The Atlantic

You’re Probably Complaining the Wrong Way

The psychologist Guy Winch’s method for getting people to do things differently
Source: Damir Sagolj / Reuters

The words vent and complain are often used interchangeably, but really, they refer to two different forms of expression, each with its own aims. Venting is about seeking validation and sympathy, whereas complaining comes with a concrete end goal—in many cases, getting someone else to do something differently.

Generally speaking, the psychologist Guy Winch says, people do a lot of venting, but “we are afraid to voice complaints, and for good reason: It often doesn’t go well.” Because of how people typically present complaints, Winch says,, and to a crowd earlier this week at the Aspen Ideas Festival, which is co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and .

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