Venting vs. Emotional Dumping

Updated on April 11th, 2022

What does Venting Mean?

Venting is verbally healthily expressing thoughts and feelings. It involves two people the processor and the listener. A venting session is most positive when the listener supports the person venting through demonstrating empathy and active listening. Healthy venting occurs when the vent is heard by another person. When a listener is present, talking about difficult emotions can provide a positive social experience of listening. Keeping emotions bottled up can lead to emotional outbursts or letting resentments fester. This is why it is important to know how to appropriately communicate those feelings.


What is Emotional Dumping?

Emotional dumping is used as a way for people to escape from taking any responsibility for their actions, circumstances, or the state of the relationship. It is also a way to deflect the real issues at hand, as a way to protect themselves from coming into and embracing a vulnerable state. It is an unhealthy form of venting and can be likened to toxic venting. When you emotionally dump, you are unaware of both your emotional state and the state of the listener. Emotional dumping does not include the consent of the listener and ignores containment within time, topic and objective. Emotional dumping often occurs as a heightened, reactive response to a triggering event, and can be a coping mechanism for stress. The person who is emotionally dumping is typically unable to receive feedback or to see another’s perspective.


If you tend to selfishly dump your emotion on others without regard for their well-being or time, there are steps you can take to try to express those emotions healthily:

Stick to one issue: When you are venting, make sure you are staying on topic. It can be easy for one frustration to roll into another and another, but this can cause the person listening to you to feel overwhelmed. Instead of bringing up past issues that have already been resolved, remember what the goal of your venting is.

Be open to finding a solution: Before you start, think about what you would like out of the conversation. Instead of getting stuck in a cycle of complaints, think of constructive ways you can move forward and find a solution together.

Try writing it down: Writing down your feelings can help you organize your thoughts and emotions. It can also be used as a tool to help you calm down. Sometimes by seeing it in writing, we can begin to figure out where we need to focus and what work needs to be done on our end to resolve issues.

Listen: Be prepared to listen to the other person’s perspective. Your experience of the situation may not be the same as the other person’s. Give them space to talk about how they felt and listen to try and understand their point of view.

Set Boundaries: Before going into a conversation know that you’re going to stay on topic and not repeat issues or go around in circles. Be prepared to say what you need to say and then move on to find a solution.

Ask questions: When entering a conversation where you feel like you need to vent, first check-in with the other person’s emotional capacity, time capacity, and energy. By asking questions like “Do you have time to listen right now?” Or “I’m feeling frustrated and need to get this off my chest, is that OK?” you are showing your companion that you respect their emotions as well and this is a good step in the right direction.

Try mindfulness: Mindfulness practices can help you become more aware of your emotions and how those emotions are affecting other aspects of your life. Are you responding to a situation or just reacting to it? Mindfulness encourages practitioners to experience thought as it comes and, if it does not serve you at the moment, let it go. By being mindful, you can begin to determine which thoughts could benefit from venting and which ones would just be emotional dumping.


There are times when emotional dumping will be directed at you or you become the emotional dumping ground, in either case, the person in front of you isn’t wanting your input, advice, or perspective. Knowing this can help allow yourself to make decisions about how you want to handle this type of behavior in the future, by taking your space, shutting it down, or politely explaining that you can no longer participate in a conversation that goes nowhere. If you constantly find yourself on the receiving end of emotional dumping then you might need to set some boundaries. Setting a boundary is a way of protecting your emotional energy and wellbeing. But boundaries are also helpful to the person you’re setting them with. They can offer a reflection to the person who may be unaware of their tendency to dump.

Setting a boundary requires you to be aware of your own needs, energy, and what you will and will not allow. For many people, setting a boundary can at first feel mean or selfish, especially when another person is in distress. A boundary setting may require some practice if you’re not used to it. If you need extra support in boundary setting, here are a few places to start:

If you need to set a time limit: “You know I care about you, but right now I have limited space to offer you listening. I am available for 20 minutes, does that work for you?”

If someone starts dumping without your consent: “I realize that you’re agitated about this issue but It would mean a lot to me if you would ask me if I have the space to support you before you share your emotion.”

If you cannot offer support through listening: “I can see that you are hurting and I wish I could offer support, but I currently don’t have the space to listen to you properly right now.”

Once you set your boundaries, you can aid in the transition from emotional dumping to healthy venting by practicing active listening.

Active listening is a great way for people who emotionally dump, to make the sharing/listening relationship feel more reciprocal. And when we learn how to listen to others, we become better at listening to ourselves, a key to reducing our tendency to emotionally dump.

For Elizabeth, mental health is a personal story. She is an author who provides innovative, creative, and engaging content on topics such as stress management, emotional wellness, relationships, etc. She enjoys creating a useful content to empower people and uses personal experience to help others on their journey to recovery.

More for you

Impulse Control Strategies

Impulse Control Strategies

What is Impulse Control? Impulse control sometimes known as self-control or our inhibition is an executive functioning skill that allows us to engage independently in society. Impulse control strat... Read More

Emotional Manipulation

Emotional Manipulation

What is Emotional Manipulation? Emotional manipulation is the use of devious means to exploit, control, or otherwise influence others to one’s advantage. In the extreme it is the purvey of tricks... Read More