of our intention and of our love for each other.

To share your thoughts, questions or experiences, please do leave a comment below.

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10 thoughts on “How to Respond When Someone is Venting at You

  1. Aash says:

    Hi Bernadette

    Great post as usual.. True power of compassionate listening.. really interesting.. It remind me of something I read in a book few years ago….

    “Shared grief is half the sorrow, but happiness when shared, is doubled”


  2. akhiok says:

    And how do you broach the fact that their perceptions are wrong? How do you get to that point? That’s an important part that is left out.

    • Bernadette Logue says:

      Great question. One of our jobs in life, in our relationships (which are assignments for our growth), is to look at how we might shift our perception and evolve through whatever we are presented with, and to convey where we stand from a place of love and compassion. If you wanted to broach an issue with someone, one way might be to consider releasing any attachment to them being wrong in their view, action, position, and any attachment to personally being right. In a relationship we might consider that we are not there to point out to other people their wrong views. The Universe does a pretty great job of helping each one of us learn our lessons and eventually people come to see the truth about their own blocks and challenges in due course. It is easy to get attached to feeling we must right the wrongs we see, particularly in close relationships, or at the very least point out the wrongs. That is exactly what this video is about, letting go of that inclination and replacing it with a new energy and position… to invite greater understanding, listening, compassion and from that place you are more easily able to offer this person a new perspective. Practically speaking, if you are facing someone who is venting at you, of course communicating your position and feelings is valid. You might say “I hear what you are saying. I appreciate you feel strongly about this. I feel differently about it, I have a different perception. If you are open to me sharing my perspective, I would really like to share it with you so we can move forward”. If the person says no, then they are showing you that they are not yet ready to listen or open to engaging. If they say yes, you have an open door invitation to share your perspective. In sharing your perspective, we always want to do so from loving and compassionate energy… sharing what is true for us and what we see as possible, being observant of ourselves so that we don’t lose ourselves in ego and end up turning it into making the other person wrong and telling them their perspective isn’t valid. You can actually share a new viewpoint, and invite someone to see something differently, to awaken them to a perception that you think might be more healthy, balanced and positive, without every saying saying they are wrong and must change, and without judging their current position and opinion. I hope this helps and makes sense. Best wishes, Bernadette

  3. Toons says:

    my friend vent to me on how his ex girlfriend who sextually touched him in ways he didnt like is having trouble getting passed those horibble memories what should i reply and say to him ?

    • Bernadette Logue says:

      Hi, thanks for your message. Regarding your situation, when someone is sharing with you, it doesn’t always require you to provide them advice. After all, sometimes people share with us just to have an “ear to listen” or “shoulder to lean on”. Sometimes, as you’re probably finding in this situation, we’re not equipped to provide advice. Rather, we can be loving, compassionate, understanding and be a “listening space” for the other person to feel safe to share and be heard. If your friend asks further for advice, perhaps the best thing is to suggest that they go and see a counsellor to talk through the issue and get strategies for processing what happening and moving forward. I hope this helps. Best wishes, Bernadette

  4. Bonnie says:

    I had a situation with a co worker who is also a long time friend. I was speaking clarification on covering while he was off. He lashed put at me. Calling me a victim repeatedly and hung up on me. When I saw Him a few minutes later we had very little interaction. His only comment was “we need to communicate better”. No apology.

    • Bernadette Logue says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience Bonnie. It often helps to remember that when people release their upset, it can often be just their own pain and suffering spilling over in that moment. It helps to not take things personally. Of course if it’s a repeated pattern of boundaries crossed and poor treatment, that requires communication and resolution, but sometimes people have one off moments of venting and a valid course of action is patience, compassion and letting it go.

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