How To Talk About Your Problems Without Draining Other Peoples’ Souls

This one is for the therapists, the personal trainers, and the bartenders☺…

Sometimes no amount of new aged self-help or positivity is going to substitute the tried and true “just talking about it”. You need to blow off steam but, at the same, negativity is contagious and every other success guru will tell you to keep your problems to yourself.

Spend enough time talking about your problems and you will see your social circle dwindle. Spend too much time bottling up emotions and one day, you snap under stress. So what do you do?

How does a frustrated individual achieve a healthy mental equilibrium via human interaction without scaring people away? Through observation and analysis of my personal experiences, I have created a guideline of four suggestions to keep in mind should one ever need to unload. Following at least one or more will significantly reduce relational wears and tears.

1.) Show Others That You Are Personally Invested In Some Form Of Solution

If someone were to come into my room to tell me that their life sucks and ‘here are the reasons why’, I will listen empathetically, I will flatter to boost esteem, and then I will offer advice. If that individual were to come back one week later with the same problem and having attempted nothing that I have suggested, I will…try again, this time, better.

This trend will continue until about visit number eight and by then I will just sit there and smile, while planning an avoidance strategy. For, what is coming next is either I become a target for that individual’s subtle-passive-aggressive competitiveness or a free taxicab for his or her emotional needs.


People want to help others but they can only effectively help those whom help themselves. Professional therapists will tell you the same thing: their favorite, favorite clients are those that try to meet them half way; the rest are just “work”. Emotional labor is not fun so if you do request it, it helps to let others know that there is an end result. Also, if someone is too lazy or too proud to seek professional help, giving free therapy sessions are unlikely to solve anything. No one wakes up hoping to be an emotional punching bag.

2.) Asking For Advice Or Allowing for A Conversational Flow

If you complain, for a week on end, to your personal trainer about how your ex-spouse is leveraging you to buy out his or her home equity, what the hell is he or she supposed to do about it?

Multiple personal trainers I have spoken to cite their biggest reason for wanting to leave the industry is burnout from having to listen to their clients’ personal problems every single day for the past several years.


This goes back to the concept of showing others that you are invested into a solution. Unloading negativity onto someone that is powerless to help, but obligated to listen, is purely making your problem someone else’s.

Instead, a great way to discuss your problems with someone else is to convert the issue into a request for advice. People love giving advice; it makes them feel significant, stimulated, and contributive. At the very least, turn the problem into a two-sided conversation. Don’t throw your burden onto someone else’s shoulder. It is more fun to throw it on the ground where you can both aim kicks at it.


3.) Make Your Story Compelling Or Frame It In A Positive Light

Sometimes you just need to blow off some steam and you aren’t looking for advice. In that case, try filling your tragic monologue with insight to make it interesting for the listener. Can you make it so your listener can have a “what’s in it for them?”

When people speak to me about their negative experiences about war, about corruption in the prison-industrial complex, or about traumatic experiences, I shut my mouth and listen. There is something that I can learn from such interaction and I will jump at the opportunity to share his or her burden.

If your complaint is less spectacular (like issues with customer service), try to make the rant funny and insightful. Not only does it make it a more pleasant experience for the listener, it shows that you have spent time thinking about your own problem first before trying to dump it on someone else.

If he can find the funny, so can you. Suddenly, your problems don’t seem all that bad…

4.) Ask for Permission

So you need to blow off steam and you need to do it NOW. Ask for permission. The listener most likely will be compelled to say yes anyways but at least you show that person you care for his or her time. We all have default individuals we go to so we can rant: friends, romantic partners, family, our bartender, a random maintenance worker whom we bullshit about girls with (what?), etc.

Sometimes we take the people we unload upon for granted. Truth is if you spend enough time around a negative person, even if it is a close friend, you can physically feel your mood drop when you hear that person’s footsteps. Don’t be the person whose call gets ignored by someone you deem close as they tell their pals they aren’t going to deal with your moaning now.

Happy Hunting

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