7 Reasons You May Not Get What You Need

An expert on introversion on why waiting for permission will get you nowhere.

Posted Jul 31, 2015

I need for you to listen. I need a hug. I need your company. I need more of your time. I need more time to myself. I need more affection. I need you to respond to texts. I need to think about some things. I need to feel important. I need...I need...I need...

Source: Pertusinas/Shutterstock

These things are hard to say for introverts.

In your relationships, are you good at expressing your needs? Can you ask for what you want?

I am terrible at it—truly wretched.

I don’t believe this particular issue is a function of my introversion; there are personal issues surrounding this struggle. But certain aspects of being an introvert may contribute. Here are 7 reasons why introverts may struggle to express their real needs:  

  1. Overthinking the validity of the need. For me, “needs” are nebulous, ephemeral, and tend not to hold up to the rigorous scrutiny under which I place them before I will consider expressing them. What is this need, exactly? Why is this a need? Is it justified? Is it important? Is it asking too much? Does it infringe on someone else’s needs? Should I be able to fill it myself?
  2. Missing the opportunity. By the time I’ve finished ruminating over a need, its intensity is either diluted by alternate viewpoints and second thoughts, or it has become so urgent that it overwhelms me and I run from it rather than indulging it. (Note to self: Indulge—there’s a loaded word. When I have a headache, do I “indulge” in an aspirin?)
  3. Expressing it incorrectly. If I don’t run from the overcooked need and instead try to express it, one of two things might happen: 1. It explodes from me with the terrifying intensity of an emotional missile, or 2. In an effort to prevent that, it dribbles from me in a nearly incomprehensible mumble. The result is that the receiver either ducks, covers, and fires back or gives me a puzzled nod, a pat on the head, and ignores me. Result: Need not met.
  4. Being independent. Introverts have an independent streak, which is double-edged. There is a lot introverts can and will do for ourselves—myself included—which is a point of pride. But just because we can doesn’t mean we always should or even want to.
  5. Fear of being too needy. It’s not always easy to determine when I want to handle something myself and when I don’t, or when I’m doing something alone because it’s my preference and when it’s because I fear imposing on another person. I’m a lot better at asserting my need for independence than my need for connection. I don’t want to appear…you know…needy. I don't want to feel like I'm begging. 
  6. Overvaluing extroverted qualities. I hear lots of introverts gripe about extroverts being needy. But aren’t we all needy in some respect? Maybe we need solitude more than we need company, but it’s still a need. If we view extroverts’ need for company as unacceptably needy, do we also condemn ourselves when we feel lonely? Maybe we don’t want to be independent all the time. Is there something wrong with that? (Or perhaps we need more independence. For example, we may feel crowded and need to ask for more space. There's nothing wrong with that.)
  7. We wait for permission to speak. I tend to keep my thoughts private until invited to speak. Introverts often complain that people don’t ask them questions, or encourage and urge them to talk about themselves. They wonder why extroverts dominate conversations while they can’t get a word in. There are boorish chatterboxes who don’t leave a breath of air in their monologues for someone else, but in general, waiting for others to invite us to talk is presumptuous and counter-productive. We can’t expect people to intuit when we have something to say. It expects a lot to want them to drag it out of us. Silence will be interpreted as acquiescence (which can be seriously problematic in the case of a Bill Cosby-like situation). Waiting for permission might also be a little bit passive-aggressive, don't you think? We don't express a need, then we get to blame others for not filling it? Ouch.

Speaking up about an unmet need can be incredibly difficult. Sometimes you have to just blurt it out, as distasteful as that might sound. 

Source: missyredboots/morgueFile

How about you? Do you think introversion plays into this? Do any of these reasons strike a chord with you? What can you teach me about expressing needs?

Check out my books, Introverts in Love: The Quiet Way to Happily Ever After; The Introverts Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World; and 100 Places in the USA Every Woman Should Go.

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