What's the best way to deal with anger: let it out or lock it inside? While you might think that by "letting off steam" you're less likely to explode, the preponderance of modern research suggests the exact opposite. Venting doesn't defuse anger -- but rather ratchets it up.
University of Arkansas scientists contributed to a chapter in the newly published book Anger, Aggression, and Interventions for Interpersonal Violence. Numerous studies show that those who vent anger -- whether with an inanimate object (like throwing a vase), or about a third party (like an employer), or directly to the person who angered them -- end up angrier than those who keep their cool.
In one example, a researcher posing as a co-worker insulted study participants, half of whom were then told to hammer nails. When study subjects were allowed to confront the insulting imposter, those who'd pounded nails were more hostile than their hammer-less cohorts. In another study, people who had recently lost their jobs were allowed to verbally express their disgruntlement directly to their former employers. Later, those given the chance to vent were more disparaging in their descriptions of their previous employer.