Talking Behind a Friend's Back Vs. Venting

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After a disagreement or fight with a friend, you may find yourself calling someone to get feelings off your chest. Some people try to justify gossiping as venting, but there is a difference. Ask yourself about your intentions when letting off steam -- make sure your venting session doesn’t flow into gossiping territory.

The Focus Says It All

If you are truly venting about a friend, the focus of the conversation is on your thoughts and feelings about the situation and how it affects you. When gossiping, the focus is on trashing the person. For example, venting is telling someone how your friend’s actions hurt you. Gossiping is focusing on your friend’s negative qualities and insulting her. Many people who say mean things behind their friend’s back unconsciously convince themselves that they are doing so out of sympathy, according to “The New Word on Gossip” in Psychology Today. In reality, speaking negatively about the victim is a way for the talker to feel better about himself in comparison.

Bad Intentions

Gossip is fueled by malicious intent. The intention of a gossiper is to make the person look bad, in hopes that others will view him in a negative way, according to “Where to Draw the Line: How to Set Healthy Boundaries Every Day” by psychotherapist Anne Katherine. When venting, there are no negative intentions toward your friend. While you may vent your frustrations, you do not wish for the third party to view him in a negative light. An example of this is a woman who tells her friend about financial problems her family is dealing with as a result of her husband losing his job. She does not want her friend to think less of her husband; she just wants to get emotional support and advice.

Gossip and Isolation

Another intention of gossip is to spread negative information about the person as a way to isolate her. Gossip causes distance because one or more people may be swayed to take a side. For example, you may speak negatively of someone to mutual friends in hopes that they will turn on her. People also spread negative information about someone to make themselves look better -- a way of increasing one’s status by putting another down, according to Psychology Today. With venting, you may take the issue to someone who does not know your friend. For example, when talking about your problem to your mother, you’re not trying to get her on your side. She is already on your side. She is just there to listen.

Solution or No Solution

Venting usually results in a solution, whereas gossiping does not resolve any issue. Venting about a friend may help you relieve some stress, and you may even receive good advice on how to handle the problem. With gossip, there is no sought out solution. You and the listener may exchange negative words about your friend, who does not have the chance to defend himself. It can even lead to more problems within the friendship if the negative things you’ve said about your friend get out.