Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Venting, Ranting and Raving: What Fires Your Rockets?

A Tina Tirade (Actually a great photo from:www.bergoiata.org)

Are there some topics that fire your rockets?  

  • You are feeling calm, doing fine, and the world seems OK–then, someone mentions a topic about which you have a strong opinion. Let the rant begin!
  • You see a newspaper article or encounter a frustrating situation–or only remember a frustrating situation–and you let loose a volley of thoughts that bombard everyone around you with your feelings.
  • Something happens at work, and when you go to lunch with a friend you spend a good part of the time chewing your food and spewing your anger.
  • When someone presents a view that seems completely wrong to you, you immediately go from listening to agitatedly giving your viewpoint of the subject. If they don’t say anything you increase your volume and your words to get a reaction.
  • You have one or more pet peeves–things that annoy you, irk you or that seem to you to reflect all that is wrong in the world today–and you look for chances to identify others who agree and convert those who don’t.
  • You say nothing directly when you become frustrated over a situation, but when you talk about it to someone else you say all the things you have been seething about.

Venting, ranting, raving and carrying on, can become habitual. It is particularly tempting for people who are verbal by nature. I’m not talking here about expressing an opinion in a strong way, or having a back and forth conversation, even though it might be somewhat heated. I’m also not talking about a raging temper tantrum–that is dangerous behavior that may need psychological and medical treatment.  I am referring to prolonged, opinionated monologues. You know what I mean. You can read extreme rants in Internet forums or letters to the editor, and you can hear them on talk shows. Often they are mean-spirited and nasty. When Dennis Miller or Al Franken does it, it may be funny–according to our individual views. When you or I do it, it is at best tolerated, at worse it can have a very negative affect on our reputations.

In most of our work situations we have a captive audience for our outbursts: Our coworkers have to stay at their desks; those we supervise can’t leave the staff meeting; the people who joined us for lunch can’t easily leave. Because our listeners tolerate us we often mistakenly believe they agree with us or enjoy listening to us. We are probably wrong! In our homes and with our friends, that same situation exists. Those around you may stay and listen only because they have few other options. However, often they do not share your views, or if they do they do not feel quite so strongly as you do.

In any setting, here are some reactions that may indicate you have been ranting:

  • People seem to joke about it: “Oh no, hold on, here she goes again!” “Don’t get him started!” “So, tell us Bill, how do you feel about that topic?”
  • Listeners try to soothe you: “I can imagine you feel frustrated.” “Welllll, it is upsetting I’m sure.”  “It certainly is a topic that gets people fired up.” “Yes, I know it’s really irritating.” (But they do not seem as emotional about it as you are.)
  • Someone attempts to change or redirect the topic: “Yeah, she really is a mess. By the way, did you notice…..” “How about those Broncos?”
  • Someone directly confronts it: “Don’t be mad at me. I didn’t do it to you!” “Calm down!” “Are you in a bad mood?” “What was that all about?” “OK. OK. I get your point.” “If you’ll let me get a word in edgewise here….”

The worst affect of a tirade is that both you and the listener become more agitated as it continues–and rarely does the agitation produce good results. Your heart rate increases, blood pressure mounts and you reinforce a negative thought pattern in your mind. Those who listen also have negative physical results, but their negative thoughts may be directed at you. Often when you get something emotional “out of your system” you put it into theirs!

If you have any vanity about your physical appearance consider that no one looks attractive when they are going on and on in an angry way. You also do not present yourself as someone who has self-control or who can be trusted to handle a conflict or crisis. Another reason not to rant, vent or rave: You will almost inevitably offend, hurt, frighten, repel or disgust someone whose opinion matters to you.

And, lest you worry that changing your tirade habit will make you seem bland, boring or lacking in character: Wouldn’t it be a sad commentary on your intellect and thought processes if you are most interesting when you throw yourself about the room, gesture wildly, talk angrily, or go on and on and on about an opinion of yours? You can be yourself and still be less agitated and prolonged in your discussions.

One of the problems with trying to change a habit like ranting, is that there is often no obvious positive result of changing. You can chart your results for changing habits related to eating, fitness or spending, but how can you chart the differences between two kinds of behaviors, especially if the people who could give you an opinion about it are not likely to do it, for fear of setting you off on a rant? I don’t know that answer to that, except to say that I know there are some things I should do better just because they are better, not because I get an obvious reward.

