I have a few pent-up rants that I keep thinking about posting here, but every time I go to launch into them I remember that there are at least one or two people who actually read this thing. Ranting will make me feel better, but will it help them or resonate with them? Unlikely, I think.
(I will happy to rant to any of you in person about our annoying landlords or any number of other subjects any time you like, but let’s put that off for now.)
What prompted me to write about this was a meeting I was in yesterday in which a very knowledgeable person whom I respect took up most of everyone’s time with a predictable rant on an unsurprising topic. Nothing he said was wrong, or even exaggerated (much), but it did not in the end serve any purpose. So why did he do it? Frustration? Hope for a solution to magically appear? An evil desire to waste fifteen minutes of everyone’s time for no reason?
All of these are part of our motivation when ranting or snarking or being generally counterproductive, but the primary driver is always a search for connection. A sufficiently succinct and powerful description of how desperately fucked up things are, with no apparent solution, brings commiseration and hence camaraderie. Rants are not requests for solutions or advice, they are attempts to bond. Sometimes, they work; sometimes they work too well and political parties are formed out of them. What is a Trump rally, after all, if not a large-scale rant?
The problem with bonding over ranting, though, is that agreement on the problem does not constitute agreement on the solution, or maybe more importantly agreement to help work on the solution. Identifying a problem and proposing an approach to solving or at least reducing it is a Better Thing To Do, in all respects, than uncorking a full-scale diatribe. Unfortunately it’s also hard, and it immediately opens the proposer up to criticism, bike-shedding, and all sort of other evils.
I am as guilty of ranting or, perhaps worse, corrosive off-hand snark as anyone in my industry. I am however trying to be better — I’ve resolved this year to at least pause and try to think of a better approach before launching into a full-scale airing of grievances. I don’t know if this will make me any more effective — maybe people will just stop listening to me — but I’m pretty sure it will make me happier.