Imagine that you’re hanging out with your best friends. Everyone is laughing and having a good time. After a while, the conversation topic turns to one of your other classmates. Are you and your friends venting your frustration or gossiping about her? While it can be hard to decipher, there are key differences between the two. Keep reading to learn 5 differences between venting and gossiping.
1. They have different purposes
Gossip spreads information about someone - regardless of whether the information is true or not. Generally, gossip involves another person or issue that has nothing to do with you and doesn’t directly affect you. It focuses on “spilling the tea” about another person. Gossip generally comes from the desire to be nosy, and not from genuine concern. It could sound something like, “Crystal’s parents got a divorce. I’m not surprised. Anytime I go to her house, her mom and dad always avoid each other,” or “Did you know that Diana throws up in the restroom? She probably has an eating disorder or something.”
Venting, on the other hand, focuses on expressing your feelings about a person or problem. If a person has made you upset or angry, venting provides a space where you can release your emotions. Venting is healthy because it allows you to vocalize your feelings instead of holding them in. You can also get insight, support, and validation from someone else about the obstacle you are facing. Venting allows you to eventually move on from the issue. It could sound something like, “Evelyn has really been making me angry lately. She keeps telling everyone my secrets from my diary,” or “Brittany always bosses me around, and it’s really annoying. I don’t know how to tell her to stop telling me what to do”.
2. They develop from different feelings
Gossiping about someone occurs when that person hasn’t done anything to hurt or offend you. Rather, you’re discussing their personal affairs for your entertainment, or as a conversation piece over the lunch table. If you don’t have anything else to talk about, you might find yourself gossiping out of boredom.
The act of venting arises from frustration, not boredom. When you vent, a person has made you angry or upset, and you are expressing your feelings about it. While venting, you talk about a person, but it doesn’t involve their personal affairs - only the issue that concerns you personally.
3. The motives are different
Gossip can be used as a bullying tactic. A person may spread lies and rumors about someone else to hurt, isolate, betray, and embarrass them. Gossip is ill-intentioned and mean-spirited much of the time.
Venting, on the other hand, is done to express your frustration about a person or problem. It’s not done to isolate or embarrass anyone. It’s used as an emotional outlet for your personal feelings. Venting comes from hurt feelings, rather than malicious motives.
4. They feel different
When you gossip, you may feel an underlying guilt, or be inclined to change the topic of conversation. You know that you should do something else more productive and positive than discussing other people’s personal affairs. Gossip almost always leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
Venting feels good because it allows you to express your feelings. You feel relieved to tell someone about the issue. It feels great to articulate your feelings to someone else rather than just holding it on the inside. It is healing to receive validation and support from another person.
5. They produce different outcomes
While it might seem satisfying, gossip doesn’t produce good fruit. It just creates more problems. Gossip creates conflict, especially when you’re spreading false information about a person. You may find yourself in trouble for spreading a rumor about someone that isn’t true. On top of that, a person might feel hurt, embarrassed, or betrayed that you were spreading information about their personal affairs.
Alternatively, when you vent, you might find clarity on a certain issue. Venting can help you figure out how to handle the issue, such as confronting a friend about a problem. Talking through your problems may prevent you from doing something you might regret (such as impulsively retaliating). In short, venting leads to solutions, while gossip creates problems.
While it can be hard to differentiate between venting and gossiping, it’s important to recognize that gossiping is focused on exchanging information about someone, and venting is focused on expressing your feelings about an issue. The next time you have trouble figuring out whether you’re venting or gossiping, consider these 5 factors to help you decide! And if the gossip is getting a little too much, you have the power to turn the conversation into something more positive.
Written by: Katherine Brown