Here are some thoughts on how to control your otherwise out-of-control talk:

  • Recognize the warning signs. Are there some topics that bother you much, much more than others, and that “push your buttons”? Do you find yourself standing up to talk when you are most agitated? Do you feel your gut tighten or your heart pound? Those are the times when you will need to purposely slow yourself down and talk in a controlled way. Right now you habitually react by immediately beginning to talk, and you keep talking. Use those warning signs as times to not talk at all or to reduce  your verbal venting.
  • Thomas Jefferson advised his grandson: “When angry, count ten before you speak. When very angry, an hundred.” That advice is still worthwhile 180 years later. When you want to rage about something that has irritated you, wait a bit and purposely get your thoughts, and how you want to express them, under control.
  • Start your remarks by giving the listener permission to stop you. “I don’t want to rant about this, so stop me when you get my point.” Or, after a few sentences, ask, “Do you think I’ve vented enough about this?” Make a wryly humorous acknowledgement that you know you have pet peeves but you don’t want to bury the listener with your words.
  • Limit your venting time. For example, when you are at lunch, allow yourself a limited amount of time to talk about your frustrating experience that morning. After a couple of minutes, purposely calm down your tone and change the topic. Find plenty of other topics to discuss and do not purposely bring up unpleasant topics about things you cannot change, no matter how much you talk about them.

One thing I have done in the last few years to help me control my venting tirades is to…….Hmmm. It just occurred to me that if I say what I do, everyone who knows me and reads this will start looking for that behavior! I think I’ll keep my secret to myself. But it has helped! (Although others may not agree that it has helped very much!)

Consider developing some habit, mantra or response, that helps you control your excessive talking about topics that upset you.  If you have a method that helps you self-censor, let me know about it. I can use all the help I can get. And, I’ll reciprocate by telling you what I have done to help myself. 🙂

March 15th, 2008 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 4 comments


  1. Very well, Tina, I accept your challenge! I am not given to lengthy rantings, but I found I would often arrive at meetings and start my conversations by talking about a frustrating traffic experience or about a work difficulty. If the listener gave me any encouragement at all I would continue on. One time someone asked me,as I walked in, “What griped your soul about the traffic TODAY?” That’s when I realized I often used that expression. I was mortified!

    Here was my solution. As I travel to a location or after I arrive, I purposely think about something good to say or something to bring a smile, and that is the first thing I say as I greet the person I’m meeting. I have promised myself to never again start a conversation with an unpleasant rant, no matter how sympathetic I know the other person might be about it.

    I found that once I got through the opening few minutes, I was able to get down to business and had no reason to fill time with the usual comments about frustrating things.

    Does that qualify for you to tell me what you have done to control your own rantings? Smiles! Don

    Comment by Don Roberson | March 15, 2008

  2. Yes, Don, it does! I’ll send you my commments by separate email. Your idea is excellent. And I feel convicted, because I’ve done the same thing–arrive at a meeting talking about the miserable traffic, the miserable weather, the difficulties finding parking, etc. I don’t know why I do that, because I’m never sincerely upset. I can only think it’s a conversational filler, as you mention.

    I’ll adopt your idea! Thank you!

    Comment by Tina | March 15, 2008

  3. I like your rants and think they are interesting and nearly always funny, so I don’t want you to control them, but I would like to know what it is you TRY to do. 🙂 MY method is, I used to rant at home about things that upset me, like why my wife hadn’t gotten some things done she said she would, why she promised we would go to some family dinner I hated, or why I didn’t like her brother. One day she threatened to divorce me if I didn’t shut up. Now when I start to rant at home, I remember I’m going to be sleeping alone and cooking my own meals if I keep talking. It works real well for me.

    So, what is your method, Oh Calm One?

    Comment by Wiseacre | March 16, 2008

  4. I am laughing now! I’ll reply by email, but clearly my method will not be anywhere near as useful for you as your own personal technique. I can tell I’d like your wife! Thank you for a hilarious comment. (Or is that “an hilarious comment?) Tina

    Comment by Tina | March 16, 2008

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